How to leverage training events for your professional development
Think back to the last training course/ workshop/
seminar/ conference that
you attended. How much did your performance improve the day after your
workshop? What did you learn in the workshop that developed your skills
for your next promotion? Did you develop as a result of the workshop, or
were you merely exposed to interesting information without meaningful
If you are like most people, then you did not
develop new skills to help you to succeed in your next position. The workshop
experience was useful, interesting and the presenter was very
entertaining. You received your professional education credits to
maintain your certifications. However, you have feelings
of "Am I missing something - is this the best that it can be?"
"All that I have for a day of training is a workbook that I will never
use, and a sore butt?"
As the T-Shirt says "Been there, done that,...". I
have attended many training courses/workshops/seminars/ conferences and earned the
corresponding certificates and professional development units. Based on experience and research,
here is what you need to know so that you leverage training events and
continue to develop your professional skills.
Here is the distinction between
training and development.
Training - The purpose of training is to
teach you the skills that you need to improve your current job
These are skills that help you to be better at answering the phone,
typing emails, facilitating meetings, typing faster, etc. These skills
are easily identified and demonstrated. You can see that you did not
have the skills prior to the training event, and you can demonstrate
that you have acquired the skills after the training event.
Development - Development prepares you for
future responsibilities by developing your skills and integrating new
knowledge with current knowledge so that you become better in a
such as project planning or portfolio prioritization. Development is not a "One time"
event like training.
You develop over time by exposing yourself to training events,
soliciting feedback from trusted advisors, working with a professional
coach and testing your skills to gain experience. The integration of new skills and
experiences develop you and mold you to become a person who is prepared
to succeed at larger challenges in the future.
Training events are a component of your personal
development, but not the whole picture. Here are common problems with
professional workshops and what you can do about them to make sure you
get the most value for your time and energy when you attend training
1. Training events are not directly relevant to your
professional goal. Take time to think about what your ideal next
step is. Do you want a promotion? What appeals to you about the
promotion? Do you want to change careers? How will you enjoy the new
career once you have accomplished the career change? Once you are clear
on where you are going and the areas you need to develop in, then
selectively attend the training events that will help you towards your
2. Knowledge learned in training is not carried
into your job. Training courses focus on providing more knowledge. It us
up to you as a student to integrate this knowledge into your job, and
develop yourself. You should prepare to integrate your new skills before
you go to the training event by starting a list titled "How I will
integrate this training into my job". Add ideas to your list as they
come to you during the training session so that you integrate your new
knowledge into your job.
3. Lost in the sea of new information without a
lighthouse. Training courses usually provide a workbook with supporting
material for the content discussed in the training event. You will
probably file this workbook away after the event and never have time to
study it again. To focus on identifying key information as it becomes
available to you, start a list titled "Keepers" in the front of your
notebook. Add key information to this list during the workshop and you
will have one or two pages after the workshop that you can quickly
refresh your memory of skills learned during the workshop.
4. Training events don't specifically promote
networking on the agenda. However, you should make the use of training
events as networking opportunities. Consider your professional goal.
What are you working towards? Who is likely to be at the training event
that you can help and who could help you? How are you likely to help
each other? Think about how you can network at the training event and
walk in prepared to network with fellow attendees and the instructor.
Engage people in conversation and follow up with them as appropriate.
5. You feel that you have not learned anything
useful from the training event. A trick to prepare to get answers from a
training event, is to think of three questions before the event. Walk
into the event with questions that will help you towards your
developmental goal, written down in your notebook. You may not get the
answers if you don't ask the questions. Then, as you converse with
people at the training event ask if they can answer your questions. You
can say "I wonder if you have input on this - I am looking for an answer
to this question ..." Reflect back on your questions during the event to
keep them fresh in your mind and on track. You will be surprised at how
many people have input to help you answer your questions.
6. The generic workshop does not cover your
situation. Contact the instructor before the event - tell him what you
are looking for in the event and ask how it will be covered during the
event. The instructor is looking for opportunities to connect with the
audience and will probably appreciate your initiative before the event.
This allows the instructor to customize a part of the training event to
meet your specific goals.
7. You forget the knowledge as soon as you walk out
the door. To help yourself synthesize your new knowledge, take a few
minutes each night of the event to recap the information covered during
the day. Identify two learning points that you can apply to your job or
will focus on developing further. Discuss these learning points with
your professional coach and as you talk it through, you will uncover
ways to apply your new knowledge towards developing into your future
You need to take the lead on maximizing the
developmental opportunities available at training events by preparing to
get the most out of the event and then proactively integrating your new
found knowledge into your skill set. Make the most of the event and
review what you learned after the event to develop skills that help you
succeed in future roles. Use your career coach to identify the maximum
opportunities available at training events and to integrate new
knowledge. Use training events to support your developmental goals, by
following the above advice so that you are prepared for the event and
proactively integrate your new knowledge afterwards.