Training courses are a key element of ongoing professional development, but if it’s been a while since you left education you might feel out of practice when it comes to formal learning situations. Make the most of your training opportunities with our top six tips.
It goes without saying that you should arrive on time. If the training is taking place on site, make sure you know where the room is. If it’s at a completely different venue, look into the approximate journey time and the route or type of transport you’re going to take.
This might sound obvious, but don’t forget to take a pen and notepad. Even if the trainer will be providing a hand-out containing course notes or presentation details, many people find that taking notes helps them to process what they’re learning. If that’s not for you, there’s still the chance that you’ll want to jot down a few key pieces of information or points you want to investigate further yourself.
Have a goal in mind.
At the beginning of the course, your trainer may ask each participant what they’d like to get out of the session. This helps them to ensure that everyone benefits from the content, but it also helps to reinforce each participant’s personal stake in the course.
If you’ve requested training in a specific area of your role, you probably already have an objective in mind – perhaps there’s something you’ve identified that you’d like to know more about or be better at. You may already know exactly what you want to get out of the session.
If, on the other hand, the training session has been arranged at the suggestion of your line manager or head of department, this won’t always be the case. It’s sometimes hard to know what you’d like to get from a training course unless you know a little bit about the subject – and this is where your own research comes in.
Aim to do a little advance reading around a week before the course, so you’ll have some time to mull over what you’ve read and think about your goals for the actual training. It’s fine if these change during the course itself, but having a couple of aims or objectives will help you to feel actively engaged with the material.
Your trainer will probably make it clear at the beginning of the course how and when they’d prefer questions to be asked. Some encourage participants to jump in with questions as and when they arise, while others ask that you wait until the end of each session.
If it’s the latter, make sure to note down questions as they occur to you. If the trainer answers them before question time arrives, you can simply tick them off. Don’t be afraid that your question is too basic or that everyone else in the room already knows the answer.
Play your part.
If there’s one thing guaranteed to make fully grown professionals quake in their boots, it’s a roleplay exercise. Often it’s not the subject matter that causes concern, but the idea of acting in front of a room full of other people, be they colleagues or total strangers.
If you find this kind of task uncomfortable, try to remind yourself that you’re not really being asked for an outstanding dramatic performance in a leading role! The key elements here are the subject matter at hand, giving voice to different perspectives, and getting the chance to either put what you’ve learned into practice or give someone else the opportunity to do so – as well as learning from the outcome.
Keep these aims at the forefront of your mind and roleplay exercises should feel a little easier – and more beneficial.
We tend to think of networking as something people do to ‘get ahead’, but it’s really just about making connections. So often during training courses, existing teams tend to stick together for group work or during lunch breaks, but this is a missed opportunity.
In-house training often gives you the chance to meet people working in other departments and finally put faces to names; external training might widen this scope to include other agencies. Mingling with participants outside of your usual team can open up lines of communication, give you insight into how your role fits into the bigger picture, and even enhance partnership working post-training.
Implement what you’ve learnt.
After the course, set aside some time to reflect on the training and how it can be applied in your role. Reading over your notes or jotting a few down afterwards can help you to formulate your thoughts. Likewise, talking over the training with a colleague who attended with you – or summarising for someone who didn’t – can help you to clarify your own thoughts.
Finally, if your training involved a practical or technical element, don’t leave it too long before trying it for yourself when back in the office.
Do you have any tips for making the most of a training course? Share them below in the comments.
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