The End of Year Career Evaluation

This month’s T-SQL Tuesday invitation asked about end-of-year operations that you might take on your databases. I don’t know how many of you follow any specific end-of-year routine, but you may.

However, that got me thinking about an end-of-year career evaluation. It’s not something I’ve done, but I do often look back and forward and build some career goals. That has been helpful in ensuring I do some work on my career each year, even though I’m much closer to the end than the beginning.

If I were younger, I would look at my career in three ways: what I need to learn, what I want to accomplish, and how to move toward my goals. I’m actually going to tackle these three areas myself, but since we’re near the end of the year, these might be things you think about as well.

Technology changes so much, and we are often challenged by new requests, requirements, or circumstances to work with new software. I think the cloud has spurred this on, and as a result, I expect most people find they need to learn things constantly. Having a plan, and keeping a list of the technology is a good way to capture the entire bundle of challenges you face. Whenever someone asks you about something new, or you hear in a review that you should improve, add those things to your list. It’s likely you’ll never get to them all, and certainly, you won’t be an expert in them, but you can develop lots of competence and fluency in different areas.

The second thing to look at is how to take this big list of skills, languages, software, etc. and prioritize it. Cut the list down to something manageable this year. Or maybe just this quarter. Being organized can help you deal with the overwhelming number of items on your big list. In this stage, I’d order things by what’s interesting to you. This might be an understanding of YAML to update pipelines as code. It might be solving some types of complex queries in SQL that you struggle with. It might be learning to better express yourself clearly and succinctly in email. List the things you need to work on.

This isn’t easy, and this is really a prioritization of what is most important to you. You might talk with co-workers, your boss, or your partner to help decide what you can do. You should also think budget here, in terms of your time. Can you spend more than 8 hours a month on something? Carving out 2 hours a week is likely manageable, but more can be hard. Think hard about this, especially if your employer doesn’t give you any time while at work.

The last evaluation should be easier. It’s taking the things you are working on and building a plan to actually improve yourself. Do you need to draft better crafted emails and have people review them and give suggestions? Are you going to pick specific problems to solve in SQL? Maybe you want to tackle a specific Power BI report? All these are examples I’ve used myself, but you might have different things from your second list. This is the short-term plan you’ll implement.

I wouldn’t make this too detailed a plan, but I would include enough to guide you. Maybe this is actually spending a month of lunches on something? Or just two lunches a week? I wouldn’t schedule them all out, but I’d have some specific things I need to tackle, in some order, which at least gives me a plan. I wouldn’t include timelines here, but rather, what is the first thing to do, the second, and so on.

This sounds like work, and it is. That’s how you move forward, and how you shape your career to be what you want. Be deliberate, make decisions that are best for you, and then execute on those decisions. That will help you find the best career and job for you.

Steve Jones

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