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Professional development courses: a load of old tosh?


If, like me, you are registered with a number of job sites, you will probably get a weekly or even daily glut of emails telling you that you really ought to think about taking some sort of training course. Be it a course in Dreamweaver, Flash or anything else design or web-related, there is apparently a course for everyone in the job market out there. The trouble is, working out which courses are any good can be quite a challenge in itself.

I've been considering a career move or even a career change for over a year now (senior copywriter/editor/something comms-related, since you ask). My CV is up to scratch, I believe, and I'm pretty good at covering letters; I know this because I've had six interviews in the last 12 months for some decent jobs. Unfortunately, though, I haven't quite got the ball in the back of the net and carried on to get any of those jobs. My ego likes to think that very often it is because someone has already been earmarked for the job; in fact, I know that to be true in three out of the six cases I mentioned. But just to be sure, I recently decided that maybe I needed a bit of professional guidance on interview technique just in case I was dropping the ball in some way. Perhaps referring using ball-related metaphors every two minutes is a bad thing, for instance. So I duly signed up to such a course run by a very, very well-known establishment. I won't name them here, though. Why? Well, the trouble was that the 'expert' who took the course was a moron.

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 which clearly didn't encourage it.

Once we were all there, name-badged up with biros 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 - see the photo at the top if you're in any doubt as to either who or the type of person she is. She even had the flip pad upon which she wrote various things which 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'. Jeez, Louise! (Oh, sorry Jeez being a vulgarisation of Jesus, I have now blasphemed instead. Pray, forgive me...)

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. It was littered with mistakes and, 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 is through personal recommendation. So my question to you, loyal Creativepool readers, is can you recommend a course in your chosen field which 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

[email protected]


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