How Do I Decide What Skill to Learn Next in My Design Career?

| 6 min read

The joy of design as a career is that the learning is never over. We have new tools, new software packages, new fields, and new skills to pick up every single day of the year and that’s not likely to change. That huge array of demand can leave us feeling a little overwhelmed too; what should we study next out of all those choices?

Here’s a do-it-yourself training needs analysis approach that may help you decide what you want to learn next:

What’s Your Motivation for Learning?

Our motivation for learning changes all the time. If you’ve just started a new job; you want to learn the skills that that job requires. You need to become competent at the role before you pick up anything more. Conversely, if you’ve decided that you want a bigger challenge at work because you can do your job in your sleep then you might need to do something completely new.

If you know what your motivation for learning is – it helps narrow down your choices; knowing why you want to learn is very helpful.

What Does Your Career Need from You?

You need to think carefully about your learning in the context of your career. It’s perfectly OK to pursue study for interests’ sake (I recently took a Wharton University course in Accounting for this reason) but most of our learning will normally be focused on our career.

If you’re trying to win promotion or to have your work recognized by your boss; you might want to ask them what you would benefit from studying at this stage in your career. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a new role outside of the company – study some job adverts what are the skills that people are looking for in the kinds of job you want?

How Much Time Have You Got?

Once you know your motivation and what the world needs from you; it’s time to look at how much effort you can put into learning. You see some skills take much more effort to acquire than others. This is partly a question of aptitude – if there’s something you find particularly easy then it’s likely you will be able to build on skills in this area more easy than in areas where you find a task particularly challenging.

It’s also a question of attitude – if you like studying something you will put in a lot of effort and if you don’t then you won’t put in as much effort and it will take longer to learn that skill.

You need to pick something you can learn within the time that you can give and that matches your motivations and career demands. No-one can make this decision for you. No two careers are identical, no two people are identical and our learning needs change constantly depending on what we are doing, where we want to go and the time we have to learn.

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Image Sources: As It Changes (link to image), Change Factory (link to image), Uptitude (link to image), Daily Genius (link to image), Jeff Shore (link to image)


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