Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Evaluating Education Opportunities

As the photo education industry continues to rapidly expand, and many people plan for WPPI, it's important to evaluate what makes a quality education experience.  Even when you aren't paying to attend a free online webinar or tradeshow presentation, your time has value and it's important that you're able to walk away from an educational experience feeling like you made the best use of your time.  Just as you might search for reviews before purchasing equipment, I think it's equally valuable to do a little homework and make sure that the educational experiences you sign up for are aligned with who you are and what you need.  Use these steps to focus your time and energy productively:

Step 1: Evaluate Your Needs
Make sure the education you pursue is aligned with where you are RIGHT NOW in your life or business.  What's the FIRST thing you need to take action on?  If you don't have a portfolio of work or clients, than your priority should be focused on portfolio development and technical learning, not pricing or business info.  If you know you have a great portfolio but are struggling with bringing clients in the door, focus on marketing and sales.  Be realistic about what you're most likely to take action on immediately so that your time spent learning can be applied as soon as possible.  While this sounds obvious, there are people who like to consume any and every education opportunity possible, and you need to acknowledge if you fall into that category and start getting more focused about what you really need right now.

Step 2: Know Your Learning Style
If you haven't read a non-fiction ebook from start to finish in the last year, than giving your email address to someone for a free e-book probably is going to benefit the writer more than it benefits you.  Do you prefer podcasts you can listen to while traveling or videos that visually demonstrate techniques?  Is it hard for you to focus unless you're in a physical workshop setting with other attendees?  Do you need a printed book or full video that you can review multiple times rather than a webinar that will disappear?  Know what helps you succeed as a learner and avoid tempting offers that will simply fill your inbox without helping you move forward.

Step 3: Understand Your Desired Interaction Level
If you just have a couple quick questions around a topic area that don't need extensive explanation, than perhaps a webinar format can work if it offers Q&A.  If you have an extended set of questions about your specific situation that you don't want don't want to share publicly, than you may want to seek a mentor, coach, or consultant to work with one-on-one.  Is the topic something that could benefit from group discussion?  Than perhaps a group workshop where you can interact with other attendees will be beneficial.  Know how much guidance and feedback you need to help you take action before choosing an educational opportunity.

Once you've taken time to outline your needs as a learner, you can better filter opportunities and be more productive in how you allocate your time for education.

Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

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