One of the things I often hear people say when they’re talking about Chartership is that they’re not sure what’s expected of them. Having chartered myself (with a fabulous mentor) and currently mentoring (a brilliant candidate), I have a fair idea of the process, but what really helped me understand what Chartership is really supposed to be was serving on the CILIP Future Skills project board, where I got the chance to discuss the future of CILIP qualifications with massively talented and inspiring people, including the head of the Chartership board.

What came across very clearly from these discussions (both about the current state of Chartership and desired future directions) was the conviction that everyone involved had that the aim of Chartership is to improve the profession by helping individual professionals improve themselves.

Chartership isn’t meant to be a chore. It’s meant to be a tool to help you plan and make the most of your own personal and professional development. It’s not hoops to jump through because CILIP think it’ll be fun to load more work on you and watch you squirm. The goal of Chartership is for you to become a better professional, one who reflects on their learning, performance, and development.

I gave a brief outline on Twitter of what I think of as the 4 stages of Chartership:

1) identify what you need to learn

2) learn it

3) put what you’ve learned into practice in the workplace & profession

4) write down how & why you did 1-3 along with what difference it’s made for you/work, & what you’ll do next. Submit. Celebrate 🙂

To expand:

1) Identify what you need to learn. Since I chartered, the new version of the CILIP PKSB has been released, and Chartership in the future will be encouraging use of this as a self-assessment tool. I’d strongly recommend using it to look at doing a skills audit of what you know now and what you need to know. But it’s not the only thing you should be thinking about. You need to assess your skills against the demands of your role (or desired role) and workplace. Look at your job description and see what bits you’d like to be able to do more of, or do better. Look at your users. Do they have needs you’re not meeting? Could you learn the skills to enable you to meet those needs?

Stick all of this down in your PPDP. This is a living document, and will change as you progress through Chartership. Use it however best suits you to work out a development strategy. You might then need to tidy it up a bit to put in your portfolio – but you might not! A PPDP that shows evidence of use and development is exactly what the assessors are looking for – just make sure it’s comprehensible (expand acronyms, explain colour-coding etc). And the stuff in your PPDP doesn’t have to come from some special bank of development activities you’re doing ‘for Chartership’ – it comes from what you need to do for your own development. Manager given you training goals in your last staff review? PPDP them! Job you want in 5 years require a new skill? Add it to the plan. It’s all about what makes you a better professional – no barriers, no silos.

2) Learn it. I think this is actually the bit of Chartership that daunts people the least. We’re info pros. We do learning. It’s worth remembering, though, that any kind of learning and development counts. I know some people worry that they haven’t been on enough training courses or to enough conferences – but that’s ok. Chartership is all about the ‘why’. Why did you learn this skill from a book instead of going on a course? (‘We didn’t have a training budget’ is a perfectly legitimate answer, by the way).

As long as you give the reasons behind what you do, show that you’ve thought about the why of it all, you will produce the right sort of portfolio. No-one is judging the training and development activities you’ve chosen to do. They’re not going to think ‘oh, well, I don’t think that’s the best resource available on that topic. They should have consulted [x] instead.’ As long as you explicitly state in your portfolio how the development activity relates to a need you identified and what impact undertaking that activity had on you, they will accept that you have selected the most appropriate development method for your needs and circumstances.

3) Put what you’ve learned into practice in the workplace & profession. Knock their socks off.

4) Write down how & why you did 1-3 along with what difference it’s made for you/work, & what you’ll do next. This is a lot less daunting if you do it as you go along! Jo Alcock has created a great template to help with this, and I believe that the new CILIP VLE will be tailored to help with ongoing recording and reflection, too. Reflective writing can be a bit of a pain if you’re not used to it (or not naturally that way inclined), but remember that you don’t have to produce torrents of deathless prose. Here’s my suggested tool for relatively quick and easy reflection.

Taken from a presentation I gave at SLA2012 in Chicago.

Taken from a presentation I gave at SLA2012 in Chicago.

There’s no one way to produce a great Chartership portfolio. It’s a reflection of you as a practitioner. So there are no hard and fast rules about size, content, layout – it’s left to you and your professional judgement. The portfolio is your chance to show how good you are at selecting and organising information. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by some mystic idea of ‘what the assessors expect to see’. Think about their information needs. What do you particularly want to convey to them? What do they especially need to know? Are you providing the right information, in the right quantities and the right format to allow them to assess your application? Are you showing the judgement expected of an information professional?

(But you’re not expected to magically know these things! Asking for peer support and advice is part of being an info pro. Your mentor, Candidate Support Officer, the CILIP quals team, the mailing lists, your colleagues – they’re all there to help. And they’ve all needed to ask for help too! They’re a resource, so use them as you need to.)

Treat the Chartership process as an opportunity for you to have some quality ‘me and my development time’, a chance to have someone chivvy you into reflecting about what you do, and a chance to celebrate your successes – and even if you never get round to handing that portfolio in, you’ll be a better professional at the end of it. And that’s something worth celebrating 🙂