As we close in on 2020 it’s time to crank it up and figure out your professional goals for the year. Are you trying to land your next job? Earn a promotion? Transform your career? No matter what your goals, acquiring new skills and knowledge can be a useful strategy. What will you learn in 2020 that is going to help you take the next step? The turning of the calendar is a perfect time to take stock, review your journey to date, and make some “learning resolutions” for the year ahead.

Looking back at 2019
Come December there’s no escaping the spate of “year in review” articles on every possible topic. Foreign policy. Financial markets. Sports bloopers. Even the music you listened to all year. These articles are inevitable not only because they help websites feed their insatiable appetite for content but because they speak to what seems to be a fundamental need for humans to reflect on where they’ve been. Looking back at the year gone can help us appreciate the journey we’ve been on and to learn lessons from our experiences.

Here are a few questions you might find useful to ask yourself as you reflect on 2019:

Your professional goals:

  • Did you identify goals for 2019?
  • What progress did you make toward those goals?
  • What things enabled that progress? What were the obstacles to progress?

Your professional development:

  • What existing skills did you improve?
  • What new knowledge did you acquire?
  • What new skills did you acquire?
  • Which things you learned were most important?
  • What new things did you realize you would like to learn?

There are several reasons for taking the time to go through this review. First, it’s a chance to congratulate yourself on your professional growth and progress. Second, it will help you identify your priorities for learning and growth. Finally, considering those priorities in light of enablers and obstacles will help you strategize your next moves.

Professional Goals & Learning Resolutions for 2020
With a 2019 review in hand, the next step is to hone in on your goals and resolutions for 2020. Though your ultimate goal might be world domination, research suggests that people are more likely to follow through on their resolutions if they align with the SMART goal framework. To do that your resolutions should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

To come up with a list of SMART learning resolutions for 2020 the first step is to determine your most important professional goals. These could be things like: presenting at a conference, earning a promotion, or getting a new job. Keep this list short – having too many big goals will make it tough to focus enough on any of them.

Once you’ve identified those goals, make a list of the kinds of professional development activities that will be necessary or useful in achieving each of them. These could be things like improving your communication skills, learning a new language, or mastering a new area of knowledge.

The next step is to make to a list, for each of those professional development activities, of learning options for following through on them. These could be things like taking an online course, attending a workshop, finding a mentor, or getting a master’s degree. Take time at this stage to do your research and get as specific as you can here. What course would you take from whom? When? What would it cost and how long would it take?

When you’re done with this step you might have a table that looks something like this for each professional goal:

Professional GoalProfessional Development ActionsLearning Options
Earn a promotion* Improve leadership skills

* Improve communication skills

* Learn ArcGIS software
Leadership skills  
– Take online course in June  
– Do interview with senior leaders at my organization all year  
– Get an MPA/MBA degree apply for Sept 2020 start (2 years)

Communication skills   
– Attend briefing workshop in March
– Take online writing course in May
– Present paper at professional conference in September

– Take online course in October  
– Start certificate program in Sept (three semesters)
– Weekend workshop in Nov Etc.  

Finally, highlight the learning options that seem most likely to help you reach your goals. Then, being mindful of the challenges involved – time, cost, effort, etc. – whittle down your list to a concise set of learning resolutions for 2020. Only you can know how many learning activities is realistic – hopefully your review of 2019 will have helped ensure that your resolutions are reasonable given your budget and your work/life balance preferences. Once you have your list in hand, it’s time to get after it!

The team at E38 Academy is excited for 2020 and we hope you are too. We’d love to hear your strategies for growth and learning for the year ahead. Leave us a comment below.

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