Monica Rathbun wrote a piece on investing in yourself, which I think is a good way to think about spending time and resources on learning. Every time that you spend some brain power on building or improving your skills, you are investing in your career, and giving yourself another way to drive your career in the direction you want to move.
There are no shortage of excuses that Monica lists, and I’ve heard most of them. These are certainly hardships for your career, but these are things that many other people face, both in this industry and others. While these could be a short term reason to just grind out work, none is not a good long term excuse. I can accept you not progressing for a few quarters, but I’d hope you learned something new and helpful to put on your resume or CV every year.
Doctors are constantly reading and learning to keep up in their careers. Lawyers and CPAs often give up weekends on their own to continue learning. Even mechanics, carpenters, electricians, and more are often working through continuing education. Some of it provided or funded by their jobs, some not, but plenty of it takes place outside of work hours. It’s just accepted that growing with your career is the norm.
Most IT people expect they need to keep learning, but I find so many people are unmotivated to do anything their boss won’t provide, whether that’s time or funds. That’s a mistake, in my opinion, as you are one unexpected event from scrambling to find a new job. Plenty of people in that situation find themselves taking a pay cut, getting a longer commute, or finding more stress in their new position.
Continued learning won’t necessarily prevent that, but it does increase the chance that you’ll be a more attractive candidate and perhaps have you pick of positions rather than settling for just some job you don’t want. The more you know, the more you can show, the more you document with a project, a blog, or elsewhere, the more likely someone is to want to hire you. Hopefully that means you find opportunities that suit you, rather than are just available.
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