As a professional, of whatever level, in whichever country, professional development is probably something you have come across.
In this article we'll explain what it is, why it is important and how you can fit it into your working week and track your progress.
What is Continuous Professional Development
Continuous professional development is the act of continuing to learn and develop your professional skills in an area over time. In other words, you don't simply take a training course early in your career and then do nothing else to refresh your skills over the following 30 years. It's also a requirement of a number of professional bodies for managers.
Project managers, for example, who hold professional certifications from PMI, have to undertake professional development activities over the course of 3 years, and other professional bodies and associations for all disciplines and industries have similar requirements.Continuous learning, whether on the workplace, through mentors or through training and courses will be a surefire way for you to become an excellent project manager.
Why Professional Development is Important
Professional development is important because it helps you to plan your own career journey. It's part of taking active responsibility for learning new things and developing new skills. These can help you get new positions in the future. It's also important as it helps demonstrate your competence to your current or future employer. Who would you rather hire: someone who last did a training course 20 years ago or someone who regularly attends industry seminars to better understanding the evolving marketplace? Carrying out your professional development activities can help you grow in confidence, and become more self-reflective, leading to better learning outcomes and resilience - all good skills to develop for work.
Activities That Count as Professional Development
If development is mandated by your professional association, they will specify the types of activity that count as 'professional development' in the member's handbook or equivalent documentation.
- Attending conferences, seminars and webinars, in person or online
- Presenting at events
- Mentoring someone, or being mentored yourself
- Volunteering for your professional body
- Reading industry journals, websites and magazines
- Listening to industry podcasts
- Attending formal training in the classroom for professional qualifications or degree qualifications
- Attending formal or informal training online
- Doing your actual job, as long as it is relevant to the professional association's area of practice.
Please check with your professional body to make sure that the kind of activity you want to do counts towards their requirements for you to maintain your membership in good standing (or do the activity you want to do anyway, above and beyond any requirements you need to maintain for them). If you are undertaking professional development for your own personal career benefit, you can carry out virtually any activity that helps build your career in the direction that you want to go. Workshadowing, talking to peers from a different department to broaden your knowledge, building your skills in using online and on premise tools like ScheduleReader can all help you boost your skills and experience.
How To Track Your Professional Development
Many professional bodies will expect you to keep a log of your professional development. If you wait until the end of the year before completing this, you won't be able to remember what you have done. The easiest way to keep your professional development logs up to date - whether you are doing it for professional recognition from your body or not - is to take half an hour each month and record what you have completed that month. Or even do it more regularly. As you undertake the activity, write down what you did and what you learned. Note down the dates, who was with you, what activity you took part in and what you felt about it. Recording the learning points will help you remember and act on them later. Keeping your records up to date regularly will save you time if you are ever asked to submit your professional development logs by your association.
How Your Manager Can Help
While it's true that no one else should or could take responsibility for your career, there are people who can help you achieve your career goals. Your manager is the most obvious person, and they are definitely influential in your career. Continuous professional development is good for your company because if you are better at your job through the things you have learned, your company benefits as well. And, if your manager actively supports your learning through methods like secondments and allowing you time in the workday to develop new skills, they may find that there are cost savings through formal training. If they do go ahead and invest in formal training for you or your colleagues, it's likely that your experience in managing your own development will help you assimilate what you have learned more effectively.
If you can transfer your classroom knowledge to the workplace, your employer will benefit from your new skills and behaviors. Finally, by supporting employees in this way, employers can better retain staff. As you can see, there are a number of benefits for your organization, and these are things you can easily share with your manager. Hopefully, they will see the wider benefits beyond completion of your annual professional development log for your examining body. When you have your one-on-one meetings with your manager, talk about your career goals, your plans for professional development and what support you would like. It helps to be specific. If you want training in a certain area, or to develop your skills in project planning, for example, then ask for it. You cannot expect tailored help from your boss if you are not specific about what it is you are looking for (even if that is simply help for working out what you should be working towards). There are no disadvantages to doing continuous professional development in your professional field, whether you are allied to a professional association or not. What are you going to work on next month to advance your career?