8 Seriously Smart Ways To Save Money On Your Professional Development

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Do you want to leave a professional development course with new skills — or just an empty wallet?

I’ve spent the price of a small house on my personal and professional development. Some of that training has been transformational — moving me to new levels of skill and self-awareness. And some … well let’s just say I’ve paid dearly for hollow promises and oodles of hype. If you want to save money on professional development, it’s important to do your homework.

I hate feeling ripped off!

I’m sure you do too. Whether you want to improve your skill set for personal or career development — or both, it’s important to use those training dollars wisely, and save money wherever you can. Likewise, if you’re in charge of your organisation’s training budget, you’ll want the best bang for your buck, and to see some behavioural changes in the staff you’re sending.

What do you want?

Before you run through this list of ways to save money on professional development, it’s important to consider what you, or the course participant, wants to achieve. Some training seminars might appear inexpensive, yet provide great value for money. Others might be expensive and offer little benefit, skill development or behavioural change. Your professional development dollars might just be paying for an expensive advertising campaign.

Use this checklist to help you save money on professional development and decide what’s best for you and/or your organisation. As a trainer (who is often also a trainee) I make sure I cover the 8 ways I share in this article

What’s your goal?

Apart from wanting to save money on your professional development, is your goal to gain an understanding or further your education on a particular subject? Or do you want to develop a new skill set?

Put another way; Do you want to know about a skill, or do you want the ability to perform that skill?

For example; I often give short presentations about Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) because people want to know about the topic and how they can use NLP. By the end of a presentation where they’ve just heard about it, they have a couple of simple techniques they can use immediately. But, to gain and use NLP skills extensively and competently or with others, they must attend a full training course.

Can you get the professional development you need from a book?

Open book in library

If it’s just knowledge about a topic you’re seeking, you may save money by attending a brief presentation where the presenter talks about the topic. For example, if you’re keen on learning more about French history between 1805 and 1914 or how DNA is used to trace your ancestors, then a lecture or public presentation on the subject could be very useful.

Often, reading a book over a period of days or weeks can provide the knowledge you seek. If it’s a professional skill set you want to learn, then you’re going to need a lot more than a book or a lecture.

Gaining a new competencies means taking time to learn and adopt new behaviours and ways of thinking. So please beware of short courses promising the world! There’s a reason learner drivers can’t drive a car solo as soon as they pass their written test. They need to have learnt and mastered the skill of actually driving a car! Just knowing the theory is merely the beginning of developing a new competency. Practice is what will give you mastery. Which is a nice segue to my list.

1. Check out the trainer and other people’s experiences

Does the trainer have the required recognised qualifications to teach the course? Will any certification you gain be recognised by someone other than the person training you? This is important if you want to achieve a qualification that will be nationally or internationally accepted. An unrecognised course will only save money in the short term.

Review testimonials from individuals who have done the same professional development you’re contemplating. Did the training meet their expectations? Talk to some of them as well, if possible, especially if it’s a long or expensive course. Speak to the trainer about what you want to achieve to ensure a course will meet your needs.

2. Will the trainer demonstrate what’s taught?

If your aim is to develop new skills, watching a trainer demonstrate what they’re teaching can be invaluable. I’ve been on courses where there were no demonstrations. Individuals all had their own understanding of what to do — and everyone went off and did the exercise differently!

Apart from the simplest of exercises, I demonstrate everything I teach before participants practice it. As many students are visual learners, being able to first see what’s expected is the first stage of a successful skill transfer.

Without a demonstration the results are variable, and if the trainer or an assistant isn’t paying close attention, an errant participant may believe they’ve done the exercise correctly, and continue to do it the same way once they leave the training room. Given that over 80% of communication is non-verbal, watching a demonstration of an exercise is critical.

3. How much time will you get to practice during the course?

Practice — and getting feedback — is the best way to embed a new skill set. Without having practised something, how will you know whether you can do it? I can think of many skills that look easy — until you attempt them yourself! A trainer will make an exercise look easy (because they’ve used the skill they’re demonstrating dozens or even hundreds of times).

Block 1 2005

And, if a trainer makes an exercise look complicated, how much confidence will that give the trainees to give it go? Practising, getting feedback and making adjustments is an excellent way to learn and improve. The test at the end of training is, ‘Can you do the skills you’ve been learning?’ Your trainer should ensure you can perform the skills taught. You won’t be an expert by the end of the training course, but you should be capable of doing what you’ve learnt.
Which brings me to…

4. Expect to put in some practice once you leave the training room

To improve the skills you’ve learnt, you’ll need practice, practice, and more practice! Each time you practice you’ll become more proficient (provided you watched a demonstration and got feedback on your performance – see 2 and 3 above) because practice reinforces the new neural pathway created when you learnt and practised on the course.

If you don’t continue to apply what you learnt after the course, that neural pathway will become weaker over time, and eventually cease to exist. It will feel as if you never did the training.

You will not have saved money on training at all!

5. Can you ask questions and get them answered?

A good trainer thrives on questions, for they recognise a question as a teaching opportunity. Most trainers are generous with information, but they have a curriculum to teach, and a time frame in which to teach it. They want to ensure clarity and don’t want to give unnecessary information which might confuse or overwhelm a beginner. However, a question invites the trainer to offer deeper insights gained from their personal experiences.

6. Does the trainer have flexibility in the training’s delivery?

Is the trainer responsive to the groups’ and individual’s needs and able to accommodate those needs as part of the course? For example, a trainer who knows participants’ work roles can give specific examples to enable the smooth transfer of skill to a work context.

A teacher will be sensitive to the energy in the room and provide breaks or exercises as appropriate, whether scheduled or not. Tired participants learn little! Lots of hype, Ra, Ra, Ra, long training hours and little sleep can leave delegates on an artificial ‘high’ at the end of training. But how you feel, and what you remember days, months and years later is the genuine test of successful skill transfer.

By the way, if you think you can’t get ripped off by big name, or high profile and expensive trainers – read this.

7. Is it fun?

Julie Jason Cath Lucy 2009

Having fun and sharing humour helps people learn. Laughing together (not at anyone’s expense) connects people to what they learn, it cements relationships and builds trust and rapport, all beneficial elements of successful learning.

8. What kind of guarantee do you get?

A guarantee might cover the outcomes you can expect to achieve, and it might include your ability to get a refund if you’re unable to attend the course and have to cancel.

I have the Inside Your Mind ‘Inside Out Promise’ for The Power of Personal Change and NLP Practitioner Certification Training. It’s a very simple promise:

“If you don’t see, hear and feel the difference — inside and out — I’ll give you your money back.”

If you want to save money on training in the long term, use this checklist and avoid getting sucked in by flashy advertising or hollow promises that don’t deliver the training outcomes you want.

That way you’ll know you can sleep easy with your training investment.

Here are the 8 ways to save money on your professional development again:

  1. Check out the trainer and other people’s experiences.
  2. Will the trainer demonstrate what they’re teaching?
  3. How much time will you get to practice during the course?
  4. Expect to put in some practice once you leave the training room.
  5. Can you ask questions and get them answered?
  6. Does the trainer have flexibility in the training’s delivery?
  7. Does it look as if participants have fun, and does the trainer have a good sense of humour?
  8. What kind of guarantee do you get?

These are the 8 rules I live by in my professional development courses. If they speak to you, please, speak to me. 😉

Tags: Fun and laughter, Learning and memory, work and career

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