Most folks make New Year's resolutions of things they want to do over the course of the next 364/365 days. Let me challenge you not to do that. Most of the time when folks make resolutions, they are simple, wishful statements that are effectively meaningless. For instance, "I want to be in better shape," or "I want to grow more in my profession," or "I want to spend more time with family. The first problem with those statements is that they aren't measurable. Instead, look to develop SMART goals.
Another big issue is that when folks make that statement, there's no action plan. There's not even a next step. As a result, they rarely get started on those resolutions and the few that do don't see any progress because they don't know what progress is. After all, what does it mean to you to "be in better shape?"
So when I think about what I want to do, here's what I see as professional goals. Note that I do start with ambiguous statements, but then I tailor them down to specifics to which I can formulate actionable plans.
I want to be an MCT.
I know this, like a lot of certifications, has lot a luster in the last few years. However, once upon a time I really, really wanted to be a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT). I still do. The easiest way to gain this is to complete an MCITP. It makes sense to attack the MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 certification. The catch is that one of the two exams expire in July 2013. That gives me a time table to work around.
Why 2008 and not 2012? It's simply because I have signfiicantly more experence with SQL Server 2008. In order to achieve the goal on an MCT, it makes more sense to go after a 2008 certification. As I gain more experience, it'll be time to tackle the 2012 certifications, especially as there is a requirement to teach an MOC course in the first year for all new MCTs.
Primary Goal: Pass both MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 exams.
Secondary Goal: Complete remaining steps for MCT certification.
I want to expand my security certifications.
I still keep one foot in the security (enterprise security) world. However, the last certification I have from this world is Security+. If you're a security type, Security+ isn't hard. If you aren't, expect to do a lot of learning. I'm thinking it's time to tackle a more advanced one like a CISSP. I've been eligible for a while, I have folks who will sponsor me, I just need to study for and take the test.
This means I need to put together a game plan around studying for the two MCITP exams and the CISSP exam. Given that there is a time limit on one of the two MCITP exams, it makes more sense to tackle them first and leave the CISSP to later in the year.
Primary Goal: Pass CISSP exam.
Secondary Goal: Complete remaining steps for CISSP certification.
I want to write more.
I write a lot already. However, I don't work enough on the craft of writing. So when I say I want to write more, that doesn't mean I will produce more articles and the like. What it does mean is that I spend time each day in the active process of writing. Hopefully more articles will result, maybe a book or two, but this year it's about developing a writing habit and improving my craft.
Primary Goal: Write every day, even if it's only for 15 minutes.
Secondary Goal: Edit everything I write.
Tertiary Goal: Contact previous English teachers and editors to edit anything I consider submission-worthy.
I want to work on my interpersonal skills.
I'm the wallflower. I'm the introvert that is pained to be in large crowds. However, I also realize that the more I interact with folks, the more connections I build, the better my relationships are, and the more enriched my life is. So I've got two competing goals. The first one is what my nature sets, to remain quiet and in the corner. I've got to fight that "goal" because it's hurting me, not helping me. And I've got to work on being more sociable and on building better relationships.
Primary Goal: Complete active reading (this includes note-taking) of a couple of key books I've already identified.
Secondary Goal: Put exercises and tips from those books into active practice.
Tertiary Goal: Check on and attend at least one seminar to help with interpersonal skills.
That's a Good Start:
The goals I've listed as primary, secondary, and tertiary are still high level. There are action plans and milestones beneath them that still need to be fleshed out. However, I have definite measurable accomplishments in each goal. I can tell how well I'm progressing. Obviously, these aren't my only professional goals, but they are among the easiest to write up. As you think about your professional goals this year, try to be very specific. And as Stephen Covey says, "Begin with the end in mind." Think about where you want to be in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, in your lifetime, and try and tailor your professional goals to where you want to be.