Waiting for your company to provide training courses or advancement opportunities? It might be a long wait. Unfortunately many companies overlook professional development or consistently sacrifice it when the first round of annual budget cuts occur. Even when we do get training opportunities, many of us continue to select classes at random, based on what seems interesting at the moment.

We live in a field that is expanding daily, where the environment we work in is drastically different from what it was 5 years ago and from what it will be 5 years from now. Whether we plan on being in a different role or not, advancing our skills and staying in step with the market is a must.

This post covers a number of helpful links and ideas for staying up to date in our field.

Development Plans

Creating a development plan can help provide focus and give us a measure of our progress. These articles provide additional information on creating and refining our plans:

Tools and Processes

Once we have a plan, we need to be able to execute it. Having tools to help us execute the plan, methods of communicating the plan, and tricks for finding time can all help us be successful.

Free and Cheap Resources

Not all development costs money. My own plan includes a certain amount of blog writing (free), reading a certain number of articles each week (free), an ongoing effort to keep up to date with webinars and webcasts (free), and attendance (and beginning to speak) at user groups and events (the free kind).

I can’t afford Tech-Ed or the PASS Summit, but I can afford:

Plus there are events like SQLSaturday, Code Camps, and user groups galore that don’t cost $1000’s to attend.

If you need more ideas, Ted (blog | twitter) posted an article with more SQL Resources here and I presented a list of ideas in Part 1 of the “There is Never Time For…” series.

Have more ideas or links for resources? Add them to the comments below. I’m always on the lookout for more ideas and I’m sure others would appreciate them as well.