This post was originally published in ACM Queue
I love fresh starts. Growing up one of my favorite things was starting a new school year. From the fresh school supplies (I am still a sucker for pen and paper) to the promise of a new class of students, teachers and lessons, I couldn’t wait for summer to be over and to go back to school.
The same thing happens with new jobs (and to some extent new teams and new projects). They reinvigorate you, they excite you and they get you going.
The trouble is that starting anew isn’t something you get to do all the time. For some people it might happen once a year, once every 2 years or once every 4 years. And learning something new isn’t always in the best interest of your employer. Of course great managers want you to be constantly learning and advancing your career, but if you are doing your job well, they also probably like the idea of keeping you in that role where they can rely on you to get your work done. Putting you into a position where you will have to work hard to learn the new skills isn’t always something that is in the best interest of your company – and so it probably doesn’t happen often.
Wouldn’t it be great if you frequently were in a position where you were pushed to grow outside of your comfort zone? Where you had to start new and fresh?
Well the good news is that you can. In fact you can make your current position one that focuses on your growth and extends the boundaries of your knowledge – and that is all up to you.
In technology and computer science, almost more than any other field, a growth mindset is mandatory for success. In our field the tools and best practices are constantly evolving – there is always something new to learn. For many people this high rate of change can be overwhelming, but for the right person this can mean opportunity. When you are willing to dive in and learn new skills it puts you ahead of the game, and when you are strategic about what skills you learn it can help you grow your career even faster.
No matter where you are in your career there is more for you to learn. And all of us can always use an excuse to get more invigorated and excited by our jobs. Here are 3 things you can do to develop your current role and make tomorrow (or even the rest of today) a fresh start.
- Create a learning plan. When you have been doing a job for a while there isn’t as much for your to learn in your day to day. Sure there are always opportunities to improve little things, but your rate of knowledge acquisition slows down the longer you have been in a position. This makes it even more important to have a learning plan. You should have a list of things you plan to learn with some concrete tasks associated with each. If you need some inspiration on what should be on this list here are some questions to ponder:
- In order to be promoted to the next level in your job what are some things you need to accomplish? Are there any skills you need to acquire or improve?
- If you think 10 years into the future, what do you want to do? Do you know anyone doing that now? What do they know that you don’t?
- Look back over your past performance reviews. Are there any areas where you could continue to develop and improve? If you ask others for feedback about you what would they say and how can you do better?
- Build better relationships. For the majority of us, we spend more time with our coworkers than our families. When you have great relationships with the people you work with everyday, you tend to be happier – and you also tend to be more productive and collaborative. Also when people like you and want to help you, then you are more likely to get promoted and discover opportunities. If you want to improve your working relationships here are some ideas:
- Improve your communication skills. When you get better at writing emails, or verbally presenting you help share information and this creates better decision making across your whole team.
- Take someone to lunch. If you have someone you don’t know very well, or haven’t had the best working relationship with, make the first move and ask them to lunch or coffee. This is a great way to get to know them and understand their point of view. Working relationships are usually strained because the two sides are making incorrect assumptions and the first step is opening the lines of communication. Be open, practice your listening skills, and offer to foot the bill – for the cost of a lunch you would be amazed at how much that gesture can improve your work life.
- Make better use of your down time. One of my favorite time management tricks is to learn how to make use of the spare minutes to maximize your learning. When you can make the most of the small moments and learn things that help advance your career then you will be one step ahead. This can be as simple as nixing social media checks and replacing them with 10-15 minutes of reading articles or websites that help increase your knowledge. However here are some other ideas to get more in those little moments:
- Be on time. When you can start on time and end on time you make the most of meetings (plus it is also a sign of respect when you show up when you say you will) and it will give you more freedom to do the things you want to do.
- Keep a reading queue. Whether you use bookmarks, notes, or some other tool keep of list of things you want to read. These can be articles, whitepapers or books – but when you have a list it is much easier to just go there to fill 15 minutes with useful learning than to spend those 15 minutes surfing the web looking for something interesting.
- Listen to audiobooks or smart podcasts. Whether it is on your commute or when you are working out, if you can’t sit and read try listening to your lessons. There are so many great options here and it is a great way to maximize time and knowledge.
Of course there are a lot of other great ways to make your old career new again, but hopefully these little ideas give you some inspiration so that when you come to work tomorrow you can be excited.
And if you have any other thoughts or suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments on the website.
Oh and if there is a topic you would like to see covered in this column let me know. 🙂
Until next time,