Before you register, ask yourself these five questions.
There comes a point in the career of every high-achieving professional where we’re tempted to take a class. I’m not talking about graduate programs, professionally mandated coursework or training needed to change careers. I’m talking about signing up for the evening course, online seminar or weekend intensive that promises to propel you to the next level of your vocation.
I’m certainly no stranger to professional development. And I’d like to think that after a couple decades in the writing trenches, I’ve become more discerning when evaluating whether a class will meet my particular needs.
If you have trouble weighing the pros and cons of an adult-ed class that sounds appealing, allow me to help. Before you enroll, ask yourself the following questions:
What’s my real goal here? Do you want to learn more about your craft and industry? Do you need mentorship and accountability while you create a business plan or some new portfolio pieces? Are you looking to connect with like-minded artists or professionals? Looking for a new job or bigger, better clients? Now ask yourself this: Can I find what I’m looking for elsewhere, say through a professional networking group or an accountability group? If the answer is yes, you may want to skip the class.
How good is the instructor? I learned the hard way that excelling in one’s field doesn’t automatically make someone a good teacher. Before you spend a week’s earnings on a class led by some hotshot artist or entrepreneur, do a little digging. What do others who’ve taken the class think of the instructor? The course curriculum? What were the other students in the class like? Do class alum recommend you rush to sign up or that you save your money?
Can I learn the same thing on the job? If you’re self-employed, do any of your clients offer training videos or online handbooks that can help? If you’re an employee, does your company offer lunch-and-learns, webinars or other educational programs on the topic? Will your company pay to send you to an outside professional development class or conference?
Do I actually have time for this? Be sure you understand what the course entails before signing up. Taking a class doesn’t just require clearing your schedule one night a week. Often, preparatory work and take-home assignments are involved. If you can’t devote the necessary hours to the curriculum right now, better to save your money until your schedule clears.
Am I being honest with myself? If you’re a mid-career writer, illustrator or software developer hopping from class to class without edging your career forward, it may be time to face the cold, hard truth: you might be a seminar junkie. Rather than spend so much time in the classroom, put the lessons you’ve learned so far to practical use. Do the work you’ve been avoiding doing while enrolled in all these classes and take the real-world steps needed to advance your career. School will be waiting when you’re ready to level up again.