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Maintaining your Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

For many of us, this is a period of uncertainty as we move towards what is becoming known as the new normal. We are doing everything we can to support our members through this period and with their CPD. Dr Mark Telling, IOP’s vice-president of membership, shares his experiences and outlines the wealth of online learning resources available to our membership community. 


Dr Mark Telling

As each of us navigates recent, and extraordinary, personal challenges and changes to our working lives, situations and environments I wanted to set out why undertaking, or reviewing, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) with the IOP can not only positively impact career progression and future employability, but also instill much needed personal perspective and sense of worth.

For me, having been working from home for over three months now, I, like I am sure many others, have questioned my own societal standing, achievements and development as a career physicist. Upon reflection, however, I do recognise that regular CPD activity over the years has allowed me to grow as a researcher, author, mentor and advocate for physics and the STEM community. The skill sets I continue to work on, I believe, afford me the capability and confidence to face new situations with a positive and professional mindset.

Our careers are all unique, personal journeys. Your experience will vary considerably from mine. However, for me, three professional development activities stand out; each having contributed greatly to my understanding of, and valued opportunities in, physics.

From a research perspective, regular literature review is key if one is to contextualise results. However, of equal importance has been a desire to develop a broader understanding of physics beyond my own research interests. It was during my PhD, therefore, that I joined the IOP and started receiving Physics World. Access to this resource continues to expose me to a wealth of research ideas which, in turn, gives me the confidence to talk about, and successfully navigate, interconnecting research areas.

In terms of developing as a public speaker, attending and presenting results at conferences early on in my career proved invaluable. Through both practice and the observation of others, I intuitively honed my own presentation style, as well as enhanced my visibility within the community. Unfortunately, I have never felt myself to be a natural orator. Nonetheless, exposure to the demands of public speaking early on allowed me to address the anxieties associated with such activity and, thus, manage them effectively today.

Finally, and while perhaps not immediately apparent, volunteering has provided some of my most rewarding CPD opportunities; in particular, my enduring involvement with the IOP. From chairing committees to co-organising outreach events, such openings have shaped interpersonal interactions and expanded professional networks. However, no initiative exemplifies the interplay of CPD and volunteering as much as co-founding, and subsequently overseeing, 3 Minute Wonder (3MW), the IOP’s UK and Ireland-wide science communication competition. Now a permanent fixture in the IOP’s events calendar, involvement with such a wide-reaching initiative taught many personal and professional life lessons; in particular, the importance of quiet reflection and selfless revision if one wants to improve both oneself, and the standing of others.

Clearly, evaluation of CPD competences and knowledge is sought through peer reviewed accreditation, ie in our case the attainment of ‘chartered physicist’. Of course, a valid barrier to chartership is the common query: “What will accreditation really do for me?” While any answer clearly needs context, the IOP’s membership committee is working hard to ensure completion of CPhys enjoys cross-sector recognition and reward. For me, however, a response always stems from my belief that CPD is, ultimately, a personal metric; that professional registration demonstrates one has reached, and wishes to maintain, the highest standards in a chosen field and has a desire to continue to inspire others.

Today, as a Trustee, as well as a Fellow, I am in the fortunate position to champion our membership needs and the wider STEM community by contributing to the future direction of the IOP. Nonetheless, even now, at this highest level of governance, I find I must still develop my own competencies (negotiation and active listening to name but two) if I am to remain effective in this role. I better update my CPD record!

If you would like to further improve your professional skill sets, or simply know more about undertaking CPD with the IOP, then the IOP offers a range of learning resources on its online Career Development Hub. Not only is the Hub a gateway to a plethora of learning resources, but the recording tool, My CPD, helps capture learning and CPD accomplishments for immediate recall when/if applying for one of the several professional registrations the IOP has to offer.

As we emerge from the pandemic, I trust you and yours are safe and well. Going forward I wish you success in your career and future professional development and remember that the IOP’s membership team is, of course, always available to advise and support your membership needs.