about this column.
January 12, 2001
© 2001, Douglas E. Welch
There is a myth in the high-tech industry about training. Everyone promises it but very few actually deliver. This points up the fact that while training is seen as an important aspect of any job, most companies simply do not have the time, energy or wherewithal to actually follow through. This is especially true of the small, startup companies where many high-tech workers begin their career. The bottom line for anyone looking for a job in today's market is, don't let yourself be swayed by big promises of extensive training and mentoring. In most cases, it simply doesn't materialize.
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Even the largest fail
My first job with a large corporation showed that even the best can fail when it comes to training. Despite a well-funded and well-organized training department when it came time to start my job I was basically left on my own. First, the training department focused on 2 goals; creating better managers and creative development for its large staff of artists. My training was left to the IS department staff and my partner at the time.
Anyone who has ever started a new job will recognize what happened next. After 2-3 days of following my partner around and learning the lay of the land on the large campus of buildings I was basically on my own.
The pressures of too much work and not enough people quickly overwhelm any desire or hope of training. There is simply too much to do. Instead, you are shipped to the front lines where you must sink or swim on your own. If this can happen at a billion dollar company it is not difficult to imagine what happens when you are employee number 5 at a startup working out of a converted garage.
Another reason for the lack of training in companies is the increasing use of high-tech certifications as hiring criteria. Many human resource people, and the managers they work with, use certifications as a litmus test for who they bring in for interviews. Once a person is hired, most managers assume the certification brings a certain level of knowledge to the job. This is simply untrue. Even if a worker has a certification, their hands-on experience might be limited. If they have hands-on experience, this experience may be in an environment totally different from your own. At the very least, high-tech staffers will need additional training merely to familiarize themselves with your company's PCs and network design let alone the actual geographical layout of your offices. While technical certifications can show proof of learning technical concepts they cannot be used as a reason for not providing basic training to staff members.
There is great fear of many companies secretly, or not so secretly harbor, when it comes to training their staff. In today's job market of high-turnover and no loyalty, on either side, many companies simply forgo any training since they believe that staffers will just take their new-found knowledge and find a better job at a new company. This is flawed logic on many levels.
The truth is, if high-tech workers receive decent training it actually makes them feel better about their job. Training allows them to be more productive which usually leads to better performance reviews and, sometimes, better raises and promotions. High-tech staffers don't leave a job because they get training. They leave because there is some problem with the job. If a company provides training and then treats their staffers badly in other ways, of course those staffers are going to leave. It has nothing to do with the training itself, but rather other aspects of the workplace. Sure, training can become an easy scapegoat, but any company that isn't training its staff is crippling its ability to do business. If a company has a high rate of employee turnover it should look to its basic business practices first before closing down its training department.
On your own
In most cases, as many of you have probably already discovered, training is your own responsibility. You can't wait for a company to provide you training or you may find it never arrives. You need to take the initiative in your own training. This can consist of taking training classes on your own or simply making the effort to learn everything you can about the systems you work with on a daily basis. I have learned almost everything I know by watching, asking questions and then doing. I have a had a few good classroom training experiences, but I find that learning on the job can have its advantages. It certainly requires more effort on your part, but you will find that the best learning often occurs when you are stretching yourself a little.
If your company offers training for high-tech staffers then you should consider yourself lucky. Many companies fail to develop the talent they have inside their own doors. More importantly, if you don't feel you are getting the training you need, you need to take matters into your own hands and make every day a learning experience so you can move to a company that shows a bit more understanding of the link between training and productivity.
about this column.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/dewelch/ce/
He can reached via email at email@example.com