As we enter the new year many of us will take time to reflect on the past year and your personal development. January is a good opportunity to wipe the slate clean, to celebrate previous successes, to learn from failures and to set new goals for the next twelve months – both personal and professional.
It’s easy to neglect our own personal development, especially if you are enjoying your current role and exceeding in it. Continuous improvement should be a constant focus though and we should be striving to learn and do more. Those at the top of their game will push themselves outside of their comfort zone and look to gain knowledge daily.
To get started, here are 5 top-tips for setting a personal development plan and achieving your goals for the year ahead:
1. Start Now!
Not tomorrow. Not next week. Now! It’s never too early to look at what you’d like to learn and how you’d like to go about it. Take some post-it’s or a whiteboard and just scribble the things you’d like to improve your knowledge or application of for the next 12 months.
Don’t worry, you haven’t got to get this list laminated! The important thing is to visualise what you want to achieve so that you can modify it moving forward. It’s amazing just how much of an impact writing these goals down will have on your desires to get started.
“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”Mark Twain
2. Embrace Change
Change is something we all struggle with but don’t always admit to. Change brings uncertainty and that’s one thing that humans don’t like – just try moving your kitchen bin!
When we’re learning something new, it can often be to replace an old way of doing things which we might be particularly comfortable with, but that shouldn’t stop you from keeping your knowledge relevant. The world moves incredibly quickly, as does the IT industry, and if we don’t continue to enhance our knowledge – even if we’re at the top of our field – we will quickly be left behind.
If we truly want to progress in our professional lives, we must not only be comfortable with change but we must always be looking for new things to learn and new ways in which to learn it.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”George Bernard Shaw
3. Learn from others
It is very important to pick carefully who you gain your knowledge from. A careful balance of formal training and learning from others is normally the most effective.
Finding a trusted training partner in the field you’re interested in is a great idea for formal training. Look out for a company who can offer accredited training courses and definitely one who have practitioners delivering the training. This will ensure you’re learning from people with real-world knowledge who can help answer questions you may have.
Knowledge sharing and learning from experts in your field is another effective way to expand your skillset. Experienced practitioners who know a subject area inside out are an invaluable learning resource as they can give you an insight into their successes and failures which may resonate well with what you are currently doing or trying to achieve.
Learning from peers (and indeed, teaching others yourself) is one of the easiest ways to pick up new information and potentially experiment with new ideas. Even if someone is relatively inexperienced with a new technology or process, they might implement it in a unique way which could be beneficial to know about.
“Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended with diligence.”Abigail Adams
4. Think about how you learn best
Everyone is different. Some people learn most effectively by spreading their learning out over a long period and diving into multiple books on a particular subject. Others might prefer the increased focus and intensity of a classroom-based training course over a day or so.
Again, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. I’d recommend a balance between some ongoing passive learning and also some more structured learning where specific objectives need to be met. There are thousands of good blogs and videos available online to learn from. Articles and posts on social platforms like LinkedIn can also help with your passive learning as you’ll see things posted by people with similar interests and skills as you.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a training budget, mix that in with a few certified training courses or workshops and see what you prefer. I often find that mapping out which training courses I’d like to attend over the year up-front allows me to make sure my learning is spread evenly rather than all in one go and then forgotten about until my budget refresh!
The important thing is to find a mixture of learning methods that work for you. If group activities sound scary to you, give them a try! You might find you develop some additional skills like collaboration or group speaking which are on top of whatever else you went there to learn about.
“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.”Winston Churchill
5. Track your progress
Having goals is great to keep you focused but unless you track your progress towards them and the impact they are having on your learning, they can become irrelevant quickly. As with most new years’ resolutions, if you’re not actively tracking your development, after a few months you’ve forgotten all about them.
Set yourself a monthly goal and at the end of each month, have a retrospective on how the month went and how you can learn and develop more efficiently moving forward. If your goal was to “understand continuous integration”, for example, but the books and blogs you read didn’t fulfil that goal, you might want to consider booking onto a classroom-based training course for the following month.
Don’t just learn inside your comfort zone. Don’t just settle with what you’ve done. Keep pushing yourself and you’ll start to see your progress more clearly.
“Comfort is the enemy of progress.”PT Barnum
With these tips in your mind, I encourage you all to go away and think about what you’d like to achieve professionally in 2020 and what learning can help you achieve those goals.
DevOpsGroup Academy offers both self-paced online E-Learning and classroom-based training options for our certified Agile and DevOps training courses which could be ideal for giving you a kick-start in your career development journey.