Building professionalism

New year; new career goals. Here, Elizabeth Wakeling examines the importance of Continuing Professional Development and explains how to make sure you benefit from it

The start of the year is always a good time to reflect and plan the skills, qualifications and experience you hope to gain in the twelve months ahead. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is an investment you make in yourself to regularly update your expertise, knowledge and competencies so you remain professionally competitive and ultra-employable.

There are lots of personal and business-based advantages of CPD. It opens up opportunities to gain new abilities and develop your understanding of key areas, whilst preparing you for greater responsibilities in potential future roles.

Most importantly, it’s hugely beneficial for maintaining a progressive approach to your work and career: it can “boost your confidence, strengthen your professional credibility and help you become more creative in tackling new

challenges.” (CIPD 2016) 

Essentially, CPD is about planning, recording and reflecting on your development so you can be more effective in the workplace and, if you wish, advance your career. It’s so much more than ‘just a box-ticking exercise.’   

Professional development is inextricably linked to professionalism, which amounts to more than the skills and knowledge of a role. In today’s busy world, it’s reflected in how you behave as you do your job. This could be the way you apply your expertise, how you take control of your career and associated learning or the commitment you show towards doing your job well.

The start of the year or appraisal time is ideal for getting the ball rolling, as it will encourage your employer to invest in your development. 

Be sure to choose activities that’ll enhance your performance, increase your knowledge, sharpen your skills, meet your development objectives and help you apply concepts to real world situations. The processes you pick should be grounded in research and based on the types of practice in your field, whilst allowing opportunities for collaboration with other professionals.

Start by analysing the ability and understanding you have in your current job, then do the same for the role you’d like to have. This helps identify gaps and highlight the most appropriate learning activities for you. Create an outline strategy that includes your objectives, priorities, target dates and appropriate development activities. Aim high whilst ensuring your goals are practical, achievable and challenging. And bear in mind that your plan may well change regularly!

Your development activities can be formal and structured – courses, e-learning, conferences and presentations, for example – or informal, with options such as mentoring or reading relevant trade publications.

Formal learning offers evidence in the form of recognised certificates or diplomas. However, less structured activities are also valuable and most CPD will be a mixture of both, along with out-of-work events, such as professional networking.

There are many different ways to achieve CPD and during the process you’ll develop a bank of fundamental knowledge, gain valuable new skills and meet a wealth of interesting people who could contribute to your career success. It will give you a personal challenge and a sense of professional pride.

So, what are you waiting for?.

Elizabeth Wakeling is a Business Administration Lecturer with over 25 years’ teaching experience. She is Principal Tutor and Head of Secretarial Studies at Beckenham College and UK Chairman of European Management Assistants (EUMA), the leading professional association for Management and Personal Assistants across Europe.