So you’re off to participate in a training program. Maybe you’re being dragged against your will by some new organizational requirement, or you’re skipping all the way to the conference room because you’ve been advocating for this training for some time. Either way, here are 7 ways to make the most of this learning opportunity.
1. Do the pre-work
Many training programs include a pre-assignment to be completed before attending the first session. I know that you do not want to hear this, but you should do the pre-work. It’s (usually) there for a reason. It can jump-start your learning process, as well as facilitate your transition from work mode to learning mode.
2. Reflect on what you’d like to gain from the training experience
Take a few minutes to think, dream, and scheme about what you would like to take away from this training. Is it a measurably improved skill? Is it a greater sense of confidence about a certain aspect of your job? Think beyond the learning objectives, too: perhaps you’d like to build your network with key contacts outside your current work group, or walk away with a renewed sense of calm after taking a few days away from the frantic pace of your day-to-day job.
3. Generate specific questions about the training topic
What would you like to know more about? What are you unclear about? Where would you like the training to focus? If you can share these with the trainer in advance of the program, all the better. He or she may be able to tailor the training to your concerns, or at least make sure that these are covered.
4. Know your learning style and set yourself up to succeed
Do you know your preferred learning style? (If you’re not sure, click here.) Taking into account this preferred way of learning, what can you do to set yourself up for success in the training? For example, if you’re a visual learner, choose a seat where you can see the trainer, screen, and any visuals. If you’re a kinesthetic learner, bring a notepad to take notes and/or doodle, and don’t forget your favorite colored highlighters. As in #3 above, it helps if you can share this information with the trainer in advance, if for no other reasons than trainers love hearing that sort of stuff! (I speak from experience, having led a number of trainings.)
5. Reflect on your learning
Hopefully, your training will include a structured opportunity to reflect on what you are learning. If it doesn’t, take some time on your own, at breaks or at the end of the training day, to reflect. A useful model for reflection is “What? / So What? / Now What?” which can lead to questions such as:
- What have I heard, seen, or learned today?
- How does this connect with or relate to my work?
- What can I do differently when I go back to work?
6. Develop a post-training action plan
Again, a good training program should include structured time for you to develop a plan for how you will integrate and apply your learning into your everyday work after the program is over. If your course doesn’t include this, develop your own post-training action plan. It could include points such as:
- My top take-aways or insights from this program
- Specific actions I will take in the next x weeks to try out some of these new skills or insights
- Obstacles that might keep me from actually doing this
- Strategies to get around those obstacles
- How I’ll be held accountable for taking these actions
7. Pair up with a peer coach or buddy to support your learning
Choose someone from your training program to keep in touch with after it’s over. Schedule time to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype to check in on how you’re each applying your learning to your work. The accountability of knowing there is someone you’ll be sharing your experiences may be just what you need to keep the learning alive.
I hope that these tips will help you enhance your training experience. And if you aren’t taking part in a training in the near future, I encourage you to tuck away this list for future reference.
What have you found works best to help you make the most of a training? I’d love to hear from you in the Comments section.