A few weeks ago, I polled Twitter to discover what you think is the greatest challenge in IT. It turns out, unanimously, that PEOPLE are the number one issue. IT and related business processes change and adapt within certain parameters; but people are a largely uncontrollable variable. What can we, collectively as an industry and individually as employees, do to master the ever-shifting miasma of IT and its related business processes?
We can obtain training: certifications, online or in-seat classes, lectures, notes, books, and the related minutia that goes along with it. In a large company, training is a necessity and matter of course; however, a small company may have the need, but not the capacity to provide training, for various reasons. Often in small businesses, one person fulfils many roles within the company compounds the need for training with the inability to continue normal business operations while personnel attend training. This leads to the necessity for OJT: on the job training. This post is for small businesses or individuals requiring job-specific training/knowledge and certifications without the wherewithal to obtain them.
Unfortunately, it’s often hard to know what you don’t know until you find yourself in a situation requiring that unidentified knowledge. Once you know exactly what you need to know, you may not know how to get to it. A lot of people have advised me they just don’t know where to start. Instructor-led training is one option, depending on when you need the information and whether you need Continuing Education Units (CEUs). However, if you need immediate, accurate, cheap or free assistance, Google the topic you need to know. With a little incentive and elbow grease you can find information on any topic. The key to ensuring accuracy is to cross-check your resources to guarantee your information is factual and not opinion-based. You can also check out Amazon.com and your local public library for cheap or borrowed textbooks and references.
If you need certifications, they are usually offered in two separate parts: preparation and an exam. A plethora of companies offer online, on-demand, and in-seat exam preparation, or a hybrid of these solutions. Some also offer a self-guided study option in which you purchase the textbook or guide, study at your own pace, and take the exam when you’re ready. While there are many variables to consider, not least of which are your learning style, propensity in retaining information, and diligence, the greatest factors for small businesses to address are cost and time. Can the company afford the prep course and certification fees? The majority of the time, the prep course is much more costly than the certification exam. The study guide is typically under a quarter of the cost of the certification course, making self-study a more cost-effective option. Small businesses (or busy people in general) should also consider the time investment. Can the company continue normal business operations without you while you are in training? Or can you study on your own in your spare time, at lunch, at night, and at the gym? All things considered, self-guided study is a more cost- and time-effective solution in which you can advance your knowledge and career while maintaining the company’s low overhead.
On a personal side note, I firmly deny any allegations that I am a recluse who lobbies vociferously against in-seat, online, or hybrid training. I’ve completed each of these training and certification exam preparation methods and have enjoyed learning from both in-seat and online instructors. I definitely am not critiquing the much-needed and highly-esteemed training professionals – Oh, how we do need them! But if your company or you cannot afford the training, and you must have the knowledge, take the cost-effective route and buy the study guide.
I’ll publish a list next week of the best free or cheap sites for self-guided training and certification prep. In the meantime, what do you think about OJT? Which method do prefer: In-seat, online, hybrid, or self-guided? Do you have a favorite reference/training/certification site you’d like to recommend our readers?