What is CPD and why does it matter?

You’ve been to school – perhaps college or university as well – and studied for some sort of qualifications. You probably still have the certificates somewhere. These qualifications may have helped get you your first job, but they’re not always used at work on a daily basis (I read ‘Paradise Lost’ in a couple of days as part of my English literature degree; it was forgotten soon afterwards).

CPD – or continuing professional development – takes a different approach. It’s all about improving your professional skills and making sure you develop and update them all the time. It’s a conscious, proactive kind of development, unlike traditional learning.

This fits in very well with the mindset of content designers and other UX professionals. In digital, there’s always something to learn – from your peers, from your users or from people in related disciplines, like developers.

CPD is relevant whether you’re employed or a contractor. Paying attention to your own skills and knowledge can give you the edge in a traditional or freelance career.

How to get started

CPD encourages you to take control of your own development. Our industry never stands still, and if you want to keep your skills up to date, CPD is vital. You’ll track and reflect upon what you’re learning – and which areas you’d like to develop. This works best if you document what you’re doing, so you can review your progress as you go.

To start, think about:

  • where you are in your career at the moment – keep a log of what you’ve learned so far
  • where you want to be – your career goals (think about the longer term, eg in 10 years’ time, and the short/medium term)
  • what you need to do to get there – write down objectives, like learning a new skill or broadening existing ones

These notes will become your CPD plan. It’s not a tick-box exercise and can be any format that suits you – but it’s important to remember to keep reviewing and updating it.

What counts as CPD

The learning and development that you’ll log in your CPD plan can take many forms, and it isn’t just about attending courses.

CPD can be informal. It includes things like:

  • reading relevant blogs and books
  • learning from your peers and colleagues (for example, at meet-ups)
  • shadowing people in related disciplines (for example, a content designer spending a day with a user researcher)
  • job swaps and deputising for other people
  • noting what you’ve learned from mistakes

CPD can also be more structured – in the form of taught courses, workshops or events. For example, all of Scroll’s training courses are CPD accredited – this means they’ve been independently assessed to meet certain standards and benchmarks.

If you’re interested in content design but haven’t yet had hands-on experience, come along to our next content design training course: the Scroll Content Design Bootcamp. You’ll learn about developing a content strategy based on user needs, writing for the web, designing with data and agile content production.

We also run Content Strategy Intensive, training for people who want to move into content strategy roles or round out their skill sets.

Why CPD is worth doing: what’s in it for you

Being proactive about your development and creating your own CPD plan is worth the effort. It’ll help you manage and direct your career. The process of recording your learning can help you:

  • gain confidence about the skills you already have
  • focus on your goals and how to achieve them
  • gather examples you can use in competency-based job applications and interviews
  • think about any gaps in your skills and knowledge and how to address them
  • build a portfolio of skills and experience that you can show to potential clients

You’re probably doing a lot of activities that count as CPD already, so getting together a plan shouldn’t take too much effort. And in practising CPD you’ll be following one of the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto – regularly reflecting on how to become more effective.

More reading

Read more about accredited CPD training and how to kickstart your own CPD on the CPD website.