Your company is legally required to provide some types of training, such as safety training. It may also provide technical training. Your company wants those training dollars to count, and so should you.
The company’s training is probably critical to your job performance. And if you are paying your own money for training, that’s a big investment personally. Career advancement may be a reason to seek training that your company doesn’t provide, or your reason could be something else entirely. Regardless of the reason, you want those training dollars to count because they come out of your pocket. You’re also investing your time.
How well you are trained isn’t determined solely by the trainer. Regardless of how smart you are or how much you already know, you can exceed expectations or fall short depending upon your approach.
Here are some tips to help you get the most from training.
• Totally set aside the classroom time. Be fully there and be fully attentive. Don’t be texting during class or thinking about what you’ll be doing afterward. Don’t get into conversations that are not directly related to the material or its application.
• Follow the rules. The standard rule for asking questions is to raise your hand and wait to be called on. Simply interrupting means you aren’t showing respect for your instructor or the other students. Your instructor may have other rules, too, such as phones off or no eating in the classroom. Respect those rules.
• Take notes. Notes don’t have to be comprehensive. In fact, it’s usually better if they aren’t. Don’t worry about missing something the instructor said. If things are going fast, keep the notes limited to simple “bullet points” that convey the gist of the idea. You might refer to these notes later, but the real benefit is the mere act of jotting ideas down helps you remember them. And note-taking helps you stay focused instead of letting your mind wander. If you miss an important point, try asking the instructor to slow down or repeat what was just said.
• Use a highlighter. When going through study materials, use a highlighter to indicate especially important concepts. Jot short notes in the margins, if that helps.
• Ask questions. Instructors don’t mean to go over something in a way that leaves you not understanding. If the instructor just made a point and you don’t get it, raise your hand. If you find the need to do this often, that may indicate a problem; speak with the instructor after class about it. Don’t automatically blame the instructor; maybe you don’t have the necessary background.
• Ask for examples. If an idea doesn’t seem clear to you, ask the instructor to give an example to help you understand.
• Give comments. Sometimes, offering a comment can help clarify what the instructor just said. But keep comments short; you aren’t the instructor. A kind of comment that’s helpful is an example followed by a question. “In our plant, we do ABC. Is that an example of how this concept is used?”
• Ask for additional work. Ask the instructor if there’s a workbook or some collection of additional practice problems you can work on outside class. Yes, this means you are going to give up some personal time. But during the training, this extra effort strongly reinforces what you’re being taught in class.
• Ask for additional references. You ask your grounding class instructor if there’s a book you should buy, and the answer will probably be, “Yes, IEEE-142, the Green Book.”
• Think on it. Spend a little time mulling over what you learned that day. How will you apply it at work? Was something unclear? Do you think you forgot something important? Jot down some thoughts to ask the instructor later. If the course is done and the instructor left an e-mail address, then pick the most important of these questions and shoot off an e-mail. Don’t try to score a free mini-course; that is pushing a professional courtesy too far.
• Meet for dinner. When a group is sent to training, dinner with one another is a great time to talk about the day’s training. This helps reinforce what the instructor covered that day.
These tips assume you’re going to a classroom setting for training. What if it’s on-the-job training or a conference seminar? The same principles apply. All of them have this in common: To succeed as a trainee, work hard at being a trainee. The harder you work in training, the smarter you will be on the job.