As the year draws to a close, I spend some time reflecting on how I spent the year.  With coffee in hand on a cold Minnesota morning, I consider various things: What did I accomplish this year?  What did I learn? What skills did I develop?

All of this thinking then leads to the anticipation for the new year.  What skills should I develop next year?

Maybe you’ve done something similar reflecting on your accomplishments.  But, why do we wait until the end of the year for introspection?

I suppose it’s because we’ve associated the end of the year with the annual performance review that organizations deploy: filling out forms, struggling to recall accomplishments and skills developed throughout the year and wondering how to put into words what you will accomplish 12 months from now.

Been there, done that.  It can feel frustrating.

Truthfully, the end-of-year annual performance process is an outdated process and many organizations have moved away from the annual review, but many have not.

If you’re lucky enough, you might be employed by a company that has evolved to ongoing feedback and regular development discussions with your manager.  Be thankful, if that’s you!  I hope you’re actively engaged in collaboratively building a skill development plan that aligns with your career goals and growth.

At Degreed, I used our Skill Development Plan feature to create a personal development plan where I’ve identified a few key skills I’d like to develop.  I’ve self-rated my level in each skill and set targets of where I’d like to be with each skill.  I’m beginning to work with my leadership team to coach me along the way.

But if continuous feedback and ongoing mentoring does not describe your current experience in your workplace, please keep reading!  The good news: there is hope. Sure, your manager should be there to help and coach you, but YOU are ultimately in control of developing your skills.

As you navigate through the annual review process and begin the new year with goal-setting, go into it with a new mindset. Initiate your learning and development plans with your manager.  Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Be proactive in building a development plan to improve your skills. This means thinking about and writing down your career goals, or the next role you are interested in pursuing, etc.
  • Think of areas that you want to grow your expertise or think of new skills you’d like to learn about and develop – it doesn’t have to be a long list.  Start with one skill.
  • Ask your manager to help you build a development plan with learning resources you can benefit from.
  • Find and ask a mentor for career development and guidance.
  • Seek and use learning resources you can find on Degreed or elsewhere.

Whatever the case, be proactive in making a personal development plan to build current or develop new skills.

I’ve been lucky to have worked for various organizations and managers who have implemented continuous feedback and development discussions in conjunction with a full year performance review.  The common thread was the honest and transparent discussions with my manager of where I would like to develop my skills.  Start with questions like “how am I doing in my role?” and have an answer for  “where and how do I want to progress in my career?”  The key: build a development plan collaboratively.

If you don’t have a way to begin to track and measure your skill development, consider signing up for a Degreed account.  It’s free! And if you have Degreed, add your skills to your profile and accurately rate your level of expertise.  Better yet, certify your skills through Degreed Skill Certification.

As you reflect on your accomplishments and your learning and development this year, ask yourself: What did I learn this year?…In what areas did I develop my skills? How do I want to grow my skills next year?  Take 5 minutes right now to put your development plan into action!

Alan Walton is a data scientist at Degreed, but he didn’t start at Degreed with that job title.

Alan got a degree in math, with a minor in logic, and then landed his first job as a developer. Data science is currently one of the hottest jobs in America, but the term “data science” has only recently emerged. It was not a career that Alan had even heard of when he was in school. Like most millennials, Alan tried a few different jobs. His first job out of college was working for a startup where he wore a lot of hats. He worked on integrations, technical support, implementation, and technical writing. Alan started at Degreed as a developer, then worked as a product manager, and now a data scientist.

Alan’s career agility is enabled by his passion for learning. While in college, Alan’s quest for knowledge led him to learn speed reading. But, when walking through the university library one day, a quick calculation led him to realize that even when speed reading, it would still take him 200 years to read every book in the library. He knew he needed an alternative way to focus his learning.

Before Alan started working at Degreed, he stumbled upon Degreed online and became one of its first beta users in 2013. Alan has now accumulated nearly 40,000 points on his Degreed profile, which might make him the highest point earner in the entire Degreed platform. To give you some perspective, I have 12,000 points on my Degreed profile, which is more than most people on Degreed.


When Alan first became interested in the data science role, he leveraged Degreed to make the transition. He created personal pathways in Degreed with resources from within the Degreed library, online resources, books, videos, and podcasts. He built pathways for data science in general with additional lessons focusing on sub-topics specific to the projects he was working on and the technical tools for his job.

Alan is a member of the data science group on Degreed, follows other data scientists, and follows the data scientist role so the popular articles, videos, and books his data science coworkers are reading plus the resources the organization recommends for this role show up in his Degreed learning feed, which he routinely takes advantage of.


Will Alan be a data scientist for the rest of his career? I doubt it. He says he’s really interested in AI. If you’re interested in gaining the same level of career agility as Alan, Degreed has the development tools to help.

  • Enroll in a pathway on the topic, create your own pathway, or clone an existing pathway and customize it for your needs.
  • Follow experts in the role you are interested in.
  • Join a group.
  • Follow the role, which will automatically link you to learning, pathways, groups, and experts.
  • Interested in learning more about data science? Follow Alan on Degreed or enroll in the Data Science pathway in Degreed.

Already a Degreed client and interested in initiating a targeted development plan at your organization based on roles and skills? For more information, contact your client experience partner at Degreed.

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