Quick Start Guide for Professional Development

A quick, step-by-step approach to help you get started on your CPD. 

There is a lot of information on the web about doing CPD and you’ll find much more detail in the rest of the IET’s site. However, for now, we know you just want a couple of key points to get you started. Here they are:


To maximise your potential for lifetime employability, through continually improving your knowledge and skills. Take control to:

  • be ready to get the best from your opportunities;
  • keep ahead of the trends and know what’s new in engineering and technology;
  • be the best you can be at work;
  • help, influence and lead others by your example;
  • be confident of your future career;
  • achieve your potential and enjoy your working life.


Take a structured approach to CPD – a few steps now will soon lead to you getting hooked on the good practice of regularly reviewing your needs and selecting appropriate learning activities to help you meet them. The PD cycle shows the process of effectively planning, doing, recording and reviewing your development.

The following sections will show you how to tackle each of the stages.


4 point dev cycle


Step 1 - Think about where you want to be and the things you want to achieve next year (short term), in two-five years (medium term), and in ten years (long term).

Step 2 - Starting with your short term list, think about what will need to happen to reach your goals, such as learn a new skill, gain some different experience, take on more responsibility, etc. You will end up with a list of things to do.

Step 3 - Prioritise. Look at your list and consider which things need to be done before you can start on others, which items are more important or limited by opportunities. Put your list in order of importance - and it might help you establish some time-frames.

Step 4 - Set objectives. Look at the first 3-4 items on your list (you will work on these first), set realistic and achievable targets with a measure of success (how you will know it’s been achieved?) and a target date. Think now about what you will have to do, what resources you will need (books, courses, etc) and who can help you.

Step 5 - Write it down. Committing your plan to paper will make you more committed to making it happen. Finish by setting a review date (say in 6 – 12 months) and put it in your diary.

Tip: Rather than starting from scratch, why not use the notes from your last appraisal, any preparation you may have done for your last job interview, your CV, or current job description as the basis for this stage?


Step 6 - Make time for your learning. Once you know how you are going to tackle each goal, make time in your diary to do it.

Step 7 – If you need materials, finance or other resources, research where you can obtain them and make bookings, orders or applications to fit in with your time scales.

Step 8 – Get your manager/colleagues/mentor on board. Whoever is helping you – ring them now and make an appointment to go and explain what it is you need from them. Don’t be afraid to ask, it is always nice to be approached for help, but do be concise about what you want and let people know how you get on.

If you can, try to learn in ways that suit you. Some people like to understand the theory before attempting something - so they would read a book before trying it out. Others like to experiment and learn in a more hands-on way. These people might learn better from watching someone else and then trying it themselves. If you adopt an approach that suits the way you learn, then you are more likely to enjoy the experience and pick things up quickly.


Step 9 - Keep a log-book of your learning. After each activity, reflect on what you’ve gained – the knowledge you have absorbed, the skills you have developed and how it has influenced your attitude and approach.

Step 10 – On a regular basis – say monthly or quarterly – review your learning to aid consolidation and implementation. Think about how your new knowledge will affect your performance. How can you use it to make you better at your job? What behaviours will you change in light of what you now know? Talking to your manager or mentor can help you with this.

If you are using competences -

Step 10a - Decide which competence each piece of your learning is linked to. As your learning leads to increased and improved performance (competence) you can record your new level and chart your progress.

Step 10b - Collect evidence to prove your levels of competence. Make sure it is cross-referenced and indexed so you can easily find each piece. Update your portfolio with new evidence as your competence increases further, and you will always have an excellent record of your abilities.

Note: Whatever system you adopt for your recording it is important that you keep it updated regularly. Don’t put it off with the belief that you will remember it later - you won't!


Your diary tells you it’s time to review (or it will do if you followed Step 5). Take out your action plan and your learning log and set aside an hour.

Step 11 – Review each item on your plan. If it’s achieved it then tick it off or move it to a separate History section. If not, then consider why - the answer you come up with will help you to decide whether to remove the item (because it’s not relevant now), forward it onto your plan for the next period, or change the goal (because it was not appropriate or realistic).

Looking back over your learning log will help you to see what went well, what impacted on your achievements, and how you might plan better for the future. You’ll also see how far you’ve come in meeting your goals. You’ll probably be amazed at how much you’ve done!

Step 12 - Get planning again! Bring items down from your medium term plan to become part of your short term plan for the next period.

That’s it!  Twelve simple steps to doing CPD.  Once you’ve completed one ‘cycle’ it’ll be easier to start the next – after all you’ve already got most of the planning done. Make sure you review both your short and medium term goals regularly - and your long term goals every 5 years or so. Over time, CPD will become just another good habit, but you’ll never stop benefiting from the control it gives you in making your career happen the way you want it to.

Remember, this is a quick start guide. There’s a lot more to CPD, so if you are interested in finding out more try the links on this page to get into the detail.