thinking about rabbits

It’s March, and the dust has settled on the new year resolutions. Yah! Spring is just around the corner and it’s time for new growth and new learning.

For many people, the first step will be reading catalogues or browsing Google. There are so many ways to learn: webinars, classroom, books, online courses, study groups, podcasts, volunteering, mentoring, even on-the-job training. What to choose? Before you jump into a free webinar, or commit big bucks to longer-term learning program, take a good look at what you need to build your skills for the future you. Here’s the back story:

Rewind a couple of decades: I entered the Information Technology world in the hey-days of the eighties. There was always change, and we were expected to keep up with it. You could hold almost any role at any time (Tuesday a data architect, Friday a programmer). There was so much to learn. It was fun.
Fast forward a decade and a bit: When all you know is change, there is no change. I was starting to feel a bit, not jaded, but dull. I had taken courses, sat-in on webinars, done self-study on many topics. A lucky assignment to build and deliver project management training gave me direction. I had found my new fun – I wanted to teach more, consult less.

Confident in having a direction, I took a look at my skill set. I had good topic knowledge, was naturally comfortable in front of groups, and had sub-zero, zip, nada understanding about adult learners and adult education. This wasn’t something I could just “wing” – some careful thought and research was required. I started my research by looking at an adult education competency model developed by the Institute for Performance and Learning (a professional association dedicated to adult learning).
Professional organizations such as the International Institute of Business Analysis and the Project Management Institute also have competency models which outline expectations for junior, intermediate and senior skill levels(fees for the models apply to non-members). These are great tools; they’ll provide a baseline on your current skill set. Having a general direction and knowing your baseline is a one-two combination that can’t be beat when looking to build up your skills. To razor in on what training to take, consider these other elements:

You are the key stakeholder in this analysis. Ultimately, you have to decide which opportunity is right to pursue, what growth is necessary. Your family and your employer are also stakeholders – they too, are impacted by your actions. They can be your biggest supporters. And, they will likely be the source of constraints to your solution, e.g. if you coach your child’s soccer team, you may not be able to take evening courses.

Ultimately you are pursuing learning to enhance your value. How you will measure that value. Often people look to something tangible (e.g. a salary bump-up). Maybe your learning will allow you to give back to your community. An example would be learning Robert’s Rules of Order, and becoming Secretary of your condo association.

From a context perspective, what is happening in the local business environment? Are businesses hiring? Are you employed? Have you been employed in the same industry for some time? Is that industry failing or growing? Is it time to learn about another industry?

What changes do you anticipate as a result of the training? Are you looking for an increase in salary, improved job opportunities, better conversation skills? Over what period of time would you like these changes to occur?

Your learning options, the solution, are numerous. Some solutions are better than others. The recommended alternative is dependent on your learning style, and the answers to the previous questions.

Speaking of solutions takes us to the “how” question. How will you get that training? What are the alternatives? How do you learn best? Face to face in a classroom, or something more individual? The volume of options is huge, and honestly, a bit boggling. But take it one, creative, future thinking “what” thought at a time. Happy Spring!