With a New Year and many people returning to their work roles over the coming weeks, it’s timely to think about our personal learning priorities and challenges for 2018. Lots of us make New Year resolutions to address aspects of our personal lives we feel could benefit from changes or improvements; however how many of us don’t stop to think about what it is we’d like to learn during the year.
When thinking about setting our own personal learning priorities, we often reflect on the areas we perceive as gaps in our knowledge and skills, and identifying ways to address these. Here I’d like to reflect on two strategies I have used to identify my personal learning priorities for 2018. Having done this reflection at the end of 2017, I’ve commenced the year with a clearer vision of what it is I intend to learn, how I can go about learning it and how I can use my own personal networks to foster my learning. I’m also clearer on how my learning priorities relate to my professional practice and its immediate application.
Sometimes our areas for improvement or development are drawn to our attention through performance reviews or conversations, but we can do this independently. It’s quite simple to do independently; we just need to take some time to ask ourselves questions about the way things are. Starting the process with questions focusing on what is, can then be followed by questions about the way things should be. An honest answer to these types of questions reveals our learning or professional practice gaps. With that first step, we can now start thinking about strategies to address these gaps.
Think about the year 2017 and ask yourself how things were and how they should be. What did you identify? Are there gaps that immediately stand out? How might you address these gaps?
These quick questions can expose lots of information about things you can improve. These areas for improvement can easily be converted into achievable action. Here’s an example I worked through with someone.
- How things were: A project t didn’t have an agreed plan that people stuck to, timelines weren’t achieved and the team fell constantly behind.
- How things should be: A project where there is an agreed plan, people pull their weight and complete their tasks to achieve timelines, team is clear on tasks and project plan, project completes on time and under budget.
- Gap: Introductory courses on project management have been undertaken before, need a more advanced learning opportunity to improve project management knowledge and skills. A course relating more to role of project manager, rather than project management skills.
Using a Career Roadmap to Identify Priorities
Have you thought about your learning and development career and where you see yourself in twelve months, even five years’ time? Putting some thought and energy into developing a career roadmap can be a great way to target your personal learning and draw out those areas where you will benefit from learning new skills and knowledge. A lot of us will already have some form of career roadmap, but how often do we revisit it and think about the changing nature of roles, organisations and industry? Do we stop and think about how we’ve changed along the way and the skills and knowledge we have acquired over time? Are we keeping abreast of the skills we need or those that are just starting to exist? Are we on top of the emerging trends in learning?
There’s a wealth of information focused on competency evaluation where you might assess your skills in a current role and compare them to the requirements of a more advanced role. This works well where you’re looking at progressing up the organisational chart; however it’s often challenging to identify the gaps if you’re seeking a change of direction or needing more clarity about the type of role you’re seeking. If we consider the notion of competency evaluation and comparing current skills against those necessary for more advanced roles, you may be finding the gaps can be filled by more challenging work tasks, increased responsibilities, mentoring or opportunities to act in other roles. You may uncover that your learning gap isn’t that great and is easily achievable in 2018.
To begin developing a targeted career roadmap, I find it’s useful to first think about the strengths and weaknesses you have, what you’re interested in and the types of organisations you’d like to work with (those that will align with your values and ethos). From here, it’s then easier to compare what knowledge and skills you have, and those you need. What are you looking for in a role? What challenges are you seeking? What types of things do you see yourself doing? What skills and knowledge do these roles require? Simply asking these questions can help uncover areas where you need further development or experience. You can then start to look at your learning priorities to develop yourself in these areas.
Focusing on your Priorities
Once you’ve identified your learning priorities and you can start to focus on how you can achieve them. Keep in mind not all our learning priorities have to be through participation in formal activities. We learn in many different ways and attending a course isn’t always the answer. We constantly learn, often unconsciously. Think about what will work best for you to attain the skills and knowledge you’ve identified. Is it by enrolling in a course? Reading articles or books? Talking with people? Being coached and mentored? Learning from other people’s experiences? Attending casual learning events or groups? You may even chose to start a community and learn from others – why not try this in your own workplace. Remember your personal networks too – they often have the knowledge we need.
What will you set as your learning priorities for 2018? How will you work towards achieving them? How will you know you’ve learned new skills and knowledge in 2018?
And in closing……don’t just focus on your professional learning. What are your learning priorities in your personal life? What will you learn that helps you find a flow activity? Read all about flow activities here. How will you stay committed throughout the year? Don’t forget, you may be a source of inspiration and learning for someone else. How will you support others achieve their learning priorities?