One of the unique parts of being a web designer is that the job never stops evolving. From static HTML all the way to Content Management Systems – the way we bring functionality to the web is always moving forward. And the actual practice of design marches through various trends and techniques as well.
Keeping up with it all isn’t easy. For one, learning takes time – which is often difficult to find. Plus, there are simply too many things to know. It can be hard to determine which skills to pick up and which to save for a later date.
Frankly, the whole thing can feel a bit overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to learning and sharpening your skills.
Learning is What You Make of it
When you’ve been at this for awhile, it’s easy to get comfortable with what you know and how you do things. That’s a completely natural philosophy, though. You’re simply leaning on your existing knowledge and calling on your past experience – all in the name of getting things done.
But, with the rapid pace of change in this industry, sitting in your easy chair means falling behind. Do that for too long and, before you know it, things have passed you by.
For me, motivation has always been a bit difficult to find when it comes to learning. I was never one to enjoy traditional schooling. Most of the skills I’ve picked up have been a result of tinkering with projects and learning only when I needed to.
Part of the challenge is that we often tell ourselves that we don’t have the time or energy to make the commitment. Between work and the rest of life’s duties, it’s quite understandable. That said, you can do it with the right approach.
It’s imperative that you make time to further your skills. The good news is that it doesn’t mean you have to quit your job to attend classes. Because of the sheer number of learning options (many of them available online and for free), you have the ability to learn on your own schedule and at your own pace.
The happy truth is that you don’t have to commit an enormous amount of time. Even if you can only squeeze in a 20 minute learning session a few times per week, you’re making progress. Once you realize that you can do this in bite-size portions, it starts to feel like much less of a burden.
Choosing a Skill
Another dilemma we face is figuring out just what it is that we should commit to learning. Again, the choices can feel overwhelming.
There are so many “next big thing” types of languages and techniques being hyped. It almost feels like you’re obliged to learn them, even if they’re not particularly exciting or relevant to you.
The great thing here is that you really can choose anything you want. Perhaps you’re struggling with a particular aspect of your job and see an opportunity to improve. Or maybe there’s just something out there that really interests you. There really is no right or wrong answer.
In my own path, I’ve realized that I’m a bit over my head when it comes to certain tasks in PHP. So I decided to do something about it by taking an online course. I’m getting up early and putting in a few hours per week. It’s nothing earth-shattering, and I may never become a full-on expert. But I actually feel better building upon the skills I already had.
The point is that you get to make a personal decision on what is worth your time and effort. Regardless of what anyone else says is worthwhile; it’s ultimately up to you to decide.
Improve Yourself and Your Career
Another benefit of learning is that it can be great for your self-confidence. The first time you get to use what you’ve learned makes you feel on top of the world. Plus, having that new or improved skill in hand may just convince you to bid on a project that you wouldn’t have before.
It’s really cool to see the snowball effect this all has. You can go from being a bit timid about your ability to accomplish something to actually accomplishing it. And, once you start seeing the real-world benefits of self-improvement, you’ll want to keep on rolling. That can lead you to bigger and better places.
Continuing to educate yourself and improving your skills as a web designer is very much a worthwhile endeavor. And we’re fortunate that our particular industry is full of resources to help us along the way.
Take advantage of the opportunity to learn. You might be amazed at what it can do for you and your career.