Growing Your Career in Tough Times


Hobbies and Avocations
Nothing teaches patience and flexibility like the heartbreaks and triumphs of gardening. Every gardener learns to work with less-than-perfect conditions of soil, lighting, weather, finicky plants, and pests. They must constantly adapt their strategies and plans, balancing the inevitable risks against their visions—and sometimes they win. Do I need to draw the parallels with test management?

People who make music with others learn to listen and blend their sound with the group. Sometimes your voice or instrument should stand out; other times, you support someone else or contribute your sound to the harmonic whole. Similarly with theater—individuals pool their efforts to build an ensemble performance none could achieve alone. Each concert and theater performance is the result of an iterative project, with testing integral to the process.

Besides teaching collaboration and teamwork, learning music has important benefits for the brain and hence for thinking abilities. Learning lines for a play improves memory. A play or a piece of music is a system, with its own logic. A play is a model of some piece of real life. And improvisation, in music or theater, enhances creativity and collaboration. Playing and coaching team sports can teach important skills and enhance professional effectiveness. Sports generally are good places to develop valuable qualities, such as perseverance, independence, self-reliance, adaptability, and courage. Hikers, rock climbers, distance swimmers—all have opportunities to solve problems alone or with others.

And don't discount dog training if you want to learn patience! People who work with animals—or children—develop empathy, flexibility, problem-solving skills, teaching skills, and more.

About Those Conferences 
Of course, it's still good to share ideas at conferences when you can. Most conferences let speakers in for free, though you have to fund your own travel. Conferences may also let organizations share registrations, where each individual attends on a different day

Share Your Ideas with Other Testers
I've only scratched the surface, and I'll bet readers have plenty of good ideas to share. What low-dollar things are you doing to grow professionally? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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