How to make CPD work for you

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CPD Prize winner, Glenn Gosden MAAT, overcame redundancy to climb the career ladder at Raymond Brown Group. An innovative approach to CPD was key to his success. Here he explains why

My first career was as a locksmith when I left school. I then left to work in various companies in an accounts environment, before returning again to be a locksmith.

Over time my role changed to include commercial and accounts management – this was because of a change in staff and the directors of the business recognising the need for someone full time working with the accounts of the business and general management. I then realised I had a passion for working with numbers.

I enrolled to do the AAT Accounting Qualification to pursue a career in accountancy and, shortly after, I was made redundant. This would be a challenging situation for anyone to face but, for me, it was an opportunity to seek out an accounts-related role to complement my study. It was actually a blessing in disguise.

I applied for a position as an Assistant Accountant at Raymond Brown Group; a group of large limited companies in the construction, building and waste industries, which I secured.

Since then, I’ve used continuing professional development (CPD) to push myself, learn and develop each day. Nearly nine years later, I’m now the Group Management Accountant for the company overseeing 11 staff, in various accounts roles. I’m certain that my career development is a result of my thirst for self-improvement and growth.

As I see it, many people think the only way to gain CPD is to attend course. This is not the case. I’m a strong believer that we can develop our knowledge and skills in any environment – classroom training, online courses, webinars, podcasts etc. Even by conducting research, attending meetings or simply having a conversation, we all learn something new each day.

I carry out a variety of activities each year that contribute to my overall development, some are planned and some are not. Some are required for my job, and some I simply do purely out of interest.

A lot of the time it’s about dedicating time and effort but this isn’t a burden; I’m thoroughly interested in risk management techniques, sources of finance, changes in government policies, managing fuel costs, changes made by manufacturers to cars and vans and the implications of this on our fleet. The list goes on.

So how have I done all this? The answer is simple planning. At the beginning of each year I literally write down the areas where I feel I need to improve. Call it a form of ‘new year’s resolution’.

In some cases, I recognise opportunities where my development will save my company costs in the long term. For example, I recently set up sole supplier agreements for my company, identifying key areas of spend, targets for cost savings and process improvements. This project gave me an opportunity to extend my knowledge into the commercial side of the business and make recommendations of significant cost savings through economies of scale.

Other times, I choose to develop and learn new areas of work just to add to my skill set.  Throughout the year, my plan usually changes drastically. Mostly because I end up adding lots of new items to my schedule, but also because some items become more urgent than others.

Over the past year, I have used techniques such as shadowing our Finance Director, learning from colleagues and conducting research to ensure I am competent in my current role and always challenging myself.

Earlier this year, I was awarded the AAT annual CPD Prize. I received £1,000, half of which I could spend on my training and development, and the other half however I choose. I was honoured to receive an award for something that I feel is a crucial part of anyone’s professional career and is essentially part of my role at Raymond Brown.

As accountants, we train hard to obtain our qualification, so putting in a little effort to keep our knowledge current and up to date makes sense. The prize was an added bonus.

Using everyday tasks for CPD has given me better technical knowledge as an accountant by growing and expanding my knowledge. More importantly, it has led me to where I am today.

So my advice to others would be:

  • Have a plan – set out a plan at the beginning of each year identifying the areas you wish to improve in and stick to it. It’s easy to become too busy and for other things to take priority, don’t let this happen, dedicate 10 minutes of time each week and stick to it. It can really be a little as that.
  • Think outside the box – use every day opportunities like meetings or researching projects to assist your development. The internet has also become such an invaluable took for keeping up to date on issues and research, I’m constantly embracing technology to keep up to date and share information with others.
  • Embrace new opportunities – don’t be afraid to explore new areas. Challenge yourself by exploring something new – the short and long term benefits will be worth it.

AAT members can access the CPD Zone on AAT’s website, which offers resources to plan and undertake CPD and develop their careers.

Glenn Gosden is AAT Comment’s news writer.

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