Attaining chartered status gives a huge sense of achievement. The many hours of dedicated revision combined with the experience gained from your professional career not only enable you to reach a seemingly impossible goal but also improves confidence and self-belief in many aspects of your day-to-day job.
I remember when I signed up to the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) and the feeling of shear dread when I realised how much I had to learn. For me, I found the help and support from Faithful+Gould invaluable. The intentions of their dedicated training programme are to replicate the final assessment and identify innovative ways of how you can improve your preparations for the big day.
The following six tips are just some of the things I have learnt along the way, which you may find useful:
- Do it when you’re ready – There will be a lot of people telling you to do it as soon as possible, which I agree with, but it may be that you’re lacking experience in a particular area. Don’t be afraid to speak to your line manager because, as with a lot of things in life, if you don’t ask, you don’t get! My advice would be to do it as soon as you can (as long as you’re ready), which may require a bit of sacrifice in your life, but once it’s done you will get a huge sense of achievement as well as the benefits that come with being chartered!
I believe you should learn and understand each competency in depth which will enable you to call on your knowledge and give a comprehensive response to any type of question.
- Be honest – Your big day has arrived and you’re sitting in the interview room faced with a difficult question. The natural human reaction would be to have a stab at an answer even if it is wrong - you have to ask yourself, is this something you would do if a client asked you the same thing? Obviously the answer is ‘no’, so why do it in the final assessment? Saying ‘I don’t know’ but being proactive in finding out, tells the assessor (or your client) that you know your limits and are open and honest. There would be no problem in giving this answer as long as it doesn’t happen too many times in the interview, otherwise your competence truly will be questioned!
- Ask for help and guidance – If you’re unsure on anything, ask for help. You may think you will sound stupid but you can be sure that someone else is also wondering about, or has already asked. Just asking, no matter how ridiculous the question is, is certainly better than letting it eat away at you and then wishing you had just asked someone.
- Structure your learning – What I tend to find is that people will go straight in with answering or trying to answer particular questions. However, the chances of you getting asked that exact same question on the day is very unlikely. I found an alternative approach more useful; I believe you should learn and understand each competency in depth which will enable you to call on your knowledge and give a comprehensive response to any type of question.
...you will start to build a comprehensive library of questions that will get you thinking about the projects you have worked on in more detail.
- Spend time on your written submission – Don’t neglect your APC final submission document because you think a good interview will get you through it. In fact, the document itself could actually shape your performance in the interview – the two go hand-in-hand. It sounds obvious, but only include what you’ve actually worked on and are confident on being questioned about in your summary of experience section. You are telling the assessors about your experience so naturally they are going to want to find out if you know about what you have written. Similarly, your case study is a key document which you will need to know inside out and back to front. I would expect numerous iterations to be written before it is perfected. A simple test for me was that it could be understood and followed by everyone that read it, even your family members who may not know anything about your profession! In the time period leading up to the final assessment, my advice would be to highlight all key words in your documents and then make a list of questions which will get you thinking about the types of things you may be asked in the interview. What you will find is that one particular area of a competency will overlap with another and you will start to build a comprehensive library of questions that will get you thinking about the projects you have worked on in more detail.
- Organise Q+A sessions – Without doubt the best preparation for the final assessment, which I feel best replicates the situation you will be faced with, is to have numerous question and answer sessions. This should be carried out once you have undergone a structured learning process to build up your base knowledge. My advice would be to not always get the same person to ask you however, as you can become familiar with their style of questioning. Different styles/faces will prepare you for the unknown assessors on the day. What I found particularly useful was to write down the questions that I didn’t know during the sessions and make sure I learnt them for next time!
In summary, the APC is a fundamental part of your professional development and should be treat as such. The support given to you by your employer and colleagues can be instrumental in helping you through it; it’s challenging and demanding, but hard work and dedication can help you to become part of a world-recognised, leading construction institution, giving you industry-approved proof of your professional ability.