Continuous professional development
What is continuous professional development?
Continuous professional development (CPD) is a big deal. It's about:
- taking responsibility for developing the skills and expertise you need to perform your job competently and effectively
- taking pride in what you do and seeking satisfaction from learning
- embracing the fact that knowledge and professional practice evolves, and you need to keep up
- enhancing your CV and ensuring your well positioned for your next career move.
I think it's always important, no matter how long you've been working, to keep asking yourself what areas you can develop in and learn more about.
Abi Bennetts, UoN alumna, Psychology, 2018
CPD may be mandatory or optional and takes many different formats. A training course is perhaps the most obvious example of CPD, so we’ll cover how to make the most of these, but any activity from which you learn or develop professionally counts so think creatively.
When considering what CPD to undertake it’s worth reflecting on your recent performance and identifying how you would like to further develop, as well as thinking forward to anticipate what’s coming up in order to future-proof your skillset.
Make the most of training events
Imagine this: you book a training course but forget all about it until the day before, rush to the event with your mind on other things and fail to fully engage, and then become immediately consumed by business as usual on your return to the workplace. This is hardly a recipe for maximising learning.
Here's our advice to avoid this situation.
Before the event
- Schedule time to read around the topic and think carefully about how it relates to your specific context
- Note down questions you would like to ask
- Do any pre-work properly as this is likely to form the foundation for material covered on the day
During the event
- Share your personal learning goals with the trainer, this will help them to tailor their content to your needs
- Be fully present and engage with activities as this will help you to fully assimilate key learning points
- Take notes or annotate any handouts
- Continue your learning over lunch by chatting to fellow participants
After the event
- Organise any notes you made into categories, perhaps under headings like: facts and figures, instructions, ideas and things to try, commentary, potential contacts. This will help you to revisit your learning with fresh eyes and make further new connections
- Engage in a task that uses what you have learnt straightaway, this will help you to put new knowledge into practice and quickly demonstrate a return on investment
Be aware of the price tag
Even if your organisation is very pro CPD they won’t have an endless staff development budget.
Sometimes you will have to make a business case for any learning activities that aren’t seen as standard or essential, particularly if there’s a big financial or time cost.
If, having done your research and thought it through carefully, you feel there would be real benefit in you accessing a CPD opportunity, you will need to articulate this convincingly. Highlight how it aligns to a specific project or development goal, what you will be able to do better as a result, and how any key learning points can be shared with your wider team or department.
Enjoy a daily dose of CPD
It’s not all about training courses and qualifications. Small everyday CPD activities can really add value too. Try these:
- Talk to the people around you – simply try to have more conversations and practise being curious. Purposeful discussion with an ‘expert’ is helpful if you want to learn something specific, but don’t underestimate the pot-luck approach too, impromptu corridor conversations can yield interesting insight and lead to spontaneous ideas and collaborations
- Build in short but regular bursts of self-directed activity – try subscribing to a newsletter, podcast, or vlog that provides an industry news roundup and then schedule 30 minutes a week to catch up with the ‘hot topics’ in your sector
- Observe someone doing a specific activity – this will allow you to see a task performed for real and in context. Try to note the intricacies of what the person you’re watching does. Notice the way they operate, any specific movements or language they use, and the sequence or process they follow. Then, ask them about your observations and whether they have always done things this way or modified their approach over time
- Join a peer group – talking to people who do similar work to you can provide opportunities to share best practice and generate new ideas and insight. This might take the form of a case conference, a briefing exercise, or a simple show and tell conversation
Pay it back
As you become more experienced and begin to build professional knowledge try to share this with others.
Next time you’re introduced to a new starter offer to help them get to grips with something useful. Not only will this provide a warm fuzzy feeling, but people will often reciprocate so you’re likely to gain extra pearls of wisdom or fresh insight.
Additionally, you could give your time to support current University of Nottingham students. Our Alumni Relations team offer a range of short and long-term volunteering opportunities. You might decide to become an alumni mentor, present at an event, or offer words of wisdom in writing. Plus, it’s a great way to pick up extra skills and make professional connections.
Offer to assist with giving training to others within your workplace. This will make sure you stay up to date with current developments and know the material back to front.
Victoria Rowley, UoN alumna, Law with American Law, 2015