In HR jobs, finance jobs and marketing careers, continuous learning is a necessary part of your career development. Recent months have seen unexpected challenges as many professionals have had to adapt to working from home, and thoughts of personal development may have gone on hold.
Looking ahead, it is important to ensure you future-proof your career. Marketing, HR and Finance professionals are needed across a variety of businesses, so whether you intend to advance within your current organisation or move into a new sector, upskilling will enable you to expand your horizons.
What is Continuous Professional Development and why is it important for your career?
The concept of Continuous (or continuing) Professional Development has been around since the 1960s, but only became more recognised towards the end of the twentieth century.
Continuous Professional Development is the ongoing enhancement of knowledge and skills through various learning activities. It can include training courses, workshops, lectures, reading relevant articles or listening to podcasts. Creating a Continuous Professional Development plan demonstrates your commitment to investing in your future prospects and can be created according to your own personal learning style.
Some professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), may require members to undertake and document a certain amount of professional development. For those in HR jobs, Finance jobs or pursuing Marketing careers, it is a personal responsibility to keep abreast of the latest methodologies and technology to stay up to date in an ever-changing field.
Focusing on Continuous Professional Development means taking a conscious and proactive approach to learning which will indicate to recruiters and hiring managers that you are up to date with the latest techniques. Benefits of this include:
- Ensuring your capabilities keep pace with others in Marketing careers, HR jobs or Finance jobs.
- Academic and practical qualifications remain current.
- Enabling adaptation to change in work or industry requirements.
- Identifying and resolving knowledge gaps.
- Continuously upskilling.
- Increasing confidence.
- Showing commitment to self-development and professionalism.
By creating a structured, practical, and methodical approach to learning, recruiters and hiring managers will see that you have developed the skills and knowledge needed in your sector. Read on to learn how to create your personal development plan.
Maintaining Continuous Professional Development by choice not requirement
As an adult, your motivation to learning may be different. If you have a desire to learn more, you can plan your learning based on your own objectives and relevance to your career goals. You can also choose your own learning methods based on your preferred style. Some people learn best through formal study, while others retain new skills through practical approaches.
When getting started it is important to think about your future goals so you can decide which skills to focus on. For example, for those who intend to stay in HR jobs your primary focus could be on developing specific HR skills to help advance your career. Another example for those in marketing careers looking for a change, is to focus on increasing your knowledge of a different sector to widen your options when looking for new opportunities.
There are two types of professional development:
1. Intentional growth
Consider the professional role, job responsibilities, income level and various other factors you are aiming for. You can then determine ways to reach your goals, such as working on relevant projects and undertaking training programmes.
2. Unintentional professional growth
Take opportunities as they come along. This could be a training course offered by an employer, a seminar hosted by a professional organisation, or even the chance to participate in a volunteer event. Think about how an opportunity will move you closer to your professional growth objectives.
It is essential to strike the right balance between intentional and unintentional growth. While it is important to have a plan, this should not be your entire focus. You run the risk of missing unexpected opportunities that could accelerate your professional development.
Cognitive Bias – how it can affect your learning?
Our ability to learn new things can be affected by our brain misinterpreting information and coming to inaccurate conclusions. Known as cognitive bias, this can limit your learning in some of the following ways:
- Functional Fixedness – sticking to traditionally established methods or concepts.
- Status Quo Bias – preferring things to stay the same.
- Curse of Knowledge Bias - being well-informed, and thus unable to look at an issue from the perspective of a less-informed person.
- Anchoring Bias – relying too much on one piece of information, usually the first you learnt.
- Confirmation Bias – focusing on information that supports your preconceptions.
- Dunning Kruger Effect - underestimating your ability if you are highly skilled or overestimating your ability if you are unskilled.
How to overcome cognitive learning bias
Heuristics are mental shortcuts to making decisions and solving problems. E.g. trial and error, rule of thumb or an educated guess. However, while heuristics can help make learning quicker and easier, it is important to be aware of how they work as well as the potential biases they introduce. This might help you make better, more accurate decisions in your learning process.
De-biasing is a process which aims to reduce these cognitive biases, enabling you to think more rationally and so receive better results. De-biasing involves various training and intervention techniques; however, the effectiveness of these methods has not yet been conclusively confirmed.
The best way of overcoming any cognitive bias may simply be to have an understanding and awareness that these biases exist. You can then acknowledge and think about your choices and motivations.
Cognitive bias can also be positive and assist in learning:
- Self-Serving Bias - being positive and believing in your abilities.
- Context Effect - putting things in context to help retain information.
- Image Superiority Effect - retaining information through images.
Creating your personal development plan
“the beginning is the most important part of any work”
Plato in his book The Republic (circa 380 BC)1
Keeping a record of your professional development will provide you with written evidence of your professional growth which can be useful for job appraisals, or to add to your CV when looking for new finance jobs, HR jobs, and in your marketing career. Taking the time to plan will help you to be more efficient. Using this as a tool you can approach your Manager for help with support in your ongoing training and development. Having a plan can give you direction and enable you to gain satisfaction in your work.
A Continuous Professional Development plan should include the following:
Learning Objectives - these are the primary aims of your educational activity. Examples being, what you need to learn or improve, how you will achieve it and when.
Learning Outcomes - these refer to your personal experience of the educational activity and describe what you have learnt. For example, this can be a list of knowledge, skills or behaviours and how the learning was achieved. Most importantly, it will include what you plan to do with the knowledge gained in the context of your marketing career, HR job or finance position.
Successful Continuous Professional Development involves the following processes which will help in creating your plan.
- Identify the current trends in your industry. This can be done by searching jobs and taking note of what skills are in demand. This includes soft skills and transferrable skills as well as professional skills and qualifications.
What skills and behaviours do I need to develop?
What do I need to learn or do to improve my skills?
What are my strengths and weaknesses?
What barriers hold me back and how can I overcome them?
- Act - find resources that will help you achieve your goals.
- Stay Nimble is a useful resource that can assist you to discover your current skills and strengths, acquire new ones, and identify your next career move. Learn more here.
- Professional bodies such as ACCA for those in finance jobs ,CIPD for those in HR jobs and CIM for those in marketing careers offer relevant training and guidance.
- Free resources - download an editable template for your Continuous Professional Development here.
- Reflect on what you have learnt to determine whether you have met your objectives and if you have improved your knowledge and skills. Use a log to keep evidence of your development once your training is complete and you have met the desired level of learning.
- Apply - completing any form of training or education is only part of the process. It is also important to apply the new skills in your day-to-day work.
- Share - being able to teach others not only helps them, it also ensures you completely understand what you have learnt.
A personal development plan will increase your confidence to improve your professional development. You will have goals to work towards as you future-proof your career in marketing, HR or finance. Continuous Professional Development means having a purpose as you achieve increased satisfaction in your work, and an improved sense of self-worth.
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- Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. 2021. Plato: The Republic. [ONLINE] Available at: https://iep.utm.edu/republic/. [Accessed February 2021].