The New Year is a time for resolutions – so if you want the most of your career in 2018, focusing your efforts on continuing professional development (CPD) is a great way to start.
But how do you keep up to speed with CPD whilst managing the pressures of day-to-day life? We asked some experienced accountants for their top tips.
Make it digestible
‘It’s all about knowing your limits and what you are licensed to do,’ says Natasha Everard, Student Mentor and Resources Co-ordinator at Premier Training. ‘Your awarding body (such as AAT) will have many resources and updates that allow you to monitor anything that may affect your role – topical subjects at the moment might include the implementation of the GDPR and how to prepare for it.’ Find sources that you trust and enjoy reading, Everard advises. ‘You can register for free magazines such as PQ, a monthly magazine making you aware of recent updates to the industry. And registering for the mailshots from sites such as AccountingWEB is a way to absorb this information in smaller, manageable chunks.’
Have a range of CPD activities
Don’t limit yourself to one particular source of information – learn from people in person, use web forums and be interactive. ‘Attend a local group, follow webinars (e.g. HMRC, AAT), and use sources you trust,’ says Stella Pickering, Owner, Accounting by Stella. ‘Bear in mind that you don’t have to pay to get your CPD. I attend Saturday AAT meetings and then take two masterclasses per year to keep up to date.’
Do something regularly…
‘My current role consists of mentoring students through one of the largest AAT distance learning training providers whilst running my own bookkeeping business,’ Natasha Everard says. ‘As part of my role for Premier Training, I undertake continuous CPD to ensure that the advice and information that I am providing is up to date. By doing this daily, I am confident that my knowledge is the best it can be.’
… and make time for CPD
‘CPD is about your development – so it’s vitally important,’ says Mark Young, an Advisory Accountant at HMRC. ‘If you don’t prioritise it then no one else is going to prioritise it for you. Without CPD it’s surprising how quickly your knowledge and skills can get out of date. This reduces not only the value of your professional qualifications – but also your value to your current and future employers.’
Learn about learning
Whilst spending the time on your CPD is one challenge, remembering everything you’ve learnt is another matter. ‘Find ways to retain what you learn,’ says Young. ‘Research shows that we retain only 10% of what we read or hear at a lecture. If you can put into practice what you’ve learned, that increases to 75%.’ Young recommends ‘trying to seek out opportunities to apply what you have learnt in an active way – such as discussing it with others, teaching others or applying it in the workplace.’
Create a structure that works for you
‘It’s important to recognise that you can’t keep abreast of everything,’ Young says, ‘so try to develop a structure for keeping up to date using the channels that work best for you. I use those channels that I would access anyway as part of my daily routine – because if I need to search out accountancy updates I’m less likely to do so.’ Additionally, ‘as part of a structured approach I think it’s important to have a “catch-all” source for things you may have missed. That might be through reading a magazine like Accounting Technician or attending webinar/classroom-based updates.’
Take pride in what you’re doing
‘The importance of establishing a good routine of CPD is showing that we take pride in our standards and that we are very committed to maintaining a high standard,’ says Everard. ‘It boosts your skills and helps you to achieve your goals.’ CPD is a career-builder – don’t see it as a chore that needs doing. ‘We rely on staff keeping up with their CPD,’ says Stella Pickering – ‘indeed, it’s often it’s a condition of continued employment.’ In other professions, CPD can sometimes be seen as a ‘nice-to-have’. That’s absolutely not the case with accountancy – it’s a core part of the role, and should be regarded as such.
‘When you have a long list of things to do it’s easy to put CPD off until tomorrow,’ says Mark Young. To counter this, ‘I separate CPD into two camps – items that I need to have a general awareness of, and subjects that I need to know in more detail.’ For the former, ‘I subscribe to email news feeds that I browse first thing every morning over a coffee.’ And for the latter, ‘I block specific time aside in my diary; otherwise it is always going to lose out to other priorities on the “to do” list.’ Webinars and classroom-based training are particularly useful for this, Young says, ‘as they commit you to put the time aside to attend. But you can apply that same logic to any form of CPD. I block the diary and make CPD my priority during that time.’
You’re probably doing more CPD than you realise anyway
‘Reading a relevant book or magazine is classed as CPD,’ Everard points out. ‘Taking an additional level 4 optional unit can also be classed as CPD.’ Record everything that you do in the way of seeking the information, Everard concludes. ‘You’ll be amazed at how much CPD you are already completing.’
The advantages of CPD
- CPD makes you confident and gives you credibility. There are many resources available at your fingertips – and many of these are free. ‘I would recommend AAT branch events, webinars and podcasts,’ says Mark Young.
- CPD helps you advance your career – but also creates satisfaction in your current role. ‘The bookkeeping and accounting industry is evolving at an alarming rate,’ says Natasha Everard, ‘and it’s important to be aware of any changes that may affect the industry. Social media has become an incredible way for that information to be distributed widely.’
- CPD helps you recognise what’s changing in accountancy. ‘There are various routes through which you can keep up to date with what’s going on,’ says Young, ‘from email updates, social media, magazines and webinars/classroom-based events.’
Mark Blayney Stuart is Business Journalist of the Year, Wales Media Awards 2017 and Former Head of Research at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.