Five tips to #getchartered with the CIPR…at your second attempt

The Chartered PR Practitioner section on the CIPR website contains two blogs on preparing for your assessment day. Katie Marlow and Lindsey Collumbell do a cracking job of showing candidates how to get ready for the big day.

Katie blogged that: “…if you don’t pass there’s no shame as there’s generally an 80% pass rate and everyone can take a second go at the assessment day if they don’t get through the first time.”

I took part in the assessment day on Friday 3 March at the University of South Wales and unfortunately was one of the 20%.

So here are my five tips on picking yourself up and preparing for your second attempt.

  1. Don’t rush off

When the lead assessor tells you that you haven’t met the standard don’t rush off home. You’ve just spent seven hours working closely with your fellow candidates so stay around for a drink to enjoy their success. It is bit awkward as during this time they are presented with their certificates. But it’s a great chance to chat to the assessors and get a bit more useful feedback. Don’t waste this opportunity. I found saying goodbye to my fellow candidates as they walked back to their cars holding their certificates made me want to #getchartered even more.

2. Start reflecting as soon as possible

I spent a few hours over the following few days making notes about what I felt went well and what didn’t go well for me. It was just a chance to get a few bullet points down on paper while they were fresh in my mind. The lead assessor talks you through each part of the day where your performance didn’t meet the standards required so the sooner you can get pen to paper the better. Put aside a few hours to do this now as it could be several months before you take your second assessment.

In the following week I also contacted a couple of the candidates who took part alongside me to get their feedback. Get all the comments you can while it’s on everyone’s mind.

3. Did you prepare in the right way?

You have now got the benefit of being through the experience so you can look back and think about how much time you spent on each part of the preparation. I felt I got far too involved in the case studies and writing notes on key points to make during the discussions. Remember that they are ice-breakers to get the conversation started on the three topics of leadership, ethics and strategy. During my first day and second day the majority of the questions were not asked word-for-word by the assessors.

During preparation for my second day I spent far more time writing notes on how my personal career experiences related to the key topics. This was so much more useful during the conversations than showing off your in-depth knowledge of the case studies.

4. Taking notes

Evernote is the place I organise my life so it was the obvious place to save everything I needed for the #getchartered day. I think I got a bit carried away with adding to my notes as well editing and formatting them. For my second attempt I still stuck with Evernote but then used pen and paper for marking up the case studies. It kept me focused on just scribbling down key words to nudge my memory.

I definitely brought in to much paperwork for my first attempt. The lead assessor started the day by saying reading out pre-scripted answers doesn’t look good. Whoops! The day is about you sharing your knowledge and experiences through three challenging discussions.

So for the second session I was far more relaxed and only took in a few pieces of paper with short sentences that would help me pick up a story at a glance.

5. Enjoy it

I loved preparing for my first assessment. I had never spent that much time looking back at my career and the decisions I had made. So as soon as I booked up for my second assessment I made sure I focussed on my original mindset of ‘enjoy it’.

Enjoy every minute from the day you book your place on the assessment day until the moment you (hopefully) are told you are now a Chartered PR Practitioner. I still loved the whole experience from start to finish. The feedback from the assessors on the day and in the follow-up email was constructive. That positive support gave me the chance to think about what I needed to do before my second attempt.

Make sure you enjoy the preparation time where you reflect on your career and the decisions you have made (when was the last time you did that?), enjoy the day you spend with PR practitioners from different organisations and agencies (that doesn’t happen every often so it’s a great chance to network and learn from others) and enjoy being challenged by the assessors (seriously, this was the best bit) as they do it so you can demonstrate your experiences are up to the standard. Good luck.

…and finally…it’s worth it. For me it also involved my credit card and a cheap flight to Edinburgh. But I met some lovely people who helped me get through it. Cheers to you all.

Are you in the 20%?

If you’re in the 20% and have any questions about applying for a second time feel free to contact me on Twitter at Ben Black.