Your Guide to Job Search and Personal Branding on Twitter

Twitter--the 140 character social networking site--is becoming increasingly useful for job seekers. It doesn't work for everyone, of course, but it can certainly turbo-charge your networking, a key strategy for successful job hunting. It can also be an effective part of your personal branding campaign.

Here, then, is a (somewhat) definitive link guide to getting a new job (or losing your current one) through Tweeting. (I put this together for a client, so thought it would be nice to share).

Getting Started on Twitter--If you're new to Twitter. . .

Twitter Skills & Culture--You'd think it would be easy to type 140 characters and go, but like all social networks, Twitter has a culture that requires some skill to navigate. Ignore this section at your own risk.

Pimp Your Profile--Think of your Twitter profile as your "digital interview suit." First impressions count.

Twitter for Job Search--The nitty gritty of job searching on Twitter.

People and Sites to Follow

Job Search Tips and Tools

Case Studies

Twitter Brand Building--The Twitter job search is also about building your online brand.

Twitter Fails--Twitter isn't rocket science. These mistakes can be avoided with a little forethought.

Bamboo Project Readers' Guide to Blogging for Personal Branding

Last week, I asked my readers to share their best advice for using a blog for personal branding and job searching. As usual, I got some incredibly thoughtful and helpful responses that merit elevation to a new post. I've also added some links and other resources. So below is the Bamboo Project Readers' Guide to Blogging for Personal Branding.

Should You Blog?
To the question of "Should I Blog?" the answer for most professionals is "Yes." Google is often the first place people turn  for information on potential employees and as we've discussed before, Google is not a search engine, but a reputation management tool.

Monitoring and managing your online reputation is a critical career management skill and your blog can be THE best tool you have to maintain that reputation.

A blog can:

  • Improve your search engine rankings
  • Establish you as a "thought leader" in your profession--someone with an opinion, credibility and a point of view.
  • Show potential employers and/or clients how you operate in a way that's more meaningful than what you put on your resume or how you answer questions in your interview.
  • Provide you with a valuable way to network with others who are online, expanding your connections and exposing you to new people and ideas. 
  • Be a valuable tool for your own ongoing learning and professional development.

All my commenters are bloggers themselves, so clearly they believe that blogging is an important part of the branding process, too.

Heather Carpenter shared a paper that she wrote based on interviews with Rosetta Thurman, Trista Harris and Sean Stanndard Stockton, all of whom have experienced incredible career growth as a result of their blogging experiences. If you want to read some real-life stories of how blogging has accelerated several careers, definitely check out Heather's paper.

Sacha Chua, another poster child for how blogging can support personal branding, offers additional advice in her presentation, Networking 2.0: Blogging Your Way out of a Job Into a Career (see above). She points out that blogging can help you develop your passions, build skills and make networking contacts, all of which are essential components of building your brand.

And if you need a final bit of convincing, then see what Tom Peters and Seth Godin have to say.

Time When Should You Start a Blog?

The entire issue of blogging for branding arose from a conversation we had in our first Career Commons webinar last week. Several people indicated they were in the process of starting up a blog as part of their job search, which raised the question of whether or not professionals should be blogging and, if so, how did that fit into the job search process?

Ideally, you should start a blog BEFORE you're in the market for a new job. As Catherine Lombardozzi pointed out, "Blogging for personal branding may be more productive as an ongoing strategy than a job-hunting one when you're in a crunch. Branding takes time..."

Tony Karrer, echoed this thought, pointing out that time spent on blogging is time NOT spent on your job search.

I would argue that the time to start a blog is NOW. If you are not actively job searching, then you'll have more of an opportunity to begin developing your brand over time.This is the ideal situation if you can do it.

However, if you ARE actively job searching, I still think it's worth spending time on setting up and maintaining a blog. It can:

  • Serve as an online portfolio and as a hub for all of your online identities and connections (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). 
  • Be your platform for connecting to other bloggers and the conversations happening within your industry and profession.
  • Provide you with a way to show your ongoing engagement with topics in your industry and profession and help you stay up-to-date on what's happening. This can be particularly important when you're unemployed.

Just don't get so hung up on blogging that you forget to spend time on actually looking for work! Set up your blog and then spend a few hours a week working on it. The rest of your time should be spent on making connections and working your network.

What Should You Write About?

Clearly if you're using a blog for professional branding purposes, your blog should focus on topics related to the skills, interests, and ideas you want to showcase as being key to your brand.

Clark Quinn said:

They should write posts talking about the things that interest them (positively or negatively) in the field they want to work in. That is, riff intelligently about the field. Chronicle new ideas, reflect on some issues, be constructively critical. You're showing that you're an active thinker in the field.

Catherine offered this advice:

Consider defining what you want the blog to be about - for a "personal branding" blog, you don't want to just post about whatever comes into your head. It should be about the area(s) in which you want to be seen as a thought leader or expert.

And Sacha said:

Read. A lot. Read blogs, books, and anything else you can get your hands on about the field or industry you want to be in. This will give you plenty of material to write about.

Join the conversation. Find other bloggers and comment on interesting posts. If you have more to say, write a blog post and link back.

Write about your experiences and what you're learning from them. Write about what you do and how you can do it even better. Teach people as you learn.

Create value. Don't worry about the number of readers you have or the number of comments you get (or the lack of either). Write things that are useful for you, then use that practice to write things that are useful for others, and then keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to help others. When you answer an e-mail with generally useful information, spend a few extra minutes on putting that into your blog, where it can create more value for others. Think of ways you can help others, and use your blog to reach more people than your initial audience.

I would also recommend looking for blogs written by others in your industry or profession to see what kinds of conversations are happening. (Here's a good article on some ways to do that).

What are the topics people are talking about? Where are there gaps that you might be able to fill through your expertise or ideas? What questions are raised by what you're reading and what answers are you finding in response to those questions?

From a purely practical point of view, you might also want to check out these different types of blog posts--they can give you some ideas on the kinds of posts you could start writing. Just apply the basic posting types to the content in your field and see what you can come up with. (For example, this post is a combination of advice, collation, and link posting.)

Moocards How Often Should You Write?

Most of us live in a perpetual time crunch, so the issue of how often to post is a pressing one for many new bloggers. From reader comments, it appears that frequency of posting ranges from once a day to once a week.

Said Clark:

I try to hit a post a business day. I don't get there, it's more like 3-4/week, but it's my goal. More than one a day I think puts a burden on your audience. May seem too frenetic. Tweets are for short thoughts, blogs are for more reflections. Of course, it may depend on your field; maybe it's important that you're processing and reacting to an ongoing slew of announcements of new products, pieces, etc (ala Engadget or Gizmodo).

I'm like Clark, shooting for once per business day, although not always hitting the mark, depending on what's happening elsewhere in my life.

Catherine favors once a week:

I find a commitment of one blog post per week is a good pace. I think it's frequent enough so people won't lose interest in monitoring the blog, but far enough apart that I have time to ruminate on a good topic. It takes me several hours to write a blog post, so I can't be doing it every day at this point.

And Sacha says at least once a week, but try for more often:

Write at least once a week. You don't have to write every day, although you'll get the most benefits from blogging when it becomes a natural part of the way you do things. Learn something? Blog. Do something? Blog. Got through another week? Blog about your achievements and your plans for the next week.

Most bloggers find that if they are writing shorter posts, once a day can work, but if they are doing longer, more thoughtful posts, then once or twice a week is your best bet. Plus most readers can't handle really long posts every day.

The point, as Soha El-Borno pointed out, is to get in the habit of writing regularly. You should also be sure that whatever you're writing is creating value, as Sacha mentioned earlier. Better to write nothing, than to write just for the sake of writing.

What About "Voice?"

Another issues that many new bloggers worry about when they are blogging for branding is their "voice." More to the point--what's the balance between sounding "professional" and sounding like a human being?

Catherine reminds people that it's OK to let your personality show, something I agree is critically important. Blogging, by nature, is a medium that invites you to have an opinion, to tell stories and to show who you are.

If you take the time to check out other bloggers in your professional space, you'll find that there is usually a range of "voices" from the purely professional to the sometimes irreverent. Each blogger has to find his/her own way on this, but in general, the more "you" that shines through, the better. 

It's Not Just About YOUR Blog

As several readers pointed out, blogging for personal branding is not just about writing your own blog posts. It's also about connecting to other bloggers and participating in the conversations happening elsewhere online. 

Said Catherine:

To be visible, find ways to get your blog out there... answering other's blogs is a terrific start - especially Learning Circuits and like forums. Respond to hot topics on other's blogs - I've found some of my favorites by following links when I was reading a comment trail on a particularly interesting post.

Soha echoed this:

Make friends and link to other bloggers. Add your point of view. . . . always leave comments and connect.

And Tony offered this advice:

I would highly recommend the trick of engaging in interesting conversations with some of the bigger bloggers in the persons space.

For example, if you are in the world of eLearning, you should definitely engage me around one of my conversation topics.

If you're blogging for branding, keep in mind that blogging is not simply the act of posting to your own blog. It's also interacting with people who leave comments in your blog and the comments you leave on others' blogs.

It's all part of a package and for blogging to work as a strategy for branding, you have to be prepared to visit and comment on other blogs as well. (For more advice/ideas and practice in commenting, check out the Comment Challenge activities)

Additional Advice

A few commenters had some additional advice:

Clark suggested:

Pick a good name (.blogspot or .wordpress is okay, but have a good 'meme'), and pick a professional design.

Ideally, have a branding that follows through on Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc.

Make it easy for people to follow (make your RSS feed easy, and have an email link, ala FeedBlitz).

Have different topics, and list your categories. Have a blogroll of people you follow. Do follow other folks, go out and comment on their posts; let people know you're active and supportive.

And Catherine said:

Personally, I generate readers when I teach, and when I present at conferences, plus I put my blog URL in appropriate e-mails and other communications. Getting listed in eLearningLearning has also helped.

Additional Resources
I'm going to close this post with some additional resources and links that might be helpful. And a BIG thank you to all the readers who commented and shared their advice. I think that together, we came up with a great (if a little overwhelming) guide!

UPDATE--Check out this post on blogging when your industry/occupation isn't that into it.

Flickr photos via Tonivc and  mexicanwave

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Blogging for Personal Branding: Your Best Advice?

Person_winning2 We had our first webinar today for the folks at Career Commons. One of the questions that came up was how to use a blog for personal branding, particularly during the job search.  As Jesse put it in our call, "there's a broad blank canvas of possibilities when you start writing for your professional blog,  so how do you get started?"

Jesse had a great idea--he plans to start responding to the Learning Circuit's blog Big Question. I also shared some follow-up ideas and resources in the forum.  I'm wondering, though, what advice you have for the job seekers over at Career Commons.

Here are some questions:

  • What's your best advice for job seekers who want to start a blog as part of their job search and personal branding process?
  •  What kinds of posts could they write? How often should they write?
  • What other advice do you have for a new blogger wanting to put his/her best professional foot forward at a time when the blogger really needs to be visible?
Let me know in comments or write your own post and drop me a link so we can share it with everyone. These are particularly important questions for all of us to think about in today's economy.

What Are You Doing to Invest in Yourself?

Invest Harold Jarche points us to a recently released study on corporate responses to the recession/depression we're currently in:

This morning the CLC (Corporate Leadership Council) released the results of a survey that asked CEOs which areas were to suffer the most in response to the crisis. L&D [learning & development] came out on top at 38%. So this means, globally, that a third of organisations surveyed will stop investing in development of employees. Recruiting was second and IT infrastructure was third.

Aside from the obvious implications for L&D (which Harold dissects nicely), the bigger issue is that here is yet another reason why no one can afford to depend on their company for professional development. You must take responsibility for your own learning.

Smart companies use the downturns to prepare for when the economy improves. That's what smart people do, too. So some questions to consider in preparation for what promises to be a long, cold winter:

  • Do you know what skills employers are looking for? (This article says that part of what we're dealing with here is a fundamental mismatch between what people know how to do and where the jobs are).
  • Do you know which of your skills are obsolete or on their way to becoming so? Are you doing something to build new ones?

Now is the time to invest in yourself. If you don't, no one else will. What can you do to make that investment?

Flickr photo via wonderwebby

Some LinkedIn Resources

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: linkedin kawasaki)

It must be LinkedIn day, because in addition to this great presentation I found from Guy Kawasaki, I also see that LinkedIn has launched a suite of Applications that you can add to your profile, including apps for:

  • Your Amazon Reading List
  • Slideshare
  • Linking your Wordpress or Typepad posts to your profile
  • so you can share documents via your profile
  • Google Presentation
  • Company Buzz so you can see what people are saying about you on Twitter

Chris Brogan has more about how you should be using LinkedIn Applications here. Still some bugs to be worked out, though. I've been trying to add my blog and it's been doing some funky things.

More on Learning Through Blogging: What Readers Think

Blogthis My post a few days ago arguing that the real value of blogging lies not just in reading blogs, but in commenting on blog posts and writing your own, generated a lot of comments and some great references to what others are thinking.

Most people seemed to agree with my premise that while reading blog posts can be helpful to learning, commenting and being a blogger yourself adds even more value. Barry Wooderson commented, for example:

I agree that changing to contributing from just passive reading makes a huge difference.

I have recently made the change and find that the process of producing a post or comment makes you properly think about the issue, whereas just reading tends to mean skimming an article and moving on.

If you participate then you have to read properly and the value you gain from it is many times greater than just reading.

Andy agrees:

Absolutely right. What makes the internet valuable is not that it's an alternative passive media source, like the radio or the TV. What makes it valuable is that passive readers and listeners become active writers and talkers!

Learning is an active process.

And Brandon shared a great story of how Twittering at a conference (a form of live microblogging) improved his own learning experience.

I attended Penn State's 2008 TLT (Teaching & Learning with Technology) Symposium in March 2008 as a requirement for a graduate class I was taking, entitled "Disruptive Technology in the Teaching & Learning Process." For this class, we students were divided into 5 different groups, with each group assigned to one disruptive/emergent technology: Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Wikis, and Twitter. I was cursed to be on Team Twitter. Cursed at first, but later this turned out to be a blessing. In fact, the symposium itself turned out to be the catalyst for change from curse to blessing.

Our team asked the class to create Twitter accounts before the symposium and to experiment with tweeting their experiences, thoughts, and ideas at the conference. What happened was that we all entered a new community of tweeters and further engaged in the different sessions we were simultaneously attending! At one point, I was having a conversation with an individual about our sessions' topic; it wasn't until 10 minutes later that we found out we were in separate-yet similar sessions, and that we each brought a unique perspective to the conversation. Another instance of how we all benefited from attending the conference armed with Twitter was that interesting and useful websites were instantly disseminated to the rest of us via Twitter, no matter where in the conference center we were at!

Micro-blogging at the conference enhanced our engagement with the sessions we attended, as you found during your experience. But it also allowed us to experience and benefit from the other sessions we could not attend...and it happened in real time

As is so often the case, though, Ken Allen jumped in to challenge my thinking, both in comments and in this post on Blogging, Learning and the Desire to Learn:

Learning through questions, and discussing in a classroom or social community, has gone on for hundreds of years. People have also learnt a great deal from books during that same time.

So what’s wrong with just reading a post and learning from it? What is so special to learning about writing a comment on a blog post?

If learners want to learn, they will learn. The same desire may well tempt learners to put comments on blog posts. They may even ask questions there.

So the difference between those who lurk and want to learn, and those who comment, may not be so great. Learning takes place when the learner wants to learn.

Learning can happen if the learner sits quietly during class, for instance. Certainly, asking questions will help. But if learners do not ask questions in class, they may still go home and read about what they’ve learnt in a book. Many do. They may also lurk on a few blog posts on the Net.

I don't disagree that learners can get a lot from reading and "lurking" online. Certainly I learn a ton from reading and I know that many others do, too.

250px-BloomsCognitiveDomain.svg As I told Ken in a comment on his post, though, what I take issue with is the level of learning that takes place when you are only reading and not actively engaging with the content.

Looking at Bloom's Taxonomy, for example, we can see that passive reading might be effective for lower-order cognitive skill development, but when we start to move into higher order thinking, we really need to start actively engaging with information. How can I apply, analyze, evaluate and create without in some way interacting with this information? And even if I can, is my learning going to be as deep?

Catherine Lombardozzi supports my thought process here in her own post on blogging and learning where she reflects on how the process of blogging has deepened the learning for her:
The act of writing has a way of crystallizing your thinking on a topic.  As I have worked on this blog - and other journals more private than this one - over the last year or so, I have come to appreciate how much clearer my thinking becomes as I try to put my musings into sentences and paragraphs.  (Although at times I wonder if my writing is actually all that clear.)  I have found that writing forces me to coral nebulous thoughts into something coherent, to name and own what I really think on a subject, to bring together ideas from several sources, and to consider how a potential audience might react.

Having made a commitment to posting here on the Learning Journal blog at least once a week, I also notice that when something piques my interest, I store it away as a potential topic for an entry.  Knowing I may want to write about an idea causes me to mull things over that may - in the past - have come and gone in my head without ever finding a place to settle.  Even if I don’t actually write about something in the end, I find myself thinking about these interesting ideas more thoroughly.  Lately, I’ve had to physically stop myself from proceeding some contribution to a work discussion with…”As I said on my blog…” - but I’m awed by the fact that this little experiment has had that kind of an impact on me.  (I also keep a blog on my vacations which has been a huge hit with family and friends; from my perspective it compelled me to really notice where I went and what I did so that I could capture that essence on the daily posting of my travels.)

Catherine also points out how people commenting on her blog helps her thinking:

If I am really lucky, people react to my postings - with either positive comments or constructive discussion (usually in person) - that helps me to think more deeply.  For example, my concpetualization of the learning environment design model has morphed and solidified over time as people have reacted to my writings and presentations on that topic and related ones.  I benefit the most from people who don’t agree with a point or an approach; regardless of whether we come to agreement, I am forced to articulate my ideas further.

I would add that the process of commenting on others blogs helps clarify thinking--my comment response to Ken's post actually is part of what led me to a better understanding of what I was trying to say in my first post on this issue. It's also a demonstration of Catherine's point. You learn the most from people who disagree with you.

Ken wasn't the only one who had a different perspective to share. Fresh Start indicated that some people may be reluctant to comment because of online privacy concerns. I can respect and understand this, although the fact that you can use a pseudonym to comment and blog anonymously is a pretty quick fix for that in my opinion.

Ultimately, this posting and processing back and forth only bolsters my point. I've learned far more from writing and interacting with commenters on this topic than I would have had I only read a blog post. As Andy said, "Learning is active."

Wordle What You WANT to Do

Yesterday I suggested exploring your personal brand by using Wordle on your blog. Shannon Turlington tried that exercise out and found that she didn't like the results, so she "wordled" her semi-private journal where she's been writing about what she wants to do for the future. The results were much more to her liking.

I think this is a great twist on the idea if what you're doing now isn't where you want to be. Why not try writing out a personal vision/values statement and then running it through Wordle to see what you get? Or maybe write about what you're doing now and then what you'd like to do and then Wordle both pieces. I think that quick shot of a visualization could give you even more insight than simply writing out your ideas.

One resource I'd recommend for exploring this whole issue of vision and values is Total Leadership. We're using it in the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington's Future Executive Director Fellowship program and its one of the best resources on personal leadership I've ever seen. Some detailed info and exercises are here and I highly encourage you to consider getting the book.

Will Social Media Help Your Boss Micromanage You?

I had an interesting call this afternoon with the team that's working on the eLearning Guild's upcoming report on eLearning 2.0--Tony Karrer, Brent Schlenker, Jane HartMark Oehlert, Will Thalheimer, Steve Wexler, Bill Brandon, and Sanjay Parker.

We're reviewing and discussing the most recent findings from the Guild's survey of its members on elearning 2.0, much of which you can find on their blog. Tony has also been analyzing some of the data--definitely some good stuff worth a look if you're keeping an eye on trends in using social media for learning.

Anyway . . . one of the issues that came up was whether or not misinformation is more likely to be a problem when you're letting people do things like write blog posts and edit wikis.This is obviously a concern that people have whenever you start talking about social media in the enterprise.

Reality is, misinformation, gossip and everything else are already spreading around organizations via emails, word of mouth, etc. As I've said before, using social media tools actually makes that stuff MORE transparent and therefore more visible. You actually have a greater likelihood of addressing bad information when you use social media than you do without it. 

That said, what I think MAY start to be a problem is micromanagement via social media. In fact, if it hasn't happened already, it's only a matter of time before some web savvy boss figures out that by following you on Twitter he can see if you're actually working or if you're tweeting about what you want to eat for lunch and the awesome mojitos you had at that bar last night.  He'll be watching your status on Facebook and monitoring your FriendFeed to see what you're posting and when. I can hear the conversations now:

"Was that an article you tagged in Delicious at 10:45 when you were supposedly in an important meeting? I think I've spoken to you before about this 'multi-tasking' you do and how I don't like it."

"I see that you seem to be asking a lot of questions on Twitter? What's up with that? Don't you know how to do your job? "

"I noticed that you have me on limited profile in Facebook. Is there some reason I can't see more of what you're posting? Should I be concerned about what's on there?"

"I've asked everyone on the team to post on their blogs 5 times a day with status updates on their work. I noticed that yours are always posted much later than everyone else's. Are you not at your desk working??

There's a downside to everything and it occurs to me that these same tools that can be so wonderful for collaboration and productivity can, in the wrong hands, be used as a heavy-handed monitoring tool--like having a co-worker who's tattling on everything you do directly to your boss's RSS feed.

This is not to discourage us, but to remind us that bad management practices will always trump great technology tools and that we need to be careful how we're using these things. I'm just saying. . .

Note--if you're a member of the eLearning Guild, you can read the article Sanjay and I wrote here and read other essays from the report here.

Personal Branding for the Business Professional

If you haven't seen it already, definitely check out Chris Brogan's free ebook, Personal Branding for the Business Professional. It's a quick read--mostly bullet points--and sums up some excellent strategies for building your professional reputation online.

There's a lot you need to do offline, as well, like working to make yourself a career untouchable. I'd also suggest exploring the Total Leadership model. This is something I'll be using in the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington Future Executive Directors Fellowship I'm helping to lead over the next several months. I plan to write more about the Total Leadership approach in the coming weeks, but for now, I highly encourage you to take a look at the model.

10 Tips for Creating a Personal Learning Plan

Why_2 These are some notes I found in in one of the artist sketch pads I use to capture my off-line ideas (yes, I do work offline). They seem particularly appropriate to share in light of yesterday's post on being a "career untouchable.

Tips for Creating a Personal Learning Plan

1. Reflect on successes, challenges, etc., from the previous year. Also reflect on trends in your industry and/or occupation.

  • What strengths do you want to further develop?
  • What weaknesses do you want to mitigate?
  • What specific skills do you want to work on?

2. Brainstorm some learning goals for the next 6 months. Try using the BHAG approach to goal-setting.

3.  Ask yourself if these goals make you feel excited and energized. If they don't, keep working on them until they do.

4. Look at your list and ask yourself, "If I could only accomplish two things on this list, what would they be?" Put the rest on a "some day" list.

5. What mini goals do you want to set for yourself? Where do you want to be a week from now, a month from now, two months from now, at the end of your learning experience?

6. How do you want to learn? What resources are available to you? Can you connect with other people who are want to learn the same thing? Come up with a preliminary plan for pursuing your learning. Also give yourself permission to change that plan as you go through your project.

7. Set specific concrete tasks for yourself to accomplish every day.

8. Be sure to set aside time to accomplish those tasks. Consider your energy levels and use times of day where you're more alert and engaged. Learning shouldn't be relegated to when you're exhausted.

9. At least once a week review and reflect upon both what you've been learning and your learning plan. Document your reflections somehow--written in a blog post, record audio or video.

10. Use your reflections on your learning plan to change course if necessary. Have you found another topic you want to pursue? Are you finding that you're interest in your topic is waning? Do you need to change tactics? Refine your plan as you go.

It's critical to pursue learning that gets you really excited and energized, particularly when you won't have the "stick" of your boss or someone else requiring you to learn. That, to me, is one of the most important elements of a personal learning plan.

I also think it's important to try to be purposeful in learning. This is something I'm personally struggling with right now as I've fallen into a bit of a "let the learning wash over me" kind of pattern. I'm reading, I'm writing, I'm observing, I'm doing,  but I can't say it's to any particular purpose. That isn't to say that you always need a purpose. Sometimes your learning purpose evolves, rather than being too set at the beginning. But at a minimum I need to be thinking about more questions that I want answers to. Right now I'm letting what I'm reading set the agenda. I need to be clearer about my own questions and how what I'm experiencing leads me to new questions. That's ultimately what a learning plan is--defining for yourself the questions you want answers to and then pursuing learning that helps you both answer those questions and find new ones.

Flickr photo via e-magic