My original career plan was to go into journalism. I studied it at degree level, secured my NCTJ qualifications and did work experience at both a press agency and a local newspaper. An elective module in PR and a meeting with an agency head changed my mind. I was enthusiastic about the variety, breadth and creativity of working in PR.
My first role in agency was a great proving ground. I learned a lot, quickly. By the time I left I was comfortable tactically and had been responsible for some for the agency’s largest accounts.
My next step was to go in-house to see a different side of PR. Responsible for a budget and plan of my own, it was another important experience.
It was here that I had an opportunity for further training. I was conscious that my qualifications were journalism related. I was already a CIPR member and thought that the CIPR Diploma was the right qualification for me.
This was my first step towards getting Chartered. While looking at the options for qualifications I started to consider my wider career goals. Getting Chartered was one of my ambitions; I wanted to show that I was a professional who took my development seriously and worked to high standards.
Regular CPD, continued learning at work, and a move to a new job followed. When I felt ready to apply for Chartered status I attended an event run by the CIPR. It explained the assessment process in detail. A follow-up one to one with a Chartered practitioner and assessor helped me make my decision.
The day involved four 90-minute assessment sessions. These covered ethics, leadership, strategy and a peer review of your own two-year CPD plan. Throughout, you had to share theoretical knowledge and examples from your own practice. Materials provided in advance guided discussions; in my case a case study and two academic papers.
It was one of the hardest days of my career. Six hours of assessment, with no down time. You are divided into groups, with your ability to work together and demonstrate active listening as important as your contributions. With materials provided only a few days beforehand, it is a challenge. You have to be able to articulate the lessons you have gained throughout your career concisely and ensure they are relevant. You also need to build relationships with strangers quickly so that you can all bring the best out of each other.
The sense of achievement at the end was huge. Afterwards, I felt like my career had taken a significant step forward…
Is it important?
Since I became Chartered it has given me a boost. It has given me a foundation that I can always refer to and built my confidence. It has consolidated my thoughts on practice and helped me develop new and better ideas. Importantly, it has enabled me to communicate with senior leaders more strategically, in a language that they understand.
My belief is that all practitioners should be working towards Chartership. Until the number of chartered professionals reaches critical mass it is difficult to truly consider ourselves a profession. Others in high-level professions work to the highest standards to underpin their practice and we should be no different.
In the latest CIPR State of the Profession Survey respondents said that the biggest issue facing the industry was under-representation at board level. It showed that around 1/3 practitioners don’t consider CPD or Chartered status as important indicators of professionalism (36% and 29% respectively). Until we can increase those numbers, the seat at the boardroom table that we aspire to will be filled by someone else.