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September 4, 2013
Back to School...for Everyone
School supplies. Check. Backpacks. Check. Lunchbags. Almost check. It’s back to school time for the kids, and I’m lucky; I have two that couldn’t be more excited to find out what learnings are in store for them this year.  

Learning is so critical to our growth and development, and it’s important for us to understand and appreciate that it doesn’t end with school. We need to ensure that we continue learning on a daily basis to keep us stimulated. From a personal perspective, continuous learning keeps us engaged and has a positive impact on our mental well-being. From a hiring perspective, it can keep us promotable and marketable.

Sadly, though, with everything that goes on in a given work day, formal learning can often fall by the wayside.  Some maintain that it’s not their job to identify training needs; they believe the accountability resides with their manager. Others simply aren’t aware of the opportunities that exist (if they do exist). And most profess that they can’t find the time: even those with the best of learning intentions have missed out on training due to a client call, or believe their daily responsibilities don’t afford them the time to attend a full-day training course.

Here are some tips on battling the obstacles that may be keeping you from learning opportunities:

“My boss never told me what training I’m supposed to take.”
Stop wondering who’s accountable for your learning: ultimately, it’s you. While managers should play a key role in helping to develop action plans and training schedules, it’s unrealistic to assume that they are the sole responsible party. Taking charge of your own training and development will not only ensure your continuous learning, but being proactive helps propel you to the next step in your career.

Look back to your last formal review; think back to feedback you’ve received from your manager or clients. What are you doing well? Where are you struggling? What have you always wanted to learn? Ask these questions of yourself, and ask your manager to weigh in on some as well. The responses should give you a good idea in terms of what opportunities you should be seeking to expand your knowledge.

“But I don’t even know what’s available at my company.” Or the other side of the equation: “There’s no good training available at my company.”
Before you write off your company’s training opportunities, have you looked? Have you really looked? Set some time with your Training & Development and/or HR Manager to discuss what you’re seeking and what might be available to you.

In fact, often employees attending our company’s “Training Overview” sessions are surprised to learn that beyond the live training programs exist roughly 90 online training courses.

They range from Managerial, Interviewing, Performance Management, Leadership, Communication, and Project Management training modules, stretch across several levels, and are available at any time.

Also, keep an open mind to training you may not have considered. We recently launched a Storytelling Training Workshop at MEC that outlines the key elements involved when turning a story into an inspiring narrative. It’s a creative look at traditional Presentation skills training, and takes it further by providing an MEC media strategy template for future use and team training. The feedback has been incredibly positive and confirms that even those individuals confident in their presentation skills have something to learn beyond the core competencies. Building a broad range of skills and abilities, even those not directly related to your position, can help you to secure that promotion, new job, or even open the door to more opportunities outside your industry.

If your company doesn’t have the training you’re looking for, there are at least two options. 

The first: Suggest that training be added to the current curriculum. Work with your manager, HR, CEO, or whoever can help drive a program into your company. 

The second: Seek training elsewhere. Explore events, training, and webinars within related trade associations or LinkedIn groups. Seek out a mentor within your company or industry. Opportunities to learn exist both inside and outside your organization; there’s much you can take advantage of if you simply start looking.

“That’s all well and good, but who can ever find the time for training? I have too many real meetings.”
The response on this is simple: make the time and be accountable. Block out one hour a week, even every two weeks, to view a webinar or simply even read trade articles. Set goals for yourself, whether formal or informal, that will reinforce your own accountability as it relates to attending training programs. Include others for support. It can be your manager, working in conjunction with achieving training goals you’ve set. It can be your team, inviting others to join you to ensure everyone attends.

Make learning as much a priority as your everyday work; understand the positive investment you’re making in yourself by committing time and attention.

If you took the time to read through this article, that’s a good sign you’re on your way to wanting to learn something new. Keep making the effort: know what you need, check out the training available, make the time.

Get back to school.

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Christine Stack joined the media agency MEC in 2011 as Senior Partner, Director-Talent Acquisition; in that role, she is responsible for the creation, development, and delivery of strategies to attract and retain senior-level talent at the agency across North America. She is also a key member of MEC’s Talent executive committee. 
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