Peter Holt, Local Public Service practitioner and CIPR LPS committee member, shares his Chartership journey.
For me, my thinking about trying out for Chartered PR Practitioner status began a few years ago.
I had been at director level in large, complex public bodies, dealing with sensitive and controversial issues for about a decade, first in the Northern Ireland Policing Board, and then at two major city councils. Through all that time I had been leading good sized teams, and supporting them in developing this skills and capacities, as well as focusing on my own professional practice.
Whenever it came to recruiting for vacancies in my various teams, I always found myself reflecting on how many applicants were technically better qualified than me – even when applying for jobs paying a quarter of what I earned.
I didn’t have any letters after my name, beyond MCIPR.
Sure, these applicants didn’t have the range or depth of experience I have. They doubtless wouldn’t all have the technical knowledge I know I possess (although some clearly knew some important and useful things I didn’t). They didn’t all have my range of skills either (though again, some of them demonstrated useful skills I didn’t have). But nonetheless many of them still had better professional qualifications than me.
“I had consistently sought to develop my skills, knowledge & experience”
See, I’m one of those folks who left school not knowing what he wanted to do when he grew up.
I had consistently sought to develop my skills, knowledge and experience throughout my career, but it was only into my 40s that I earned a degree, studying Law with the Open University alongside holding down a full-time job.
Once the LLB was under my belt, I then turned to professional qualifications more closely related to my role as a communications director (though the law degree comes in plenty handy I can tell you).
Having examined the range of options. Having come up to director level through a PR route, but also ending up with responsibility for marketing, I wondered whether I ought to focus on qualifications on that side of the business. Equally, I explored getting qualified in a different discipline – I had studied employment law as an optional module of my law degree, and am an experienced staffing manager, so maybe CIPD would be right. I’m super-hot at numbers, and have managed multi-million budgets, so maybe an accountancy qualification?
Maybe I will head in one of those directions next, but first up, I decided to focus on consolidating and testing my knowledge on the PR side.
I’ll be honest, I took a pragmatic decision, weighing cost (in time much more than cash) of Diplomas, Certificates and Masters, against how much professional good it might do me. Sure, I’d definitely learn more about PR through those qualifications, and it would make me better at my job, but would it make me more employable or earn me more? By the time I’ve laid out my 25 years career experience, the senior jobs I’ve held down, and the professional challenges I’ve worked through, I wasn’t sure that an extra qualification would make me a more attractive hire in anyone else’s eyes.
“The Chartered status route takes preparation.
I was attracted by the idea of being tested rigorously by experienced fellow professionals and alongside my peers”
That’s why Chartered status was the route I chose. It takes preparation. It costs about £500 (or, in reality) twice that once I factored in the day’s work I wouldn’t be billing, taking a full working day away from being a pretty busy contractor. But it’s nowhere near the time or cost commitment of any of the taught alternatives I was considering.
This wasn’t a path-of-least resistance or a least-worst choice for me though – quite the opposite. I was really attracted by the idea of being tested, rigorously, by experienced fellow professionals and face to face alongside alongside my peers.
I’m pretty good at essays – I can spend 10 hours of my spare time polishing a 1,500 word set piece, and generally be confident of a good mark. I don’t think that’s a useful reflection of my professional career though – I forget when I last allowed myself ten hours to work on one single piece of comms in the office.
I’m at least OK at written exams – though I have awful hand-writing, and admit that my approach usually involves cramming rather than in-depth, systematic learning.
But face to face – that really appealed. No place to hide, no room for bluff when any flannel could (and would) be instantly challenged and either stood up or knocked down.
Yeah – that felt like a real test, a worthy challenge.
And so it was.
You’re in a group of peers for your assessment, who in my case I’d never met before, but quickly bonded with. We were each out to do well, but not at the expense of each other – this wasn’t a competitive job interview, and we could (and hopefully would!) all pass.
I knew at the end of each of the three main sessions that I hadn’t dropped any clangers, but I genuinely wasn’t sure whether I’d done enough. Had I shone?
Turns out I had sufficiently gleamed. We all passed in my group.
If I’m brutally honest, I spent about four hours on continuous preparation for my Chartership assessment or 25 years of continuous professional development, depending how you look at it.
Information to help you on your Chartered journey
> Chartered PR Practitioners (CIPR website)
> Chartered PR Practitioner case studies (CIPR website)
> CIPR’s CPD programme (CIPR website)