If a lack of training is putting people in unsafe situations, that should be addressed immediately. But, sometimes there are training gaps—when more instruction would make your job much easier and satisfying. In those moments take control. 

Eight Tips for Self-Directed Training

By Diane Mettler May 12, 2015

Let's face it. Some employers and supervisors are terrible at training. I've heard dozens of horror stories about employees left out there to sink or swim.

My personal horror story was a three-month stint for a state representative. My job was to answer calls from constituents who had questions and requests ranging from, "How do I get property taxes lowered?" to "Can you get my son out of jail?"

The problem was that I had no training and no answers. My employer was gone most of the time, so I spent my days trying to run down answers for these people. When the representative did show up, she provided no solutions, just frustration that I wasn't getting back to folks fast enough. Equally frustrated, I quit.

Taking Control

Ideally, every job should have great on-the-job training, easy to understand protocols and talented supervisors. Sometimes though, there are learning gaps. Sometimes you have to get creative and develop your own training.

Here are 8 examples self-directed training:

  1. Online Courses. Jump on Google to find online courses with the information you need. The bright side is that you can take these at your own speed.
  2. Videos. Depending on your vocation, sites like Media Partners, provide hundreds of hours of online training on all types of topics.
  3. Find a Mentor. If there is someone who has previously walked in your shoes at work, buy them dinner (and maybe a few drinks) and find out what you need to know.
  4. Split the Cost. If your employer won't pay for training, maybe you can split the cost. I've done this and have gone to various classes and conferences I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise.
  5. Bring in Someone. Your supervisor may be well meaning, but overworked. Volunteer to find and bring in the training you need. Your supervisor may welcome your help.
  6. Create or Join a Group. Online groups not only support, but depending on the level of participants can often answer many questions.
  7. Ask for Help. Sometimes, the answer is simply to ask your supervisor for some training or direction. They're human and sometimes forget things—although if they have neglected basic training, that should be a red flag.
  8. Patience. Learning and understanding takes time. Don't beat yourself up if you don't learn things over night.

Again, I'm not saying that on-the-job training should fall on the employee's shoulders. And if the lack of training is putting people in unsafe situations, that should be brought forward immediately. But, sometimes there are training gaps—when more instruction would make your job much easier and satisfying. In those moments take control. 


Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor—with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.