Time out for personal development

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Written by Eddie Kilkelly on 23 July 2014

We all know that Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is important to our careers and our businesses. Budgets have been tight in recent years with investment reserved for only the priority requirements and individuals. Project budgets have had to be squeezed to find funding for anything else while the rest of us have to “make do and mend”. Consequently, if you do find yourself with a few days of training, how do you ensure that you make the most of them? 

The challenge with open scheduled classroom training in particular is that it provides opium to the masses. It has been designed to appeal to a wide audience often with only limited time for the key things that you want to learn.  We all know that the industry statistics say 70-80 per cent of the learning can be lost within a few short weeks if it is not embedded properly.

Don’t waste your opportunities

It is essential that you give some thought to your own specific objectives, communicate them from the outset and ensure that they are achieved. This should ideally be agreed with your line management in advance of the learning and reviewed afterwards. From the trainee perspective, this is your way of signposting your key interests and requirements to the trainer and making sure they are met.

  • Do the pre-work in advance. Yes our schedules are full but arriving unprepared means that you are playing catch-up and not making the most of the planned time. It also makes you more hesitant to ask questions in case it is something you should have known
  • Utilise the gaps in the agenda. I know from managing a team of trainers that they rarely return phone calls or emails during the working day. Why, because they are fully utilised in discussion, answering questions and helping the learners with further research. They expect this to be the case and you should make the most of it. Unlike e-learning, you can’t rewind and replay and, despite the regular offers, many people never contact their trainer again
  • Don’t get distracted. If you are in the room then be in the room. Life throws lots of distractions at us and it is easy to find ourselves thinking about them when we don’t have the pressure of our day-to-day tasks and emails. Even in the best of circumstances, maintaining concentration on a presentation requires effort.

This precious time has been scheduled and, while we may feel lost without our iPhone, work can generally wait, at least until the end of the day. If there is something pressing that you absolutely cannot avoid then let the trainer know and particularly ensure that none of your key learning points are covered while you are scheduled to be on an important call.

We can hear at four times the speed that we can speak which gives us lots of opportunity to drift off during discussions or if a particular point or question sends you thinking about some related issue.  If you lose track then you have to own up and regain control of your learning.

If we disagree with a point after raising the question, park it quickly and pay attention. You can always discuss it further in the lunch or coffee break if necessary. The point here is that if you are hung up on the fact that you think you are right then you will not be fully attentive to the following content and, you may miss the nuggets that you really need.

The learning doesn’t end here

After your training course, there are a number of things you should do in order to retain and further develop the learning. I used to work for a training company who had a book shop on the way out of the training centre. Just like the Disneyland approach where you climb off the ride and then walk through the merchandise. What book will you read to consolidate your learning? Your trainer will give you guidance on this.

Most tutors will offer their contact details and provide answers to your questions if you ask them.  Make a point of contacting them afterwards to thank them for their training, add them as a LinkedIn connection and ask for guidance as often as you need. You should also make a detailed plan of the key learning points and how you will apply them in your role. Only by putting the knowledge into action will you embed and retain it fully.

Finding a mentor is also an important process of continuing development. Most learning is experiential and once you have gained the knowledge, having someone to coach and mentor you is really important. This could be a senior colleague or peer support from someone you meet on your course. Alternately, talk to the industry body or join a special interest group.

Finally, think about your CPD. Where is the market going? What skills will the organisation need next? How are you going to improve your skills further? Now is a good time to set a goal for your next training event.

It may seem like stating the obvious but from experience a five-day training course arrives and departs quickly. If we are lucky enough to get on board it will take us in the right direction and leave us close to our destination. What we do next is what really counts.  I have never seen a training programme that teaches people to attend training courses. It’s assumed that we know all of the above.

 

About the author
Eddie Kilkelly is managing director at insynergi®. He can be contacted via www.insynergi.org or follow on Twitter @insynergi.

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