I meet a lot of dynamic, switched on women doing what I do. After all, most people who attend conferences and networking events, or who get in touch with me through this blog, are people who are already aware that it takes a bit of effort to get on.
Sometimes though, I meet people who forlornly say that they would be more successful/confident/financially secure/[insert any other word here] if only their company would pay for them to go on a training course.
Training courses are great – I should know, I’ve been on plenty over the years. Training courses paid for by someone else are even better. Of course, it depends on the quality of the training company and the efficacy of the trainer, but if you pick well you can get a lot out of a training course.
The problem with courses is that they are just that – courses. You sit in a classroom, learn stuff, go back to the office and do things the way you always have. Even project management certification training doesn’t automatically mean you will apply yourself to working differently. You take the course to get the certificate, not because you are committed to continuous professional development.
It takes a serious degree of action planning at the end of the course, follow up with your manager and personal commitment to make training course lessons really stick. Training courses are good but they aren’t the only way you can learn things.
Other ways to get training beyond a classroom course
It’s just as well that you can learn things in other ways. Companies are cutting back on sending people on courses.
I can tell that because I get more marketing emails from training providers now than I ever did, (and through cold outreach via LinkedIn messages – bleurgh).
Companies are investing their money on things other than sending their employees on courses. All this adds up to the fact that if you are in the ‘if only I could go on a course’ school of thought then you’re unlikely to get lucky.
However, training is not all about training courses. There are plenty of other ways of learning things if your company is cutting back but you know you have areas that you want to develop. Here are some options
Want to work in Marketing? Call someone up and ask to follow them around for the day. You might have to make a couple of calls before you find someone and a convenient time, because everyone’s busy.
Frame it as if you really want to find out more about what they do – which, of course, you do. People are generally flattered that you’re interested.
(As an aside, I learned this lesson during the summer holidays one year temping at a management college. One of my tasks was to help the Research department by ringing up people and asking if they wouldn’t mind speaking at a conference the college was organizing. I dreaded each cold call, but every single person said yes.)
Have you got a mentor? If not, get one. It’s free if you use someone in your own organization (or reasonably priced if you use me!) and it would be a cold manager who wouldn’t support this idea.
If you already have a mentor, try mentoring someone else. It’ll help develop all kinds of skills and will introduce you to some other people.
Put project management aside and read the press related to your company’s main focus: insurance, law, construction, whatever. If you aren’t a member of your professional body (like the Chartered Insurance Institute or the CIPD etc) then find someone who is and get them to donate you their society magazine once they are done with it. You can pick up a stack of information by reading – print or online.
Many online publications have forums, and you can get training and development hints from the experts who haunt those virtual coffee rooms.
And if those ideas don’t take your fancy, try these:
- Online courses/workshops
- Industry webinars or virtual conferences (like PMXPO)
- In-house run training events – talk to your HR department
- Networking events and conferences: broaden your horizons by listening to expert speakers
- Volunteering: want more experience in leadership? Then join a club/sports team where you can practice leading!
- Trial and error: get a copy of the software you want to learn, and sit down with the manual and learn it
- Colleagues: ask a more senior colleague if you can go to a meeting with them so you can see how they do things
- Feedback: you might not be as bad at something as you think; ask people how they see you
See? You do need to keep continually develop and keep your skills up, but you don’t need an expensive residential course to do it.
If you don’t have the time to work out how to make this happen, then Project Management Rebels is the solution.
It’s a curated library of training resources that meets you where you are.