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Claire Day: The path to Fellowship

Claire Day FRTPI is a director and co-founder at Hybrid Planning & Development, and one of the RTPI’s newest Fellows. Here, Claire reflects on her journey through the application process to inspire more planning professionals to achieve this designation.

The RTPI has always been significant for me; my father was a member for 62 years and his influence led to my career in planning. I became a Chartered Member in 2008 and regularly engage with the RTPI, whether that’s using the Training Programme, attending events, entering awards or referring to research. I was really encouraged to read recently that membership grew by 4% in the last year and now stands at 27,000, the largest in its history. However, at the latest Fellows Reception I was surprised to discover that of this landmark cohort, only 98 are Fellows. More applications are needed!

Making a start

Fellowship was always something I’d aspired to long-term but last year I decided to research the criteria more seriously. I wanted to demonstrate not only my ongoing commitment to the industry and RTPI, but also my professional competence and expertise.

Fellowship applications are accepted four times per year so I began by selecting a submission date and giving myself a deadline. My advice is to be realistic, think about your workload, when are your busier times in the year? Allow plenty of time; I started looking in mid-May and felt the end of August deadline was achievable.

After this, it was a case of properly reading the criteria. I wanted to be confident I could provide enough examples for each key point. Just talking to my business partner helped with this; it can be especially difficult to evaluate your own achievements, so I found this external perspective incredibly useful. As anyone who knows me will testify, I’m a planner in all senses of the word! I make lists and am extremely methodical, but this approach really helped me get the application underway. I broke the criteria down into sections and added bullet point examples to illustrate each one. I could then begin writing the first draft of my statement.  

Consider your referees

A significant part of the application process involves nominations from four Chartered Members. Be advised, this is more than just completing a form! Each nominator is required to write a side of A4 detailing their relationship to you, evidence of your work and most importantly, confirm the accuracy of your application. This means they need time to prepare their nominations and review your final application documents, so schedule this into your planning. Also, really think about who to ask, can you find professionals who knew you at different stages of your career, with different professional backgrounds - this will present a more rounded endorsement.

Writing and editing

I can’t remember how many drafts of my statement there were, but certainly three or four. I found it helpful to keep revisiting it, my brain needed space to think, reflect on what I’d included and make any necessary edits. Whilst part of the process includes your nominators reading your application, I also asked other professionals to proof my final draft. A fresh pair of eyes helps with sense checking, spelling and grammar if nothing else!

Once these checks were complete it was a case of triple checking I’d collated all the required information (the RTPI provides a handy check list for this) and submitting via email to the Nominations Sub-Committee. I received a confirmation email swiftly afterwards together with a date for the results.

Not just for seniors!

From conversations within the industry, I think it’s important to dispel the myth that Fellowship is only associated with age, seniority or job title. The criteria is very inclusive, focusing on leadership, innovative practice and contribution to the profession/community; certainly not qualities reserved for those with extensive experience. Research the criteria, forewarned is forearmed as the saying goes! You’ll then know what to aspire to, what the judges are looking for and can make adjustments to suit.

Achieving my Fellowship was such a career highlight and I’m excited about the differences we can collectively make, especially navigating critical topics like climate change, COVID recovery, mental and physical wellbeing, and building sustainable communities and places. I think being affiliated with a body that is striving to make impactful change is such a positive. I commend the RTPI for its work with apprenticeships, students and minority groups, including its recent win at the BPIC (Black & Ethnic Minority Professionals in Construction) awards, but more Fellows are needed to continue shaping the future of our profession. So now you know the process, why not take the first step

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