Once you receive your degree, you are done with school forever, right? Wrong.
One of the most important things you learned in school was how to learn. You developed good study habits and figured out what methods work for you. Once you’re out of school, you also need to be able to identify what you need to learn. Knowing what you don’t know, and how to learn that, is crucial for long-term career success.
Technology is always changing. There may be better tools, techniques, or methods that could prove useful in your work. Perhaps you got a promotion and now have new responsibilities. Do you know how to manage others or negotiate with suppliers? You could just wing it and learn by trial and error, but that might end up being costly for your employer and your career.
Often, it makes sense to study in a more formal setting—such as attending a workshop or taking a class. Even if you already know most of what is discussed, forcing yourself to spend a significant block of time focusing on that topic—and thinking about what has worked for you and what has not—can be extremely valuable. You may realize you know more than you thought you did.
Training could include attending a professional conference where you listen to fellow scientists discuss their work. Others are often wrestling with the same problems you are and may have solutions that can be applied to your problems.
Sometimes, you attend a class and think, “That would never work!” Thinking about why it would not and what you could do to modify either your environment or the technique to make it work might prove fruitful.
Sometimes the only thing you learn is “I never want to do that again.” That’s great! You can then work to delegate that responsibility and focus your time on what you do enjoy.
Training has other advantages as well. By attending a class, you will meet others interested in the same topic, enabling you to build your professional network in a new direction. A certificate of completion, especially if it’s from a highly respected organization, provides a third-party, independent verification of your expertise in a particular subject area. Seeking out training, for example at the ACS national meeting in Boston (www.acs.org/bostoncd), shows your willingness to learn and try new things. If you’re between positions, the right training can not only make you more marketable but also show your commitment to your profession.
Training is an investment in your professional future. If you’re going to ask your company to pay for it, be prepared to explain how it’s going to help you do your job better.
If your employer pays for training and expenses, will you need to take personal time off to attend? Can you work extra hours beforehand to make up for the time you will be gone? Being willing to put in your own resources will show the company that you will take the training seriously.
While you may be done with school, remember that your education will never be finished.
Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (www.acs.org/network-careers).