Training has been a mainstay during the last 10 years my career. I’ve only missed 2 Devoxx Belgium editions and probably followed over 3 dozen trainings. But I’m starting to realize a shift in how I look at training and how my criteria have changed now that I’m an independent contractor.
Price no longer matters
When I was an employee, I’d probably think twice about even considering going to a training that costs over 2000 euros. Just the administrative hoops and the amount of paperwork would deter me, not to mention the countless times I’d have to sell the idea to my manager/HR/whatever.
Now that I’m my own boss, I have a very clear view on my financial situation. I can quickly assess whether a certain expense is possible. This makes one of the biggest hurdles go away. Instead, now my criteria have completely shifted. Price is seldomly an issue now, I was at some point even considering spending over 5000 euros on a conference in the US. But now, I start to look at whether the date of a conference/training isn’t interfering with my personal life. If I was handed the opportunity to follow such a training when I was an employee, you’re damn right I’m going. Damn the kids, damn the wife, I’m going to JavaOne, WOOHOO!
Quantity no longer matters
In the last 6 months, I’ve followed 3 trainings and went to 3 conferences. In the next 2 months, I’m going to do 2 more trainings. This would be totally impossible if I was an employee. With internal fairness policies, it would be unthinkable that a single employee would get this many trainings.
Now, if I like a training and my calendar allows it, chances are I’m going. I’ve put a soft limit of 30 days that I’m allowing myself to do trainings/conferences, and to a large extent, this is extremely liberating. If I see two trainings that are extremely interesting, I’ll probably do both. I no longer need to choose, nor feel guilty on making a choice.
Thinking outside the box
If you want to do a training as an employee, there probably needs to be a connection between your current job and the training. Otherwise you’ll get quite hard questions on why you should do the training. For example, I’ll be following a Management 3.0 course in a couple of months. Why? Because I got a small teaser of the course and it sparked my interest. I might have been able to sell this to my manager in the past, but it would have been an uphill battle.
Being able to choose whatever you feel you need in order to grow professionally without having the sell the idea to anyone else besides yourself and your professional bank account is liberating to a level I never imagined possible.
You know the feeling. Your colleague got selected to go to JavaOne and you’re stuck in the office. A month later they do a presentation on how fantastic the trip was and how they rented a sports car to drive through Silicon Valley, and share some of the knowledge they gained. Perhaps, maybe, you’ll get the chance next year.
It’s very gratifying to go ‘Screw you!’, book a ticket and go yourself. And book a ticket for Spring One. And that great developer conference in New York. I never need to be jealous anymore at someone because they get to go to a conference and I don’t. If I decide not to go, it’s because I choose not to go.
No more being too late
You find this awesome training which you want to follow. So you put in a request to your management. A month later you finally get the green light… only to discover that the training is now fully booked. If this happens right now, the only person to blame is myself for dragging the decision along. If I see a training that I really want to follow, I don’t need permission. I just book the training then and there.
Becoming an independent contractor changed my habits regarding training drastically, more than anything else. For the first time in 10 years, I’m happy to look at my development path, both in the past and the future. I’m totally in control. I just wish the companies I joined adopted that same amount of freedom. Perhaps less people would leave and become independent contractors.Tweet this article