The threat of reduced budgets and job losses mean it is more important than ever to invest in your professional development, writes Amy Bullock.
“If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves” - Thomas Edison
Continued professional development is exactly that. It is the ongoing development of your skills, knowledge and experience, whether in business, academia or your area of legal specialism. It is absolutely necessary to ensure that you are abreast of new legislation, market trends, changes within the macro-environment, and most importantly, you as an individual are ahead of the game in your field.
No matter what you do, there are constant advances taking place. Many will be minor, but a number will be important changes that may lead to significant developments and periods of transformation within the legal arena.
Professional development is about moving yourself to the next stage in your learning curve, ensuring that you are up to date with these advancements and preferably even ahead of the curve. If you are not you will always be playing catch up on the trends and developments in your discipline - and most importantly, you could prevent yourself from progressing within your career, and hamper the opportunities available to you. In the current climate, with the threat of job cuts and reduced budgets, you cannot afford to not be thinking ahead and planning your professional development, identifying the channels that are available to you to help you progress.
Additionally, not only can your professional development be of use to you on a personal level, but it can also benefit the organisation that you work for. A number of organisations have budget set aside for their employees' professional development and it is important that you work with your manager to plan how they can support you to achieve your personal goals, alongside their objectives. Organisations can reap a number of benefits either in terms of cost cutting or making them more competitive, by positioning themselves at the cutting edge of change. For an organisation not to address change and acknowledge developments within the marketplace can have a significant detrimental impact, leaving them behind their competition – a position that no one wants to be in.
Professional development delivers a range of benefits. These include:
Development of new skills
Professional development will enable you to learn a great deal of new skills and knowledge, allowing you to advance your abilities and grow so that you can perform more highly skilled and demanding tasks. It allows you to build specific knowledge and competencies that are related to your current role, plus will enable you to progress within your career.
Industry trends - keeping up-to-date
Keeping up-to-date with industry trends and developments will not only help you to perform your own role but also help your employer understand their position in the marketplace and can assist strategic decision-making.
It allows you to draw upon fresh perspectives from outside your company and role, and think about new ideas and opportunities that you can introduce into your role or department. By reflecting on these things, you can bring creative solutions, learn relevant tools and implement best practices that can be brought to your organisation’s strategy and performance. New knowledge creates real-time solutions and innovative initiatives, providing a strategy for differentiation and competitive advantage within the marketplace.
Expand horizons and explore career opportunities
With more skills and the advanced knowledge that you gain, you will begin to appreciate what your career prospects are and where your path can potentially go.
Energising and renewing
Sometimes it is a good idea to take a break to refresh your mind and put your life and career into perspective. By taking time out to personally develop, you will be taking a step away from your role to do something different – which will provide you with an energy and sense of fulfilment that will reflect positively on your career and personal life in the long term.
Networking and Continuing Professional Development
Training courses, seminars, industry and discipline specific conferences and CPD sessions - a list of channels that is by no means exhaustive, are all avenues that allow you to meet and be introduced to industry experts, leaders and like-minded individuals.
It is worth the investment of your time and money, to know exactly what is going on now and likely future developments. Learning and absorbing information from experts is always advantageous, and will place you in a stronger position.
And it for this reason that networking is so important. Word-of-mouth is the fastest disseminator of information, and networking events are where you are most likely to hear the very latest news and developments within your area of specialism - information that may take a while to circulate via professional literature or educational channels. Additionally it is a platform to address issues, through obtaining input from your professional peers who may be experiencing the same problems, and coming up with solutions that may not have occurred to you.
Building relationships like this can be extremely useful for finding out about career opportunities, work related guidance, market advancements, business opportunities and insider information.
There are a number of ways in which you can access the different channels for professional development including:
- Across the country there are a number of specialist legal training providers that hold a diverse range of events throughout the year at various locations. There is a cost involved, however, more often than not an employer may offer financial support as there will be immediate benefits that can be brought to the organisation
- Often when local authorities make arrangements to outsource work to particular private practices or barristers’ chambers they build in a CPD arrangement into the contract, offering free CPD courses as a value add to employees
- A number of specialist legal recruitment agencies, including Sellick Partnership, offer free CPD to their candidates and clients as part of their value added service, providing both a platform for career development and networking.
Amy Bullock is manager of the Legal Division at Sellick Partnership Yorkshire.