Enhancing your skills

Does the phrase “Continuing Professional Development”

a)      Fill you with dread

b)      Make you yawn with anticipation

c)      Get you making excuses why there are better things to do?

Now I love learning and enhancing my professional skills, but I know some people find it a slog, and sometimes it’s hard to get round to it. When you have no work you can find it difficult to finance training, and when you have plenty of work it can be difficult slotting it into your calendar. But it is important to keep up to date, and learn new ways of doing things, otherwise you get left behind.

So how can you enhance your skills while working or, to be quite frank, when you are skint?

concept

There are a few ways that I’ve found over the years.  They don’t cost much, and some ways are more useful than others, but they may just give you a kick-start.

  1. Find time to do what you love.  If you enjoy what you are doing you are going to get much more from the exercise than you would otherwise… many things can be linked back to your working life and used to enhance your skills. Keep up to date with your specialist subject – read the latest developments in journals and online, buy a book that is within your area… preferably one that doesn’t feel like work, or find another way to enjoy your subject while keeping yourself relevant.
  2. Get onto those professional online forums. It doesn’t matter if you are a member of one or many, if you regularly “nip in” and see what’s going on, then you can keep up-to-date, talk to your peers, ask those daft questions and find out what’s going on in your professional world.  CPD doesn’t always have to be about training, keeping current and in the loop is just as important.
  3. Keep your eyes open for special offers on training. Occasionally you may come across offers that for one reason or another are heavily discounted. When you spot them, see if they are relevant, no matter how small the training time, and see if they could be useful. Don’t discount websites such as groupon.co.uk and wowcher.co.uk, you never know what you might find, but take care to check out the affiliations and qualifications of those doing the training.
  4. Ask for gift memberships or training certificates instead of chocolates and dvds for birthday gifts. Cheeky? Perhaps. Better than being a couch potato? Definitely. Lynda.com has a gift membership option, and I’m sure other training facilitators do too.
  5. Take up some free training. Training that costs you nothing apart from your time is now a viable option. FutureLearn.com and coursera.org have lots of useful courses that do not compromise on quality. The catch? There isn’t one… these courses are provided with the intention of catching those people who would like to go on and study further… if the course gives the providers a handful of paying students then they are happy… in the meantime we get short courses, at no cost, that help us learn.
  6. Volunteer. If you really need to feel like you are having time away from the office why not have a look and see what volunteering opportunities there are near you. It may be that you can use your skills for the greater good, and while doing so you may see your work, and CPD, in a different light.
If it interests you, go with it... you never know what's around the corner.

If it interests you, go with it… you never know what’s around the corner.

So, there we have six ways of developing yourself professionally from someone who has seen both sides of the coin. I’ve undertaken “proper” training, and I’ve enhanced my skills by using the volunteering and free training method. At the moment I’m just finishing a FutureLearn course on creative writing, not only has it helped me relax, it has also enhanced my fiction editing skills, by seeing writing from “the other side”. I’m about to join the Forensic Psychology course, and you never know, there may be some professional development tucked in there too.

No matter what you do, or how you decide to keep relevant, there are ways to keep current and enhance your skills, sometimes you just need to take a walk off the beaten track and find your own way there.

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