Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Make a Professional Development Plan for 2016

We're nearing the end of the year. For many of us, that means work slows a bit with the Christmas and New Year's holidays. This is often a time when we find ourselves with more free time at work, fewer meetings, and perhaps last minute vacations to use up that PTO.

However with a few weeks left in the year, I'd like you to do some planning for 2016.  I'd like you to think about how to move your career forward in the next year. Choose something that you think will make you more attractive to employers, or help you find the job you want in the future. Not necessarily in 2016, but perhaps sometime after that.

It's easy, and I'll give you a quick three step process.
  1. Make a list
  2. Order the list
  3. Plan investments

Make a List

Take 15 minutes sometime this week and write down some things you'd like to accomplish in 2016. These could be improvements in your current skills; they could be new things you want to learn. Thing that interest you, things valuable to your employer, or maybe just things that you know nothing about and want to educate yourself.

Don't worry about scale, size, effort, or anything else. Just make a list.

Order the List

I'm a big fan of thinking about things over time. I like to consider a decision, and let it roam around my conscious and subconscious for at least a day. Therefore, once your list is made, put it aside and let it sit for a week.

Next week, the week of Christmas, I'm sure you'll have some free time. Take another 15 minutes and start to prioritize your list. Put things that are more important to you at the top. Importance can be related to your current job/career, or a chance. It doesn't matter, but just get the list ordered.

When you do this, consider queue theory. If you put the short/quick things first, you might not get to the long/hard/time consuming things. However, if you reverse the order, you might not even get one thing done. Consider the effort and time/money investments, and order things accordingly.

Set things aside now.

Plan Investments

We won't ever move forward without an investment. If you get this far, even if you're just reading this post, you're making an investment in your career.

Now plan your 2016 investment.

This is a time investment and a money investment. You'll have to make both, and if you think about it, you often do make investments in other ways. People buy running shoes, or new golf clubs, or music, or any type of hobby investment. Do the same for your career. Make part of your hobby time and money in 2016 related to your career.

Here's where your list matters. Take the first thing. What can you realistically learn in 2016. How much time can you invest? Is it an hour a week? Two? Think of this in terms of hobbies. Give yourself an amount of time to devote. Maybe this is a quarter, maybe more, but keep this under six months. At least, think about starting something else (concurrently or not) after six months.

You may decide to reorder your list here, or drop things. That's OK. The point is to try and be realistic and give yourself a goal you can accomplish. Think small. I think 2 hours a week is doable. Carve out this hobby time. Four hours a week can be hard, unless you've giving something else up. If you treat this like going back to school, I'm sure you could get 10 hours a week, but you will be sacrificing other parts of your life and be sure your family is in agreement with this.

Note, you could treat this as school, but for 2-3 months, not a semester.

Here's where you can think about using resources like Pluralsight, EdX, or something else. However don't be afraid of making an investment. In the US, many of us make a good living, but we could easily spend hundreds of dollars on a hobby. Why not invest some of that in your career? I've had a hobby of woodworking for a few years and I can easily spent $2k in a year. With that in mind, investing $1k in hardware, or books, or something else doesn't sound bad.

However there are plenty of resources out there. I've spent part of December working through a PowerBI course on EdX for free.  I'm sure you could find something similar.

Start in 2016

The last part of this is to actually start working on your plan. Whether this is reading in your spare time, watching videos, or something else. Start on Jan 1 if you can, but certainly by Jan 10. Take it slow, however, and don't get too excited. Plenty of people burn themselves out by going too quick. It would be better to always be a little hungry and excited.

Work your plan, and see how you do in 2016. Who knows? Maybe you'll find yourself moving towards the dream job you have always wanted.

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