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Going To Training? Some Hints by Robert Bacal

Editor's Note: In this article Robert Bacal provides some practical hints, tips and steps that learners and training participants can take before, during and after training seminars to get the most from attending training and training seminars.

People attend training for a lot of reasons. The obvious one is to learn some new skills to use on the job or to further one's career. There are other reasons too. Sometimes training sessions provide an opportunity to visit with people you don't ordinarily see and find out what's going on elsewhere. Or, sometimes, it's just a pleasant (hopefully) break from the usual routine.

If you are attending training, whether it's for learning new software, or to learn to cope with stress, what you learn from it is going to depend on what you put in, and how you plan the process. In this article we'll provide some hints so you can maximize your learning and make use of what you have learned on your job (or perhaps the next one).

SELECTING TRAINING

There's lots of training out there, some of it great, some average, and some poor. Since tastes differ, it's hard to help you choose what will work for YOU. However, if you have a choice of choosing the training you will attend, compare the topics to be covered to your own needs (see next section). Don't make your decision based on the length of a course. Often the shorter ones will only give you an overview and not help you use new learning on the job. Ask around to see if others have attended the course, and solicit their opinions, but remember that tastes differ. If the course you are interested in is offered internationally by a large company, you can ask on the Internet.

WHY ARE YOU GOING?

It's always good to be clear about why you are going to a training session. If someone has requested that you attend (let's say your boss), make sure you understand your boss's expectations before you go. Ask: "How do you expect me to use what I have learned?" If you are going because you have a training need, ask yourself what you want to learn, and how you might apply it to your job (or career development). The clearer you are about why you are going and what you want to get out of it, the more likely you will get what you are hoping for. Knowing this will allow you to be more of an active learner.

INVOLVE YOUR BOSS

Most organizations require that you get approval to attend training sessions, since there is a cost involved and you will be away from your desk for the length of the session. When you approach the boss, there's several things to discuss. Again, why are you going? Second, how it will be useful. And third, what you need from the boss to make use of the training. For example, if you are taking a course on a new software package, let's say the Acme Word Publisher, you aren't going to get much use from it unless it's already set up on your work system and easily accessible IMMEDIATELY upon you return to work. If something is "missing" on the work end that will mean you can't use what you've learned IMMEDIATELY, then consider delaying the training.

It's always a good idea to schedule a "debriefing" with the boss after the training, to explain what went on, your opinions of it and how you intend to use it. The best reason for doing this is that it reinforces your own learning, and serves as a reminder.

WHILE YOU ARE THERE

Trainers can't read minds (although the really good ones seem to). While you shouldn't be pressured to participate actively if that's not your style, it really helps everyone if you ask questions when things aren't clear, and express your opinions and experiences. Remember that you and your fellow training participants can learn as much or more from each other than the trainer (and sometimes know more than the trainer!). In the event that things aren't to your liking, approach the trainer privately and break time. If you don't get some positive response, then you can always choose to leave (provided that's OK with the boss). If you do get into such a situation, communicate your reasons to the boss. Still, try to be flexible. Sometimes some kinds of training can be personally uncomfortable due to the subject matter, but that may pass if you hang in there.

AFTER THE SESSION

Here's a few hints so that whatever you learned doesn't get lost.

  • Consider doing a presentation to your colleagues on what you learned (that's a great review process that helps you remember).
  • Try to begin using what you have learned the FIRST DAY back on the job.
  • Remember you have both the course material and your notes to use. Periodically go through them (you'd be amazed how many people chuck this material in a drawer, never to be viewed again.

There you have it. If you follow these basic hints, you'll probably get more out of the training session. That helps everyone, and justifies the company's investments (both present and future) in training programs.

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