Miles Burke

Startups, digital marketing, small business & more.

Tag: goal setting

4 Scribbles That Explain Your Professional Future

I’ve spoken at events, and written many articles, about getting a job in the tech or web industry, and how to apply a continuous learning cycle to grow your career.

See 39 Hints when looking for web industry work or 18 ways to be a better employee.

Rather than write yet another article on the topic, I decided to illustrate this, as I scribbled for a young person I recently mentored on the topic of creating a career plan.

The following four scribbled graphs demonstrate my thoughts on working within the tech industry, or just about every industry, to be honest. Picture the X axis as a timeline from now (very left hand side) to the future (on the right). The Y axis shows the knowledge and skills you have.

What we do and don't know

What we do and don’t know

This graph shows what we believe is true, with the existing skills and knowledge we have (lower) and the skills and knowledge we should possibly obtain to be even more rockstar (top half).

How (nearly every) position is changing

How (nearly every) position is changing

This scribble illustrates what is actually happening. The first graph is, in fact, wrong.

The bottom half is your existing skills. The top curve, are the new skills and knowledge you are expected to have.

Everywhere we look, new skills and knowledge are being created by the hour. We, as workers within an industry, are having trouble keeping up with it all and staying relevant.

Your existing skills over time

Your existing skills over time

This graph shows what is actually happening. In every industry, particularly fast moving ones like technology, is that existing roles are evolving, and employers are expecting new skills and knowledge from their employees.

Your existing skills and knowledge as of today, are becoming less useful as time progresses to the future. It’s called skill decay.

Value of your skills over time

Value of your skills over time

The graph above then also reflects the value of your existing skills over time. Your value as an employee, freelancer or consultant is dropping.

This means, quite bluntly, if you are not in the habit of constantly learning and up-skilling, your value as an employee, is dropping exponentially.

Sounds rough, but let me explain a very real situation I had in the past.

I once was great at doing front end development. I’d create a design, and then make it into HTML. I took a position as a sole ‘digital’ person, and I was very good at it, on day one. Thing is, I created everything in nested tables and spacer GIFs (yes, that’s dating the employment period I am talking about). I continued for a few years doing this, and growing the employees within my team, however I kept doing what I knew on day one of the job.

I eventually left that position, and you know what? I was unemployable with that skill set. Sure, I had picked up skills in a different area entirely, however my existing front end development skills were, in fact, utterly useless. Everybody else had learnt this fancy thing called CSS. They had up-skilled in Javascript, they had moved on from where I had been 3 years before.

It wasn’t my employers fault at all; it was mine. If my role hadn’t expanded over those years, I should have got an annual pay cut each year, not a pay raise.

You are in charge of your career, not your current employer. If you want to continue to be useful as an employee, and in fact, become a more valuable employee, then it’s up to you to stay current, and ahead of the curve.

Spending time outside of work, continuously learning and improving your skill set is a must. It’s an investment in your future. If your career stalls through lack of new knowledge or employ-ability, then you are to blame, nobody else. If you end up being told that you are being replaced by someone with more knowledge and skills, then you have failed.

You have two options.

Set aside time weekly to continue your professional development. Read books, blogs, articles, listen to podcasts, ask people in your industry what they value for skills. Do an online course, write your own code, design, website content, whatever it is. Constantly yearn for new knowledge and immerse yourself in your industry.

Stick to your current knowledge. Work your 9-5 or whatever hours it is. Work 1/3 or less of the 168 hours a week you have available. Do those 56 hours and keep doing it until you are a dinosaur. It sounds like a long time away, but to be honest, it won’t be. In a few years, find a new, lesser paid career.

It’s all up to you.

Setting SMART Goals

Sydney Monorail

In December 2007, I penned an article for SitePoint, 10 New Year Resolutions to Boost Your Business. You can read the article for all the details, as well as download a handy wall planner to stick near your desk. You’ll find that it’s still as relevant today as it was when I wrote it.

The ten resolutions, in short, are:

  1. start setting goals
  2. ask a client for a referral
  3. focus on profit, rather than turnover
  4. learn something new about business
  5. take time for yourself
  6. create products that generate income
  7. delegate effectively
  8. focus on client service
  9. take time to wander the Web
  10. build rock-solid procedures

Read the article for the full details on each of these resolutions. The start of the calendar year is perfect for us to look at implementing the first one: goal setting.

Setting goals helps filter all of the thousands of thoughts and ideas you have into a list that’s far more manageable. High achievers in every field from sports to business consistently suggest that goal-setting is an invaluable part of the process. Goals can help you define your objectives and understand what’s important to you, motivate you towards achievement, and build your self-confidence.

So what is a great goal?

Many people use the acronym SMART when creating goals, as well as for other project management methods. SMART stands for:

Ask yourself if the description of the goal is precise? A plausible goal is very specific and easy to understand. Goals such as “increase amount of clients” or “make more profit” are too vague. Instead, use specific language, such as “add three new clients to portfolio before end of March” or “increase average profit on all jobs by 5% before middle of the year.”

Does the goal explain how you’ll measure results? A solid goal has a measurable outcome, so that you’re able to determine if you’ve achieved it, and it helps you stay on track. Hence why I used very specific terms, like 5% profit increase or three new clients. This helps spur you on towards your goal, assuming the goal is attainable.

Is the goal possible to achieve, with some effort? If you set far-reaching goals, you may be unable to commit to realizing them; for example, “increase turnover by 1000% within three months” is probably way beyond your current means. However, the goal should require some effort; for instance, “wake up each day before lunchtime” is easily achievable for most people, and so is unworthy goal-wise.

A proper goal should stretch you slightly so that you need to be committed, yet should also feel attainable. “Increase client base by at least two per month for next six months” is a goal you’d possibly need to work hard to reach, but is still feasible.

Ask yourself: do you have the power to control the results? You need to feel that you can reach your goals, and that you have an influence on them. Having a goal like “co-workers to be nicer to clients” is, fundamentally, out of your control, even if you are the boss. A better goal would be “run monthly workshops for employees that focus on client service.”

A concrete goal has a deadline. It may be as limited as the end of next week, or as long as the end of 2009. Deadlines help you manage your time towards achieving goals. Without a deadline, the goal will appear to be unimportant and never happen. Set a realistic deadline, with a suitable time frame.

It’s a good idea to limit yourself to just a handful of short-term and medium-term goals. Writing an exhaustive list of everything you would like to complete before you leave this earth is a sure way to de-motivate yourself.

Set some goals today, and look forward to a more productive year ahead!

This post first appeared as part of Issue 428 of the SitePoint Tribune, a very popular email newsletter that I am co-editor of. Thanks to SitePoint for allowing me to reproduce the work here.

© 2005-2019. Miles Burke.