Thursday, February 26, 2009

Training Recommendations From President Obama

The full text of President Obama's address can be found here at CNN.
The other night I was watching President Obama’s address, the “non-state of the union” State Of The Union and found myself once again enraptured by the same masterful rhetoric that caught my attention during this past election cycle.


There was something in President Obama’s presentation that caught my ear… well, there were actually a lot of things that caught my ear. But my mind kept coming back to this one point much like your tongue is drawn to the raw edge of a jagged tooth.


It just wouldn’t go away.


In the latter half of the speech, President Obama said:


“…It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma…”


For the full text of President Obama's address, click on the picture above.


Over the past couple of years, I’ve read a number of books that encourage individuals to invest in their own education. At the very end of his book, The Accidental Salesperson, Chris Lyttle states that taking responsibility for your own education is the best investment you will ever make. And in a book entitled Self Made in America, the author, John McCormack, goes on extensively about the education system in America. He takes the position that in order to compete effectively on a global scale, we need to invest in our people and ourselves.


John McCormack wrote his book back in 1992, so this is not a new concept. At some level, every small businessperson realized that in order for their company to be a player in the growing global economy, they would need smart, quick, agile people who could turn on a mental dime. And in order to keep them smart, quick and agile, they would need to make a professional development investment in those people as well as themselves. However, I think this is the first time in my lifetime that I’ve heard the President of the United States strongly encourage people to invest in their own education and training.


Here is an interesting phenomenon.


I have seen a lot of discussion about the “War For Talent”. Yet, over the past year, I have also seen a lot of email comes across the wire from people who were trainers and educators looking for work. They said that their entire department had either been reduced in size or entirely slashed and they were looking for employment alternatives.


What!!?? I’m in a war for acquiring talent and my budget for holding onto that talent and keeping sharp and o them is zero dollars?


Cutting the entire training group during hard economic times may have made sense for companies in the “agricultural age” and maybe some sense in the “industrial age”, but to cut training in the “information age”? Where your people are considered “knowledge workers” and our commerce depends on how effective we can sell and move information? That makes about as much sense as an Olympic wrestler going to his coach and saying, “Coach! I need to loose 5 pounds to make my weight classification. Here, cut off my foot! I’ll worry about getting it back after the match.”


I’ve been through my share of layoffs, downsizes, right-sizes, outsourcing programs and corporate realignments. In all cases, I’ve never seen a company that “cuts off its foot to make weight” become a dominant player. The good people typically find other gigs.


And the rest?


Well, they simply hang on while the company slowly sails off into the sunset of obscurity.


Is it possible to come back after such extreme measures? I guess. Anything is possible. It’s just that I’ve never seen it happen.


The lesson here, however, is for the individual.


As a former manager told me on several occasions, there is life after [put your company name here]. Companies come and go, and there will always be corporate layoffs. You, however, can’t afford to cut your training and development budget. If you want to be a player in this new global economy, then you need to heed President Obama’s words and take ownership of your own training and development program as well as your personal branding and promotion program. This includes increasing your personal knowledge, like learning the new communication technologies, as well as developing new skills sets, including communication, presentation, leadership and most importantly, sales skills.


My personal preference is for communication and sales training. Some may think that I’m being biased here, but I’m not.


Imagine applying for a sales position and hearing “I think you are a great closer, but I can get my website to close the sale 24 hours a day 7 days a week. What I need is someone who understands the consultative sale and can partner with our important clients.”


Or imagine yourself thinking that you’ve got all of the qualifications to excel at the job you are applying for only to be beaten by the guy who was not as good as you but able to better articulate and sell their skills and abilities.


As we move forward in a questionable economy, we need to be somewhat selfish and think about our own future. Ask yourself these questions:



  1. What kinds of knowledge and skills are going to make me more marketable in the future?

  2. What kinds of skills will I need to adequately present my abilities to possible clients or employers?

  3. What types of companies will be looking for the types of skills that I have or I am developing and how many of them will be out there when I am ready to move forward?

  4. How should I present my skills and abilities to my prospective buyer (the company you are interviewing with or the client you are wooing) so that I look better than my competitors (the other guy interviewing for the same job or the overseas outsourcing company selling their service)?”

  5. How and where can I develop these skills?


A company is only as good as the people that it employs. And with every company talking about the “War for Talent” realize that they are talking about YOU. You, the individual, are the “Talent” that they are fighting over. But in order to get as many players fighting over you and your skill set, you will need to make a substantial investment in developing your own talents, skills and abilities.


If you want companies to clamor over you, either to hire you as an employee or to take you on as a consultant, invest in developing your skills and abilities.


Don't wait for the Corporate Suits to provide your training. Create your own education and training program and start moving forward today.

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