The days of leaving school or even university and thinking that exams and assessments are a thing of the past are well and truly over. The modern day workplace is an intense and competitive environment and you are continually being assessed on your knowledge and skills.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and the impacts it has on your career should never be underestimated and it isn’t just for those whose industry mandates it. Quite simply, it is your personal responsibility to keep your knowledge and skills current so that you can not only perform your job to the best levels of service and quality, but also so that you can be considered for promotions and pay increases. Plus, newcomers are likely to have more up-to-date knowledge and skills and be aware of changing trend, so there is always the risk that your professional days may be numbered if you ignore the need for CPD.
In addition, CPD allows you to continue to make a meaningful and beneficial contribution to your team. Without it you will lose your effectiveness and won’t be able to lead, influence, coach, manage or mentor others.
Some organisations are good at providing learning opportunities when they can see a direct benefit to the organisation. However, what’s offered may not always be what’s best or what you really want or need for your career, therefore if you want to protect your employability, you need to take charge of your own personal development and make the opportunities happen.
Candidates who demonstrate that they’re conscientious about their personal development are likely to be seen as highly motivated and engaged. Their openness and willingness to continuously learn also suggests they’re flexible, adaptable and will bring a continuous improvement ethos to the workplace; all of which are very appealing to an employer.
So, how can you plan your own CPD?
Consider the areas of your role that are the most challenging and where you could improve. Look for advice from those you emulate and approach HR and discuss areas that would be seen as favourable.
Plan it out as it is always better to take a planned approach to CPD. Consider where you’d like to be in the next three to five years, have a look at how you can get there and the timeframe allowances and costs you need to plan for.
It isn’t all about training courses. Are you reading industry press, is it possible to ask for a mentor or could you shadow someone with the skills you wish to develop? The rise of webinars, e-newsletters and online forums and networks means it’s easier than ever to participate in self-learning from your office desk or at home. You can also join industry professional bodies and associations to gain credibility.
You might not be looking for a new job, however by keeping an eye on the job market you will be able to keep abreast of industry standards and expectations.
Don’t forget your ‘soft’ skills either. Communication, emotional and handling conflict skills are increasingly seen as important by employers. People management skills are also of paramount importance, especially if you want to advance into a managerial role. If you can’t gain these skills through your work then consider voluntary work instead, as all skills will be transferable.
You do however have to accept that it will require time and energy and might take you out of your comfort zone. By developing a learning habit throughout your career you’re far more likely to extend your career longevity, mitigate any risks and improve your employability and value.