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Chartership in focus

The Society’s new Chartership Officer, Eleanor Williams, reflects on the value of Chartership, what has inspired her during her career, and the role of the Society in modern geoscience

1 March 2023

An expedition to Svalbard inspired Eleanor to pursue glaciology, but Chartership was still a long way off

Whilst still at school, I was lucky enough to go to Svalbard on a six-week expedition that ignited my enthusiasm for glaciology. After completing my undergraduate degree in Earth sciences, I did not know what my career might look like except that it would be rooted in the natural environment. So, I further immersed myself in the challenges of carrying out fieldwork by doing a PhD in glaciology, which took me to remote corners of Patagonia and to Iceland, where I studied the dynamics of lake-calving glaciers.

I wish I could say I had a clear career pathway, but I didn’t. Watching the ice melt, metaphorically, I moved into environmental consultancy in Glasgow, where I re-trained as a hydrogeologist. It was only halfway through my 17-year career in groundwater resources that I first heard of Society Chartership. I was jaded from completing my studies alongside work and wasn’t sure what I stood to gain from working towards professional accreditation. It was only when I gained my CGeol status in 2020 that the benefits of Chartered status crystallised in my mind.

Plan, act, reflect

Chartership represents, in pragmatic terms, a formal qualification awarded to a person in recognition of a particular level of competence in their professional field. It reflects not only their technical area of expertise, but their transferable skills, commitment to career development, and both professional and personal integrity. It’s fairly straightforward to imagine that this accreditation would therefore result in better career opportunities. What is more nuanced are the personal benefits gained by taking a proactive and structured approach to your career-development goals and the resulting impact on your confidence and self-esteem.

With the benefit of hindsight, of course, I would encourage others to start their Chartership journey at the earliest opportunity. The moment you leave the education system you will effectively be undertaking professional development, but you can choose to focus this proactively even if you aren’t yet sure where you’re heading. Plan, act, reflect. People often ask how long it takes to go through the Chartership process – how long is a piece of string? Arguably, you could say roughly five years. The reality is that, if you’ve had the Chartership goal in mind for a few years, when you do come to apply, the process itself will actually be a matter of months.

Another (often unexpected) positive that comes from the Chartership process is the network of likeminded practising geoscientists that you gain. I would encourage applicants to embrace the validation interview. Assessors are willing you to succeed and can go on to become useful contacts for your specialism as your career evolves. Assessors volunteer their time and energy to undertake Chartership reviews and, as the mainstay underpinning this professional accreditation, are united in supporting the vision and values of the Society.

The Society and geoscientists

I’m lucky to have joined the Society at a time of buoyant change. The Society embraced the positives that emerged from the pandemic, using this time as an opportunity to review the relevance of the world’s oldest geological society for the modern geoscientist.

One area that is growing rapidly is the range of training offered for Earth science professionals. This is one of the ways that the Society supports our Chartership candidates, as well as offering an online forum to connect those looking for a mentor to support them towards Chartership.

As geoscience continues to diversify to meet the needs of the modern world, the drive for recognition of competence and commitment will continue to evolve, with Chartership providing this internationally recognised assurance of the professional excellence of those tasked with both capitalising from, and conserving, the planet.

The next chapter

Earth science is made up of a complex array of sub-disciplines, and the interaction and collaboration between different specialisms is exciting. As a hydrogeologist, I think climate resilience and increasing water scarcity issues are the conundrums to be solved. These issues intertwine with the energy transition, which draws together multi-disciplinary experts, including those working on geothermal energy.  

We are a community of individuals united by a passion for planet Earth. We seek to understand and benefit from the processes at work that are bigger than ourselves, while being guardians of its precious resources and balances. I’m excited to facilitate the next generation of geoscientists who can take us on to the next chapter. 

Eleanor Williams

Dr Eleanor Williams is Chartership Officer for the Geological Society of London, UK.

Chartered Fellows elected in November 2022

CGeol: Cameron Adams, Stephanie Boffey-Rawlings, Matthew Elcock, Lucy Full, John Glendinning, Hal Godwin, Christopher Gorman, Lara Haincock, Wenzhu Hou, Christopher Jackson, Christopher Jones, Jessica Layfield, Matthew Livesey, Mark Lodge, Sean Murchie, Isaac O’Brien, Egemen Oguz, Matthew Owen, Thomas Pickard, Sam Savery, Chung Yeung Shum, Charlotte Usher, Gareth Webb


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