Training courses: just a day of your life that you won't get back?

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It's Monday morning. Email hell beckons. I've got my Creativepool blog to write but I do also need to try and whittle down the daily glut of Groupons, StumbleUpons, Voucherclouds, More Groupons, and LinkedIn's “congratulate Billy-Bob on his new job” suggestions that have flooded my already bulging inbox. Otherwise my 342 unread emails will rocket to 596 before I've had the chance to give due consideration as to whether I really need that pair of “limited availability” sheepskin slippers or the “last-minute bargain” Suffolk mini-break. Or even the facial reduced from £79 to £19. Hm.

"You can never be too qualified, right?"

But in amongst all these emails are the constant prods to take some sort of work-related course. Because you can never be too qualified, right? Strings to bows, arrows in quivers, tools in the toolbox; whatever metaphor they use to entice and cajole, the recruitment sites all tell us that we should be training, retraining and re-retraining. And then do a bit more training.

There's a modicum of truth in that, granted. One copywriting guru whom I follow (who's worth a couple of million quid, I hear – he's that good) is constantly staggered at how few copywriters actually take the time to study and learn about marketing; about how selling works. Because let's face it, if you're writing to try and convince an audience to do something – which is usually the whole point of copywriting – then what good is that if you don't know the proven best ways to sell​?

"At worst, they will make you want to take your brain out and scrub it with a wire brush..."

But while copywriters (say) might benefit from a little bit of studying on the marketing front, there are myriad courses out there that are also a complete waste of time. At best, these are days away from the office (unless you're freelance, of course, in which case, it's a day's lost pay, potentially). At worst, they will make you want to take your brain out and scrub it with a wire brush to get rid of all the gunk that's now interfering with your synapses. Trust me, I know. I was on one of them.

This is a few years ago now – before my considered leap into the freelance world – but having been off the job market for a long time, I thought maybe I should brush up on my interview technique. Already aware that some courses are a load of old tosh, I signed up to this one because it was run by a very, very well-known establishment. I won't name them here, though. Why? Well, the trouble was that the “expert” running the course was an idiot.

Call me old fashioned, but when you meet someone for the first time in any professional capacity, training course or otherwise, the done thing is to adopt a winning but not sleazy smile, look them confidently in the eye without being too “here's Johnny” about it and shake their hand with a firmness which neither says “wet fish” nor “Hulk Hogan”. On this occasion, I didn't have the chance to do any of that because the expert exuded body language that clearly didn't encourage it.

Once we were all there, name-badged up with pens in hand, she then went on to talk to us as if we were either five years old or intellectually subnormal. Think Marjorie Dawes from Little Britain's Fat Fighters. She even had the flip pad upon which she wrote various things that we had to shout out “nice and loud” during our brainstorming session.

Except, of course, that it wasn't a brainstorming session. Oh, no. Marjorie (for that is what I shall now dub her) said that it was no longer politically correct to use the term “brainstorming” because it is apparently offensive to sufferers of epilepsy. No, no, now we have to refer to it as (wait for it) “thought showering”.

"Feel free to punch something inanimate nearby at this point. Or just dig your fingernails into your thigh, like I did..."

Marjorie had also lovingly prepared for us a spiral-bound booklet on how to prepare for an interview, which she proceeded to read out in a pointless and wearisome drawl. Now, perhaps talking the talk is her forte (well, forte in the broadest sense); but if proofreading and spelling isn't, then you'd think she'd have the common sense to ask someone vaguely qualified in that area to cast their eye over her magnum opus.

The work upon which she had slaved for tireless hours was littered with mistakes. Given that she warned us several times that if our CVs and covering letters weren't faultless then our applications would get no further than the bin, you'd think she'd make sure that her pearls of wisdom would at least be spelt correctly.

But even on the Contents page I spied the heading 10 Confidential Boosters rather than 10 Confidence Boosters. There was even inconsistency in the use of “CV” and “C.V.” – ironically, on the page warning against misspellings.

If nothing else, my own experience proves there are no guarantees that a training course will be any good, however reputable the organisation. It seems to me that the best way to find a decent course might be through personal recommendation. So my question to you, Creativepoolers, is can you recommend a course in your chosen field that might actually benefit people who want a leg up in your industry? Answers below, please...

by Ashley Morrison

Ashley is a copywriter, blogger and editor


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