Expert Guide on Continuous Professional Development

Jun 26, 2024

7 minutes

Do you know that in a highly competitive job market, you must continuously learn to remain successful and relevant in your profession? Changing industry dynamics, heightened demand for specialised skills, and rapid technological advancements have made upskilling critical to career success. Thus, as a Kenyan professional seeking growth opportunities in companies hiring in Kenya today, you must commit to continuous professional development to maintain a competitive edge in the evolving job market.  

What is Continuous Professional Development

Continuous professional development is a process involving the advancement, documentation, and tracking of professional skills, experience, and knowledge acquired formally or informally. Formally acquired skills are those gained through training and professional courses, whereas informal ones are obtained on the job or by observing others. A record of job competencies gained formally or informally allows professionals to track what they learn and how they apply it while completing job tasks. 

Importance of Continuous Professional Development 

  • Documentation of Learning: It lets you document and review your learning, boosting your confidence in your abilities.
  • Skills Updating: It eases the updating of your professional skills and knowledge on job application documents like CVs and cover letters.
  • Professional Achievements Overview: It provides an up-to-date overview of your professional achievements that you can share with employers when exploring opportunities in companies hiring in Kenya today.
  • Career Direction: It offers career direction by enabling you to track your career goals.
  • Skill Gap Identification: It helps you uncover your skill gaps and create a plan to update your competencies.
  • Informed Career Decisions: It provides data that informs critical career decisions (e.g., whether to develop your current skill set or change your career path).
  • Preparation for Responsibilities: It prepares you for greater responsibilities by encouraging continuous professional development.
  • Creative Solutions Development: It boosts your ability to develop creative solutions to address the challenges you face when completing job tasks.
  • Professional Credibility: It strengthens your professional credibility.
  • Employability Prospects: It increases your employability prospects with companies hiring in Kenya today.

Continuous Professional Development Cycle

Continuous professional development is a highly personalised process. It looks different for every professional depending on their goals, career path, profession, and industry. However, the guidelines below can help you kickstart the career development process as you determine how to personalise every step to meet your unique development needs. 

Step 1: Identify Your Needs and Plan

Identifying your professional needs requires answering the question, “Where am I now?” This inquiry into your career development necessitates you reflect on and review your learning experiences over a given period (e.g., the past year or three months). You can use self-reflection models like John’s Structured Reflection, Gibbs’ Reflective Model, or Kolb’s Reflective Observation to facilitate your needs review. A written or typed record of what you learned, the strengths you displayed, and the weaknesses you need to work on should be part of the reflection process. Here are some examples of prompts that can help you identify your professional development needs:

  • What have I learned from my colleagues and/or networks recently?
  • Have I learned anything new about my profession or industry trends from journals, websites, or social media that could inform my career development needs?
  • Have I taken any professional courses or attended training sessions or webinars that have advanced my professional knowledge? 
  • Has my role or job changed? What are the differences, and how can they inform my professional development?
  • Do I have a professional mentor? What have I learned from them? How can I use that information to advance my career?

Once you have reviewed your current position, you must create a plan to fulfil the career development needs you have identified. This plan defines where you want to be in a specific period (two, five, or ten years). Your plan should include at least five SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) career goals that will guide your continuous professional development efforts. 

Step 2: Act and Learn

The next step is to act on your plan by answering the question, what must I do to realise my career development goals? Your plan can be actualised through formal or informal learning. 

You can pursue formal learning by enrolling in professional courses or participating in enhanced training programs. Formal learning may require you to pay for courses, training, or certificates. As such, you should prepare to cover any relevant costs in advance. If you cannot self-fund formal learning, inquire if your employer offers funding options to facilitate professional development. If available, use them to promote your career development.  Alternatively, you can leverage professional courses, which are much more affordable and sometimes free. 

On the other hand, informal learning can facilitate your continuous professional development. You learn informally while on the job by shadowing superiors, participating in mentorship programs, attending conferences, reading professional journals, conversing with colleagues, and participating in new work projects

Step 3: Reflect on Your Learning

Reflecting on your learning requires you to answer the following questions: What did I learn? What will I do differently in the future? Answering these questions helps you embed the knowledge you acquire, facilitating your career development. Remember to review what you have learned formally and informally while engaging in this step of the continuous professional development process. Record the activity that facilitated learning, outline how it helped you improve your knowledge, and then state how the new information will enhance your professionalism moving forward.

Reflecting on your learning is vital because it guides the pursuit of your career development goals defined in Step 1 above. It keeps you on track!

Step 4: Apply What You Have Learned

Companies hiring in Kenya today seek employees who can apply the knowledge they gain on the job and through training to improve their job outcomes. Such professionals are considered top candidates because their performance levels are high. High-performing employees allow organisations to maintain a competitive edge, improving their attractiveness to top candidates in dynamic job markets. 

As a result, applying the knowledge gained through the continuous professional development process is as important as acquiring it! Initially, it may not be simple, but continuous practice is necessary to ingrain the information and ease its application to facilitate career advancement.

The competence theory of learning establishes that knowledge acquisition happens in four phases:

Unconscious incompetence

In this phase, you don’t know what knowledge you lack. It is the period before you do a needs assessment (Step 1) to kickstart the continuous professional development process. 

Conscious incompetence

During this second learning stage, you know the skills you need to develop. You can also identify colleagues or other professionals in your field with the skillset you desire to acquire to improve your proficiency. Despite observing others apply their advanced competencies and learning informally, you cannot transfer the knowledge gained to day-to-day operations. 

A professional who has only completed Steps 1 and 2 of the continuous development cycle will likely be in the conscious incompetence learning stage.

Conscious competence

In this phase, you can efficiently apply the knowledge acquired to complete your job tasks. However, to achieve the high competency level you have strived for, you must concentrate, failure to which you will be prone to making mistakes. 

You achieve this learning level once you have engaged in Steps 1, 2, and 3 of the continuous professional development cycle and have just started applying your knowledge to improve your skills (Step 4). 

Unconscious competence 

When you reach the last learning phase, you can apply your knowledge almost instinctively, even without focusing on the tasks at hand. At this point, the information you have gained from formal and informal learning is ingrained following weeks, months, or years of practice.

Professionals reach the unconscious competence phase of learning in the late stages of implementing Step 4 of the continuous professional development cycle. 

Therefore, when engaging in continuous professional development, you must strive to reach the unconscious incompetence phase of learning. Apply the knowledge you have gained over and over until it becomes part of your highly productive routine. This high level of knowledge application competency is the key to your career development!

Step 5: Share Knowledge Gained

Sharing the knowledge gained while engaging in the continuous professional development cycle helps you fortify your learning. Teaching others how to upskill and improve their productivity will ensure you fully internalise the knowledge acquired, positioning you as a top candidate for companies hiring in Kenya today.


To succeed in any professional field, you must embrace continuous learning. Your career development heavily relies on constant knowledge acquisition, which enables you to keep up with dynamic industry trends. 

This guide is the “fix” you need to kickstart, manage and actualise your professional development goals. Start today and make your career goals a reality!

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