The new workplace currency is training. Title is not important if you’re not staying long term. And salary increases of three or four percent are ceremonial. So use the clout you earn to get training; it will make a difference in your life in a way that salary and title cannot because training can fundamentally change how you operate and what you have to offer.
The two most important types of training teach you how to understand yourself and how you function in an office. To a large extent, you have to take responsibility for training yourself in these areas. You can’t learn this stuff passively, like learning key dates in U.S. history.
“This must be a self-motivated kind of learning,” Julie Jansen told me. As a career coach she recognizes that, “The problem is that most people don’t know how self-aware they are.” Her book You Want me to Work with Who? offers self-diagnostic tests to show you where you fall on the spectrum and how to re-train yourself.
Most people think they make a good impression, but they are misguided. So a great help is an objective third-party who can tell you where you are weak”?after all, everyone has weaknesses. The trick is to identify and fix them early in your working life so they don’t hold you back.
Workplace stars receive great training perks. “Most companies quickly segment out high potential employees and they get more advanced and aggressive training,” Jeff Snipes, CEO of Ninth House, told me. “Companies don’t usually market these programs because they create an atmosphere of haves and have-nots. However you can ask around at your company if there’s a high-potential program and what you’d need to do to get in.”
Here are some of the types of training to ask for:
1. Self-awareness coaching. Few people can accurately judge the impression they make on others. This is so widely accepted that companies are willing to pay big bucks for the a performance review that gives 360 feedback and includes in-depth interviews between a third-party and a wide range of people you work with. Once you determine your weaknesses, hiring a coach is a great way to understand the results of the review and figure out how to either get rid of your weaknesses or at least get around them.
2. Communications coaching. One of the most difficult pieces of managing yourself is projecting what you really feel to other people. So many things get in the way of authenticity in the office — most notably, your ego but also your nerves.
Lindy Amos, a coach at TAI Resources, teaches executives to communicate better by using acting techniques. She has said things to me like, “The difference between fear and excitement is breathing.” Before you decide that you are already good at projecting your true self, consider that Amos’s clients are top executives from companies you respect. If they need it, you do too. So get the training early in your career so you can make authentic connections from the beginning.
3. Training on how to navigate within a company. Many young people complain that they have great ideas but no one is listening. And this is often true. That’s because it’s not enough to have innovative ideas. You need to know how to promote them within the company.
Ninth House, for example, offers training programs that teach how to package an idea so that you can get it funded within the company. Topics in this program include how to align the idea with corporate strategy and how to find an internal sponsor, two critical pieces to being an innovator in the workplace.
When it comes to selling an idea at the office, don’t forget that you’ll have to sell the idea that training will be good for your boss and the company as well as for you.
If you’re unemployed, you can also think about training is in terms of the job hunt: Hayden-Wilder, for example, is one of a bunch of companies that teach people how to use public relations and marketing techniques to present themselves to employers.
Whatever sort of training you use — self-generated, corporate funded, or a mix of the two — if you create a life that encourages constant learning, your career and your life will be more interesting and more fulfilling.