Making a move: learning from career development

In the final article in a four-part series, CSP professional adviser Nina Paterson looks at learning through career moves.


Making a move: learning from career development

Welcome to the fourth in our ‘learning from …’ series. In the three articles so far we reviewed learning from events, from experience, and from helping others to learn.

In the second article, Gwyn Owen picked up on the theory relating to learning through experience. In this final article in the series we’re going to consider a particular type of experience: career moves. 

We are going to take a look at five steps to support your career development – the process, and we’ll finish by thinking about getting the most out of looking back and reflecting on such developments – the outcome.

The process - five steps


As Gwyn noted, development is hard work. It requires active involvement and a readiness to learn. It sounds obvious but without these ingredients the rest is redundant. 

Chances are that wherever you are working there are external changes in abundance. How we respond to change is important. I was struck by a colleague that I met last year during a session for returners-to-practice at Physiotherapy UK. She talked about her career, her aspirations and where she ended up. In her case it was a combination of life events and regulatory restrictions after a move overseas that meant roles she expected to be open to her were firmly out of reach. 

While her choices were limited or determined by factors outside her control, her drive and persistence to find ways to work and develop were clear. 

Looking for opportunities

Which brings us to our second point – while doors were shutting, the member I met at Physiotherapy UK looked for opportunities and was creative in her career. She kept an eye on adverts, phoned for information even if she knew she wasn’t a complete match and considered what might be missing.

She found ways to develop those skills. She followed up with ex-colleagues, sought out new contacts, and, in one particular post, found ways to develop the role so successfully for the benefit of the patient, that the service was able to justify a change to its service and a permanent position opened up.

Going beyond ’returning-to-practice’, the underpinning principle is the same when thinking about a career move. Whether that’s upwards or a lateral move or even reshaping our current role, it is about looking for opportunities.

Job adverts aren’t the only way to discover opportunities, of course. Short-term projects, secondments or even responding to an unfulfilled need within your service or organisation can generate exciting and unexpected opportunities. 

Knowing yourself

It’s important to be clear about your strengths and weaknesses. If you haven’t taken some time out recently to take stock, set some time aside this week. There are a number of tools and activities to support you within CSP ePortfolio and previous CPD articles and activities should provide some useful structure.

Make sure you address your weaknesses. While courses are a great way to learn, don’t forget that taking on a short-term role/project can help you strengthen an area before you take an even bigger leap. The CSP Framework might be a useful tool to support you with this.

It’s also important to be clear about what other factors are important to you – such as the ethos or culture of a practice or organisation, the type of role you’re interested in, salary and security. In defining these you’ll know what your priorities are.

It is tempting to think that career moves are always upwards. But in the last couple of years at the CSP I have had a very personal chance to rethink – I’ve taken two secondments back-to-back. I was happy with my job and had enough challenges to keep me fresh, but I’m curious by nature and when the posts were advertised I saw the potential in one to reconnect with skills and abilities that I had developed prior to joining the CSP – to refresh and practise them again in a new environment. 

Choosing the opportunities

Wherever you decide to look, focus on opportunities that fit with your strengths interests and correspond best with the other factors that you’ve identified as important. Take some time to think through these factors collectively and the put aside any opportunities that don’t fit.


As with every Frontline continuing professional development article, the above is a call to action. Apply for a post and see what happens.


The activities are threaded through the article this week but in summary 

  • look at what’s out there
  • take some time to review your strengths and weaknesses
  • find ways to strengthen your weaknesses 
  • decide what’s important to you and be clear about what you are looking for
  • go for it

The outcome – a time to reflect

In the beginning of article two in the series, referred to earlier, Gwyn discussed how learning is both a process and an outcome – the end result of that change. In this case, a new job.

As with all experiences, learning is incomplete if we fail to reflect. Unless you’re retiring shortly you’ll repeat this cycle many times, so it’s worth spending time reviewing what change the experience  triggered in you, your skills, knowledge, confidence. Think about whether your expectations for your next role, or even your entire career, has shifted and where you want to go next. 

My secondments came to an end. I had always intended to return to my former role but I had a goal in mind  – to bring elements of both secondment roles back into my original one. Both posts gave me the chance to learn, consolidate, stretch and test myself. 

With my line manager’s agreement, I redefined the scope of my substantive post, taking the lead on a piece of work that takes our team in a new direction – a benefit to me and the organisation. I’ve had the chance to engage with challenging situations outside my comfort zone. In the midst of these have I wondered what possessed me. Yes. But would I do it all again? Of course!

Nina Paterson CSP professional adviser

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