A list of New Year’s resolutions for those who work in IT, and are seeking to improve upon or build their careers might include the following:
- Identify at least two new tools or technologies relevant to your job, and start to learn more about them. If you can obtain trial versions or choose Open Source or other free stuff, so much the better–learning works best hands-on.
- Find at least one online or local forum or user’s group where you can interact with other IT professionals who share a common platform, tool, or other interest. Please consider this a “hard (technical) skills” element, so that joining ToastMasters to practice public speaking skills doesn’t count (see the soft skills item that follows). Examples include the Windows User Groups Network, the Cisco Press User Groups Program, Adobe User Groups, and so forth (your favorite search engine will help you find those that match your platform and tools interests, pronto).
- Inventory your soft skills: people skills, project management skills, writing and speaking skills, and so forth. Identify one or two areas where you’d like to improve, and plan to spend some time, reading, studying, and practicing to make some headway in meeting those improvement goals. This is where joining ToastMasters comes into play.
- Think about your certification interests and status. Is it time to refresh an existing credential? Time to go after something new? Here again, take an inventory, check renewal or continuing education requirements, and plan to bring yourself up-to-date before the year gets too far along. Haul out a calendar (or use an electronic calendar) to schedule related tasks and milestones for yourself. Often, maintaining certification status requires meeting continuing education requirements at a minimum, so you’ll want to dig into those requirements, to figure out what you must do, and then how best to get things done.
- Repeat the preceding item for your continuing academic education. Perhaps you might benefit from finishing an as-yet unfinished degree program, or you may be ready to pursue a graduate degree program of some kind. Examine your possibilities and decide if you want to add some time in academia to your activities for this year. If so, use the same calendar and milestone approach to help keep yourself on track that I recommended in the previous bullet item.
The important thing here is to set some goals for yourself, and then to put those goals–or better yet, incremental steps toward those goals–on a timetable. Then, you can monitor your progress over time and stay on track to meet those goals. I find that regular reminders in my Outlook calendar work to help me stay on top of such things–heck, I even use them to remind me when it’s time to get my hair cut or beard trimmed–without letting too much time slip away. Hopefully, the same (or a similar) approach will work for you. If you not only resolve to improve yourself in 2009, but also take definite and positive steps to realize your goals, it can’t help but be a better year, no matter what happens.