Many of us leave the skills we gain up to fate. It is much easier to drift with the currents of our backlog. It is much easier to just pick skills up as our new tasks demand. We might be apathetic about our current situation or just unaware that we have the power to massively change it.
Here are some questions
- Is there something you'd rather be working on?
- Do you want to be assigned to a certain project?
- Do you want a promotion?
- Do you want to live somewhere else?
- Is there an industry you want to be in?
- Is it more money that you want?
- Is it job security you want?
- Are there certain people you want to work with?
- Do you want more challenging work?
- Is there some dream job out there you've thought about?
If you said no to all of those, carry on. You've got it all figured out.
If you said yes to any of those questions
Trying to pick which technologies and skills to focus on can be a daunting task on your own. There are countless threads on forums for new programmers asking which languages to focus on. It's difficult to get started when you have no direction and you don't understand the merits of choosing one over another. If you don't have a destination, how could you decide which direction to move?
The follow up to this is simple. You don't need to have an ultimate dream, just a desire to get somewhere slightly better. Look at what you want and see which skills will help you get there. If you see someone who is closer to what you want, ask them about the skills that got them there. Speaking with someone who is further along the road you want to travel can give you valuable insight into where to focus your efforts. There is also plenty to pull from their hindsight as they are sure to have done some things differently if they went back.
Pick the skills that give you options
If you know you're going to be working in a certain region or industry, see which skills are in highest demand. If you want to work on something specific, with someone specific or in a specific company, that's easy: just learn the skills needed there. Networking can be very helpful. You'd be surprised how receptive people are to helping you get started or giving you some direction.
You'll very often get the answer, "It doesn't matter! Just pick one" or "It really depends!". If you're looking for solid guidance, neither of these may be very reassuring. They are right in a way, but just keep asking.
Don't get caught on a raft without a paddle
All of that being said, don't just pick up the skills on demand. While it's valuable to be able to do that, you can drastically improve your situation if you are mindful about which direction to move in. Be careful of moving with the crowd, as hype and cool factor won't carry the tech through after the dust settles.
Just pick out where or who you want to move toward. If you have a goal, you can pick the tools to get there rather than picking your tools without a purpose. Have a purpose.