The Stack Overflow 2020 Developer Survey was released this Spring and, as usual, delivered tons of statistics about developers, what they're working on, how they're thinking and where their future is going. One chart they published is of particular interest to any developer looking to remain competitive in the job market. Stack Overflow asked developers how frequently they learned a new language or framework and the results were a testament to how fast innovations are happening in tech. Around three-quarters of all respondents -- professional developers and hobbyists -- learn something new at least once a year, and around half of those people said it's closer to every few months.
What is Learning?
Learning can be as extensive or as simple as you'd like, depending on your goals and time available. As long as you're expanding your mind and putting something into your brain, you're making yourself more valuable to future clients. For example:
In the case of this Stack Overflow survey, respondents are saying they learn a new language or framework. We've shared loads of resources with suggestions on where you can pick-up these new skills.
You can also force yourself into learning as you go by taking on new challenges that require you to do some research and solve different problems. The Stack Overflow survey also summarized where developers turn to when they need to solve such problems.
There are tons of skills you already have, but might have gotten rusty. If you maintain a certification, you're forced to keep up on skills, but how many others did you learn a few years ago and haven't used since. It's great to go back and refresh those every once in a while.
At the other extreme, some professionals look to get into a brand-new field of work which often requires more formal training. That comes with more financial and time investment, but pays off.
The Next Step is Getting There
Regardless of what you want to learn, nothing is going to happen unless you create a plan that will put you where you want to be. A high-level roadmap might be:
Decide exactly what you want to do. Maybe it's based on in-demand skills or just something you've been interested in picking up. Pinpoint exactly what it is you want to learn and where you want to be.
Find Out What You Need to Get There. If you're looking to expand on a language you're already familiar with, a few websites and weekend exercises may suffice. As noted above, if you have a more ambitious goal that requires extensive learning, you'll need to investigate formal training.
Build Your Timeline (with milestones). Knowing what to do is one thing, but doing it is a whole other challenge. Create a schedule of when you'll learn what, including milestones to keep it from being overwhelming. Now you know when to set time aside to learn and ensure you're on track to accomplish your goal.
Learning is such a valuable and necessary task for an IT professional who wants to keep up in a fast-pace, innovative world. As the chart above shows, the majority of your competitors are developing their skills so if you're not, then you're quickly falling behind.