By Donna Castle Chart.PR MCIPR
I was recently asked by CIPR to explain why I am a member in around 30 words. It sounded easy but I’ve been a member for almost all of my adult life and my membership has meant different things at different times.
I joined in the first year of my PR degree at Bournemouth University because a guest lecturer told my class that it is important to be a member of a professional body. I would say the same today.
After graduation I started attending CIPR meetings and events. I was working in Cambridgeshire at the time and remember causing a stir at an AGM when people heard I had taken a half day’s annual leave to get there on time. In those early years of my career I met some wonderful people through CIPR, experienced professionals who were willing to support and advise me and to whom I will always be grateful.
If I’m honest, back then I probably didn’t realise how important CPD is; I was less than a year out of university and finding that my account executive role wasn’t challenging me. I knew I had to prove myself in a junior role but I didn’t want to get bored and lose interest in PR. It was at an East Anglia group event that someone suggested I take part in the Developing Excellence scheme (as CPD was called then). I completed my first CPD cycle in 2002-3.
Every year since I’ve found something new to learn or skills to develop and completing my CPD record has become a natural part of what I do. I probably wouldn’t be in the job I’m in now if I hadn’t continued to develop myself in such a structured way. And it was really handy when in a particularly difficult interview I was asked whether I was committed to CPD (I got the job!).
Three years ago, my then manager forwarded me an email about the CIPR Public Affairs Group AGM asking if I wanted him to nominate me for the committee. With his encouragement, I put my name forward. Being involved in the committee has been incredibly rewarding; after 16 years as a ‘silent’ member it was great to be involved and have a chance to contribute something back to the profession.
When I was invited to take part in the first Chartership Assessment Day in November 2015 I jumped at the chance! I’d wanted to get Chartered for several years but the old process just felt like it would be prohibitively time consuming and the day job still has to come first. The one day assessment is more accessible but definitely not an easy option. We were really put through our paces and I was exhausted at the end of the day, but it was more than worth it. My Chartered certificate now has pride of place in my office, a demonstration of my commitment to my profession and to my career.
I’ve still got a few years before the mortgage company will let me retire and I am sure that CIPR will continue to be important to me and to my career. There’s more I want to learn and contribute – and I’d love to become a Fellow one day!
So how would I summarise what CIPR membership means to me in 30 words? Professionalism; accountability to a code of conduct; ethical practice; being Chartered; learning and CPD; advice and support; supporting others; sharing knowledge; a network of contacts and friends; and much more!
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There’s no joining fee if you come on board in March.