Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a requirement for employees within the traditional professions – such as law; teaching; healthcare; accounting etc; to not only maintain but also continue to enhance their knowledge and skills. It puts the onus on the practitioners and is measured to ensure compliance.

This makes sense to most people. Who for example would be happy to be treated by a Doctor who was trained some 30 years ago and has lots of experience but who hasn’t kept up to date with the latest knowledge, insights and technology?

And yet for some reason we treat these professions as sacred and don’t apply the same principles to our own careers and our own lives. Many of us seem happy to go through life just focusing on maintenance learning 

Using my own life as an example, when I entered the world of work, the internet was not yet invented, communication outside of the office (wired) network was via fax or telex, telephone calls were only possible using tethered phones and debit cards were a thing of dreams – we had to pay by cheque for large items. Just to survive I had to learn the basics – BUT – if this is all I had done then I couldn’t really call my learning growth, maintenance learning just allowed me to stand still and cope with modern day life.

I was lucky enough to have been born curious (OK – I’ll admit nosy is probably nearer the mark) and with a fascination around what makes people tick and why some people seem to have an easier ride in life than others. This drive was so strong and my need to learn more so great that I subconsciously developed my own form of CPD (I only learned of the official term in later life). But for many, once they have learned the basics required to fulfil their accepted roles in society and within work, and if there is no professional requirement for continual development (just maintenance learning), active participation in their own development seems to cease. And if these people are not growing then what are they doing? Well according to Thesaurus, the opposite of growth is stagnation, decline, failure and destruction. Can anyone really choose this as an option?

My underlying belief is that everyone, no matter what their age, or background or where they come from, inherently strives to be the very best they can be. Sure, the conditions around them and the tools and resources available to them will dictate how and what that looks like – but, if this is true, then everyone can benefit from CPD personally and professionally.


So, what does it look like and how does it work? 

Adapted from CIPD’s CPD cycle @ https://www.cipd.co.uk/learn/cpd/cycle


First: think about where you are right now (industry/organisation/job role/level) and then look at where you want to be. Dream big and create your goal – make it specific; measurable; achievable; realistic and timebound.

Then: think about the skills; competencies; attributes; knowledge you will need to achieve your goal and think about how you could obtain/develop these.

Once you know what you need to learn and how you need to develop yourself, research the various courses, workshops, conferences you may need to attend. Identify people who can coach or mentor you. Check out any books, journals or magazines which may provide further information on these areas. The methods don’t have to be formal – it may be that visiting museums or galleries is supportive your end goal.

Create a plan – listing out step by step, what you are intending to do and when. List also any and all resources you may need to help ensure you complete these (for example time; finances; the time of other individuals).

Diarise your dates and complete the action points – noting what you have learned against each activity/experience and noticing whether you achieved the outcome you were expecting. Test out your new knowledge / findings – do you feel you have developed? Have you achieved what you expected to achieve?

Share your knowledge with co-workers and assess whether your new learnings and insights might have wider implications in terms development for yourself of your organisation. Reflect on the final outcome and decide whether further activity is needed to develop in this area.

Where CPD is a formal requirement, points will generally be allocated for specific activities undertaken. However, this is not necessary for nonprofessional functions. But do make sure you record your progression and keep an update to date portfolio. This will help keep you on track and will also act as your point of difference when seeking promotion or new job roles. Feel free to download the CPD Portfolio to support you.

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