Does your company provide you with a learning budget? And, more importantly, do you know how and where to spend it? Nowadays, the amount of learning options are almost unlimited, starting with online workshops and upskilling training and ending with mini-degrees and in-person conferences. However, most often, the abundance of learning budget ideas leads to not spending the budget at all, especially if you have already done this kind of workshop and purchased that kind of book in the past.
If such a moment comes and you don't know where to spend your learning budget anymore - all you need to think of are unique learning options. And it shouldn't be as unusual as you think. Learning something new from a topic you haven't thought of before is already unusual enough. Or attending a conference that you wouldn't participate in otherwise might also be your unusual but effective learning investment. Let's brainstorm and think of all learning budget ideas available out there.
Traditional learning investments
To ensure we steer clear from traditional learning investments and find creative learning budget allocations, we need to name everything that might be considered traditional. Firstly, these are certifications meant to upskill your position or open new career paths. Depending on the position you hold, certification increases your value in the job market and puts you a step ahead.
Another learning investment you can often meet is online or offline courses directly linked to your job or position. Usually, these courses are focused on hard skills and are taught by a trainer or online via Coursera or Udemy. These can also be courses improving your soft skills, be it knowledge of how to give or receive feedback, people management, or communication skills.
The last most traditional learning investment is attending conferences, again directly linked to your area of business, organized online or offline. The goal of these is to enhance your personal and professional development and, in the best case scenario, meet with other professionals like yourself, network and establish useful connections.
Non-traditional learning investments
What is then the non-traditional learning investment? Usually, you don't need to go far away to come up with a creative learning budget allocation. It can easily be a workshop you haven't thought of taking before or conference you were always ignoring because you thought it's not that relevant to your job. Let's explore non-traditional learning budget ideas in more detail.
Workshops or courses outside your area of expertise
Workshops and courses are the most common ways to spend your learning budget. However, we mostly take it too narrow and think of only workshops directly linked to our position or skill within this position. But what if to take it broader or think of other areas that might benefit your role but are not directly covered in your job description?
For example, if you are a Project Manager, the traditional thinking is to get a course directly linked with project management - to learn ways of perfect planning, different project management methods, etc. However, to spend a learning budget in a non-traditional way, you might want to learn more about teams and their job roles. If you work with delivering creative materials - you can get a workshop on creativity or design, or if you plan projects within customer support - you can get a one-day training on how the actual customer service job is done.
This type of learning won't be for anything because while you won't improve a skill listed in your job description, you will understand the areas and teams you work with, sometimes daily. You will understand their point of view, why some processes take more time than others and will learn the broader picture bringing you a better understanding of how to cooperate with other teams and perform your job better.
Individual training with experts
Another alternative to the traditional learning option of workshops and courses is organizing individual training with an expert who usually leads the workshop or course. In contrast to regular workshops where generally more people are in the class and there's not much time to focus on the specific needs of each, during an individual training you will get an opportunity to go through points that interest only you.
Organizing a two-hour individual meeting with an expert might be much more beneficial than attending a full-day workshop on the same topic. During personal training, you can easily adjust the program based on your needs – cut the theory part, hear more examples from an expert, or go through your challenges and cases in more detail. Although such a non-traditional learning option might be times more expensive than attending a course with a group of people, the knowledge you will gain will pay off.
When it comes to events, traditionally, we first think of conferences within the industry we work in or tailored to our positions. However, another beneficial type of event worth considering is networking. Indeed, networking events won't teach you theory related to your job. Still, it will allow you to meet with many interesting people, including those having the same role as you or someone working in a totally different field but still inspiring to you.
If you think you're rather an introvert and this activity is not for you - think again. Introverts sometimes might benefit from networking even more than extroverts. The only thing that's needed is not to pressure yourself with some unrealistic number of new contacts you need to make during that day. Instead, take it slow and be thoughtful about your connections. Find a person to talk to and ask about their career, life experience, or even hobbies. Communication skill is crucial nowadays, and such a networking event can be a perfect way to spend a learning budget.
You have probably heard of public speaking as one of the most popular courses to take while improving your soft skills. However, you might take an untraditional route and take your public speaking to a totally new level – by joining a local theatre or an improvisation class.
Theatre lessons will first teach you how to overcome a fear of being on stage, in front of a room of strangers, and how to effectively communicate with people you haven't met before while improvising or preparing for a theatre play. Nowadays, many companies and industries sometimes focus more on soft skills and emotional intelligence than even technical skills. While learning a technical skill you're missing is relatively easy – emotional intelligence and communication skills are harder to acquire. But, thanks to theatre classes, you can boost your soft skills much quicker and have fun while doing it.
Wellbeing and mindfulness courses
When it comes to courses and workshops – these shouldn't be just about upskilling yourself in your job with hard or soft skills. You can also get a workshop focused on well-being and mindfulness and learn how to live a well-balanced life. Such courses are also available online; however, for the best learning experience, it's better to find an offline workshop to be fully present in the moment.
Mindfulness teaches us to appreciate everything that happens around us and with us and finally start listening to ourselves, what we usually forget in the constant noise of social media, work emails, and kitchen talks. One of the ways to calm our mind is through meditation and breathing exercises; if you know how to do it right, even two minutes can help you get a better focus and more effective performance afterward. This proves that a mindfulness course is beneficial both for your personal and professional development.
While you may have already heard of mentoring as a way to maximize your learning budget funds, a more non-traditional approach would be to join a highly personalized mentoring program. The mentoring program allows a mentee to find a mentor who is usually more experienced in the industry or holds a higher position than a mentee. By joining a program offering you the perfect match for 1:1 mentoring sessions, you are targeting your individual needs.
The relationship brings many unique mentorship experiences for both a mentee and a mentor, usually possible thanks to closer cooperation and an opportunity to get to know each other. One of the main mentoring program benefits, in contrast to courses or even individual lessons with an expert, is that a mentee gets a chance to build a long-term relationship and learn from a mentor who usually went through all challenges on the same career path before and now can share the best case scenarios and tips to avoid barriers.
Time to maximize the learning funds
As described in examples, there are many ways to spend the learning budget in a non-traditional way and maximize the learning funds allocated, starting from attending workshops outside your area of expertise, attending theatre lessons, or gaining unique mentorship benefits by enrolling in a mentoring program. Of course, there are even more ways to spend your learning budget, but we recommend starting with the tips above.
Would you like to allocate your learning budget funds to mentoring or coaching? Check out Femme Palette’s offer of programs to kickstart your career growth!