Careers Advice: Making the most out of continuous professional development

Written by: Kelly Maddocks
Published on: 23 Jul 2018

Council office

Managing your own professional development is vital to your career, and engaging in continuous professional development (CPD) is a great way of demonstrating that you are truly committed to keeping your skills up-to-date and relevant.

Approach your CPD in a way that ensures you are maximising your opportunities to be successful. The key is to establish a plan that works well with your role and personal responsibilities. A structured approach with regular check-ins and a timeframe will keep you on track. Your CPD progress can and in most cases should form part of your appraisal with your employer. Let’s explore a commonly accepted CPD Cycle:

1. Review Analysis/Appraisal  - Understand your competencies, needs and your career gaps. What are your aspirations?

2. Plan - Establish a plan that works for your current role, your outside work commitments and your future career plans. Setting and planning timeframes, check-ins (regular meetings with your employer and/or taking time regularly to review your CPD) and building in accountability to a third party will help you stay on track.

3. Development Activities - Establish and keep a Personal Development Plan (PDP) - share this with a third party/mentor.

4. Assess and Evaluate Achievement - Evidence you have gathered to establish your competency - remember to keep accurate records and documentation. A good filling system makes a world of difference.

Undoubtedly you are going to be more successful in achieving your CPD goals by using your review and your PDP together; best practice is to complete this process on at least a yearly basis.

Review your recent performance, assess your current competencies, and identify areas where you require further development. When considering development areas, it can be useful to segment them into short and long-term goals as well as “technical” or “behavioural” competencies. When implementing your plan consider "resources"; "activities" and "timescales". Perhaps the cheapest and most easily-accessible form of resources will be "on the job". However, you will also have access to resources such as professional texts, distance learning, secondments and courses to name a few.

Your Personal Development Plan (PDP) is a combination of your development activities and your evaluation steps. Development activities are when you put your plans into place; keep in mind that both planned and unplanned CPD have equal value (it is just as relevant to record both). Your evaluation steps consist of documenting the evidence of your professional development. Ensuring that you have recorded your CPD is important, as is outlining what you have learned and how it has benefited you.

As you complete each part of your CPD it provides you with an opportunity to review your whole plan - is it still meeting your needs professionally? What amendments can you make to maximise your learning? Regular appraisals and check-ins with your employer are a positive way of documenting your CPD progress. However, if you are self-employed the onus lies with you to take personal responsibility for your learning and development.

Once you have completed the first cycle of your CPD you will be in a position to truly review your PDP. Your learning and development plans may change in line with your new career goals. Remember this is your CPD; it should be serving your career aspirations. 

There are numerous tools online that can help you get started with your planning and, which can help point to how you record your learning for your CPD. By setting your own goals, motivating yourself and taking responsibility for your learning you will continue to grow professionally.

Kelly Maddocks is head of architecture and planning at recruitment consultancy Kingsley