Any developer worth their salt knows the importance of continuous learning to their success in the field. The development space is rife with change and new skills are coming into demand all the time. With so much flux in the industry, the ability to readily learn new skills has itself become a valuable asset for a developer to have in their toolkit. This may be easier said than done, as the skills required of a developer are often quite technical and complex. However, with practice and a good strategy, acquiring new skills becomes a much simpler task.

1. Finding the Right Sources

One of the side effects of the information age in which we live is that there is an over-abundance of sources offering to teach you new skills – often for a price. It can be difficult to find the right resources to use as you seek to build your expertise. While you could spend hours scouring the internet for bits of information on your subject of choice, it will be much quicker and less frustrating if you know where to start. Whether you pay to take courses on Udemy or Lynda or you seek out open source solutions on sites like Dev Shed, taking the time now to pick out some easy go-to sources will serve you well anytime you decide to expand your repertoire.

2. Start Broad

Although you might have a very specific end-game in mind for your newly acquired skill, make sure that you don’t try to get too specific too quickly. Start your research on a broad overview and learn the basics. It may seem a little dull starting with the bare bones, but whether you’re learning a new language or trying to master a new program, you’re going to have to start by learning the simple things before tackling the big, exciting projects. You will find that by gaining a holistic understanding first, your skills prove much more valuable and applicable in the future.

3. Narrow Focus as You Learn

Once you have achieved a level of comfort with the basics of your new skill, you’ll want to narrow your focus and dig deeper into the heart of what you really hope to achieve with it. Focus on learning only one skill at a time to give yourself the best possible chance of soaking up the necessary information. Your time and resources may be limited, but by starting with the larger picture of the skill you’re learning and then using your new knowledge base to tackle specific tasks, things should go smoothly.

Learning a new skill always takes time and patience, but by dividing the process up into these smaller steps, it won’t seem as daunting. The best part is that, often, you will be able to apply previous areas of study to the skills you wish to acquire in the future, meaning it will get easier and easier to develop your skillset. Once you have mastered the skill you set out to learn, don’t forget to continue nurturing it. Practice makes perfect, so try to revisit and utilize your new talents whenever possible!

Written: July 2015