Imagine that you are paying for your own training programme with your own money and then consider the following tips. Try them. You have nothing to lose.
BEFORE THE COURSE
Make sure you are getting the training you want or need
Before agreeing to attend a training course, assess whether it is right and relevant to your needs. See section on identifying your training needs. If you do not see the relevance of a course you have been booked to attend, then ask about it.
If you would rather go on an alternative course then raise this with your boss or mentor. All resources are rationed, including your time and effort. Spend it wisely to get the results you want.
Write down your objectives from the course
Before leaving for the course, assess what you want to achieve from this investment of your time. Write down three to four specific points/skills you want covering.
Write down the criteria by which you will judge the course a success, and then plan to achieve this.
Show yourself this list half way through the course. Are you on target to achieve this? If not what are you going to do about it while there is still time?
Networking is probably the most underrated skill for the new economy. It has always been important and it is now one of the top skills.
Ask for a list of who is attending. Who do you want to meet and why? Make these contacts by design, not chance. What do you want to discuss? What do you want from them? What impression do you want to create? Take your business cards!
AT THE COURSE
If you don't understand anything, don't be shy to ask. Trainers are being paid to teach you, so if you don't understand a point ask them to explain it until you do.
You are probably not the only person who hasn't grasped the point and, even if you are, so what? The whole point of going there is to learn something new.
Remember that if you were paying for the course yourself, would you let something important be said that you didn't understand?
Many soft-skills training programmes are built around role-play exercises. This is the perfect environment to try new approaches, techniques and attitudes.
Remember that on these courses you will learn as much by what doesn't work, as by what does work. You will never have this luxury in the office environment so make the most of it!
Write down, before you leave the training centre, what you will do differently. We all know you won't do it on the train on the way home, so take 10 minutes to do it before you leave.
- What will you do differently when you get back to the office?
- When will you apply the skills you have been taught?
- What support will you need, and from whom?
ON RETURN TO THE OFFICE
Get input to the changes you will make
Discuss the course with your boss/counsellor/mentor. Agree an action plan, and get their input on what you want to do.
- Do they agree with your proposed changes?
- Are there any new work assignments that can give you practical experience?
- Do you need their support in helping you to use the benefits of your training?
If you don't ask for this support, you probably won't get it. Apart from the other advantages, this discussion will demonstrate that you take your training seriously. This will work in your favour for the next training course you want them to pay for!
Agree on your next training
Training is an ongoing requirement. Don't wait until you need the training. Try and be pre-emptive and proactive. Keep pushing to be a step ahead.
Review the action plan
Make a diary note to review your action plan after three, six, nine and 12 months.
Keep in touch with the contacts you made at the course. A good idea is to agree with one or two colleagues from the course to mentor each other's progress.
This is relaxed, informal, constructive and an extremely good excuse to keep in touch with your favoured new contacts!
None of the above tips will cost you or your employer a single extra penny. They will however significantly enhance the returns from this investment in you. But it is up to you to make this happen.
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