Programming is a continuously changing and evolving industry. Every day different languages become more popular and tools change. In order to grow within the industry, avoid becoming obsolete and remain competitive in your field, you have no choice but to stay up-to-date on trends, while always looking for ways to improve and expand your skillset. The problem is, after a long day at the office the very last thing you want to do is sit down to read up on how to improve. The good news is that while improvement should be constant, not all of the studying that you do has to be on your own time. A great way to start is to establish habits that promote continuous learning and allow you to grow and advance as a developer.
Here are 5 helpful strategies for fostering a continuous learning mindset and remaining at the top of your game:
- Regularly evaluate your abilities.
Make a habit of routinely assessing your abilities to determine where you need to expand your knowledge and improve your skills. Be sure to take part in Hackathons that are being held by large organizations and user groups. Codility, a resource used by some employers to evaluate coding skills also has programmer challenges that you can you take to gauge your skill level. Once you have a good idea for where your skills are, you can then identify what areas you need to improve on in order to improve. This assessment will help you draft a plan for where to start when it comes time to learn new skillsets.
As you make this evaluation, you also want to always be looking toward the future. What trends or advances in the industry will require you to develop or enhance your skills? Keep these in mind as you create a plan of action.
- Stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices.
The best way to practice continuous learning is to get in the habit of regularly reading current articles on news and trends in the industry. Make reading these types of publications part of your daily or weekly routine so that staying up-to-date becomes second nature.
The more convenient the process, the more likely you will be to develop a habit of regularly reading industry news. Try setting up Google Alerts to notify you every time Google finds new results on an industry topic that interests you. You can also use sites like Feedly to collect all of the articles from your favorite publications into one convenient place.
- Connect with others in the field.
Connecting with influencers and relevant organizations is a great way to stay up-to-date with industry news and trends. Social media is one way you can find and connect with other developers. By searching relevant hashtags on Twitter, you can share information and start a conversation with those that you follow.
LinkedIn is a also a great outlet for keeping in touch with other developers. You can connect with your colleagues, industry leaders, and follow organizations, as well as join trade groups where other developers exchange information, ideas, and industry news.
- Join an industry organization.
There are many professional trade organizations for software developers. These groups allow you to meet and learn from others in your field, while staying up-to-date with the latest trends. These associations often host meetings and conferences that offer you the opportunity to network with and learn from other professionals.
- Take continuing education courses.
Though many software developers have found success in the industry without obtaining a formal computer science degree, it never hurts to take a course to improve your skills or learn something new. Taking a continuing education class does not have to be disruptive or expensive. Chat with your training manager and work with them to develop your training, which can often be done virtually with an instructor.
The company you work for benefits when you take courses to increase your skillset. For this reason, companies will often offer employees the opportunity to take continuing education courses for free or at a discounted rate. Contact your human resources or training and development manager to find out what your options are for continuing education courses.
Continuing to do the same thing day after day is easy, particularly if you've formed a routine around it. When you get stuck in a routine it can be difficult to continually refine your skills. The sooner you adopt a continuous learning mindset, the more likely you are to make that part of your regular routine. "The moment you stop learning, you stop leading." Take charge of your education and make sure that you stay ahead of the game and competitive in the industry.