October 13, 2009

Why Training is Important for Your Career Success

As you are selecting the company you will work for,  there is something you should make absolutely sure is included in the employment package. That would be a good training program. The new hire and especially the new college graduate needs training!

The training you receive in your first six to eighteen months on the job can make or break your career. The difference between successful and unsuccessful job performance can hinge on whether the company you choose to allow to employ you, is willing to train you.

I know, I know.  You are just trying to survive and get any job at this point with the recession breathing down on you. But the problem is that you will never recover if you make a bad decision. Think about your job search as two pronged. Think about a survival job and think about a career job,  and spend your time searching for both types of job.

One person I worked with recently picked up a job at a farmers' market while she looked for a career position. (She used a simplified resume with just the basics to get this job). The survival job at the farmers' market financed her career job search. Within a few weeks she landed a fantastic internship job in a green consultancy. She plans to keep the farmers' market job on weekends until she is more secure in her internship or until it leads to a career position. The survival job is entertaining and it provides her with the perk of getting to take home any fresh produce that cannot be sold! 

In addition to a good training program, good companies will also provide you with a mentor with whom you can consult or ask questions. This should be a person who is designated as your "answer person." You won't feel like you are bugging them and they won't make you feel dumb when you are asking questions.

A good training program is one that includes a intensive training sessions with seasoned professionals or professional trainers and an opportunity to follow-up with on-the-job activities related to the lessons learned in the training. Usually it means going for training for a week or two, then working in the office for anywhere from a week to a month to practice what you have learned, then back to the classroom for more in depth training.

I did this early in my career with the California Employment Development Department. They provided some really intense training that lasted six months. It was a mix of classroom training followed by on the job practice. I learned about procedures, rules, employment laws and regulations. I credit these early experiences with my long term success in the career field.

Good training also can mean access to on-line training with continuous feedback.

The training you need can include anything from government regulations,  to sessions on software applications and project management,  to the latest computer design techniques. The training might include a seminar on the software that you will be using in the performance of your daily job. You should also expect to receive training in non-technical areas such as corporate policy and culture, ethics, leadership, and sexual harassment issues.

The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) has over 1600 computer based technology training courses on-line that their employees can take to learn a new technology. IT professionals are able to go to the web and rapidly get information on new and updated technologies.  In addition to in class and on-line technical training, conflict resolution, coaching, and analytical thinking courses are also offered to FTB employees.

It is important to find out if the company you are considering has a training budget. Find out what the policy is. Ask during your informational interview or in your actual job interview. (Yes, you can ask!)
  • Do they have a training program? What is offered?
  • Do they only offer training only to the leads, or will YOU be able to get training?
  • Do they have a policy that gives all of the new employees the training they need to be successful?"
You should also be looking for management training.  The state of California has an IT management academy to train their managers. According to Sally Bennett, technical recruiter for the FTB, "You don't just wake up one day and become a manager. You take a test, pass it, and then you go through training to be a manager." The state is currently in transition mode since so many state employees are near or at retirement age. They need to cultivate a whole new crop of managers. They are looking for their future leaders to lead on major technology projects. This is true for most organizations.  The baby boomer retirements will be pushing many government agencies and private companies to hire in greater numbers than in any other decade since the 70s,  and they are promoting their employees faster than ever before. (Yes, there is a temporary lull with the recession,  but that will change faster than you think.)

The US Army Corps of Engineers sends recent civil engineering graduates through a 2-year rotational training program that includes stints in engineering, planning, construction, and real estate divisions. The program includes classroom training as well as on-the-job training. New engineers work on small projects with the supervision and oversight of seasoned engineers. All work is checked and reviewed, and engineers-in-training are coached on how to improve. After the training is completed, the engineer is assigned to a department to work on large-scale projects.

If you work in government you will also get the training that is a mandated for the organization by law. There are core-learning experiences you will need for specific departments. For example if you are working for the Department of Toxic Substance Control you will need to learn how to handle hazardous waste situations.

A few years back I worked with a man who had been fired. He was absolutely distraught and he was in tears. He said to me:  "Cici, I screwed up."   I said, "sit down and tell me about it."  He told me all about the company that he had been employed with for five months. He was doing software engineering on a major product for the company. He said, "I just couldn't do the work ... I didn't really understand how to do the job." I asked if he had had any training and he said "no."   Then I asked if he had a mentor he could go to with questions. He said "no" again. He also told me that he had changed bosses three times during the five months he was employed with the company.  My response was:  "You didn't screw up,  you got screwed."  The company that employed him failed him miserably. They had failed to give him the basic tools he needed to do his job and succeed.

I told him that I could not tell him how at that moment, but that I knew that he would be way better off leaving that company and that he would soon be in a much better position. Within two months,  he had an excellent job with Hewlett Packard, one of the very best companies in town ... and you can be sure that they have a robust training program that will continue throughout his career.

Training is not just a nice perk to look for in your career plan, it is an absolute requirement,  just like air and water, a desk and a computer.

Copyright, Cici Mattiuzzi