By Elaine Lawther Career Why CPD doesn't have to be a chore 5 Jul 2012 For many, Continuing Personal Development (CPD) can feel like a chore. But, as Elaine Lawther of NHS Education for Scotland points out, it doesn’t have to be if you bring it to life For many people – including me – CPD can feel like washing the car or doing the laundry. It’s a chore: something to be put off until it really has to get done. Yet once you’ve done it, you feel the benefits and realise it wasn’t a chore after all. So how can we all look at CPD in a different light? First of all, it’s helpful to remember that it’s us as individuals that will benefit from time invested in learning and development. You have succeeded in your AAT studies because they matter to you. You wanted to learn new skills, understand more about how business works, or perhaps find a new job. Is CPD any different? There may be benefits for our employers but ultimately personal development is about helping us work better, think better, plan better and these skills will help us thrive in an increasingly challenging world of work. Busy workplaces make it hard to put ourselves first but if we look after ourselves, we look after our business. Secondly, it’s really important that we as individuals have a big say in what we do as our CPD. We all have different skills, interests and ways of learning and if we let someone else direct us, there is a strong chance they will suggest something that we find boring or unhelpful. I’m sure we’ve all been on training courses that our manager suggested we attend and the only thing to enjoy is the lunch. CPD, on the other hand, should be stimulating and fun. This links to my last point. To avoid CPD feeling like something to be ticked off our to do list, it needs to be relevant to our day to day lives. The best learning and development allows us to do something new and different right away. It might work, it might not. But we have had a chance to try something and this, for me, is learning. Here are my top tips for bringing CPD to life: Take time to plan When you are thinking ahead to your CPD activities, put yourself at the centre and think about what would make YOUR working life better. You can ask other people for ideas but the best learning will be something you have chosen because it matters to you. Take an hour, a blank piece of paper and sit somewhere quiet and see what you come up with. Be creative Once your piece of paper has a few scribbles, think how these new skills or learning can be achieved. CPD doesn’t have to be a list of courses and manuals to read. It can be going to a meeting that you’ve never been to before, it can be Googling something, it can be speaking to someone in another department or a customer about their views, or even something that you do all the time but you decide to do it differently. They key thing that turns it into learning is taking the time to reflect on what you’ve seen or heard and think how this can help you do something new. Don’t avoid the ‘soft’ stuff Many people fill their CPD with new spreadsheet techniques and technical stuff. This is great but often the biggest challenges at work are our relationships with people. Soft skills development is often neglected because it doesn’t seem as relevant but experience shows us that good communication and influencing skills are sometimes what makes a difference and helps us go from good to great. And because we can use these new skills almost every day, we get a chance to put our learning into practice right away. More information on CPD is available on the AAT website. AAT members can access the CPD Zone on AAT’s website, which offers resources to plan and undertake CPD and develop their careers. Elaine Lawther is the Educational Programme Manager at NHS Scotland.