7 Tips for Making the Most out of PM Trainings

So, you're reviewing your PM accomplishments and goals for the year, and you have the nagging feeling that you should really take advantage of that company-sponsored training time. Or maybe you're thinking of shelling out for a course on your own in hopes that it'll better your current role and, hopefully, future job prospects. Given the amount of time or money involved, how do you decide which PM training course is the right fit for you?

  1. Conduct market research. The first step in choosing a training course is to determine whether it will benefit your current or future job prospects. Browse the LinkedIn profiles of those whose career paths you'd like to follow to see what certifications they hold.

  2. Ask around. Talk to those that have taken the training to assess its value. Do they actually use the skills they learned in the training in their current role? Have they noticed an uptick in attention from recruiters or clients since they took the training? Use this information to assess the long-term benefits of the training and the short-term choice of the best training vendor.

  3. Pick a training that offers a certification. There's no point in spending two or more days of your life learning this material if you have nothing to show for it on your resume once the course ends.

  4. Decide how much time you're willing to put in. Some training courses offer a certification contingent upon passing an exam. Investigate the difficulty of the test, and assess whether you have the time (and the discipline) to study for it post-training.

  5. Choose a course that you find interesting. Let's say you follow steps 1-4 to select a training course that offers a certification, is in line with what others in your field are doing (or not doing, if you think taking this course will differentiate you), and has a reputation for being worthwhile. The problem: you couldn't care less. Unless this training is critical to you getting (or keeping) a job, do yourself a favor and pick something else. Adult learning should be fun where possible. Just because this training is right for someone else doesn't necessarily mean it's right for you.

  6. Be engaged. We're all guilty of this, but you need to make an effort to put away your phone and your laptop and put off your clients for a day or two to make sure you really master this material. Multitasking is not an effective learning mechanism. You'll have wasted your time and money if you're not 100% present to interact with your peers and ask questions of your instructor.

  7. Ditch the theoretical. When a training course concludes, I always make it a point to recycle my training materials. Let's be honest: you're not really going to go back to the textbook to refer to these concepts. What you will refer to is the notes you kept about how the material could apply to your situation. Instead of holding onto pounds of training material that'll only end up collecting dust, challenge yourself to pick one idea from the training course and apply it within the next six months. Not only does it force you to apply what you've learned, it also makes great fodder for your resume and/or assessment.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these tips. How have they worked for you? Let me know in the comments!