By Katy Caselli- Organizational Psychologist, Author, Speaker, Instructor

Did you know that 60-90% of all corporate training efforts fail?*As a student who is trying to advance in an organization, it may be up to you to get the absolute most out of every training experience you can get your hands on.

First- identify the skills you do not have, but need, to get ahead. One common way to advance is to get better technical skills, another is to gain leadership skills, so you can accomplish more through people. You can the gain the skills you need to move up by finding a mentor to talk with, reading books about advancing your career, and watching others in the organization. Begin to form an idea or “vision” about where you want to be and think about it often. You will begin to notice opportunities to gain new skills and knowledge.

Next- state your intentions to people in your organization, or your network outside of the organization, who can help you. If your current boss is a no-go, talk with other leaders who can expand your network and point you in the right direction for resources, such as classes, books, and people to meet. Then, make the effort, with your vision firmly in mind. Read the books, talk with people and ask their advice, and take advantage of free online resources, such as blogs, podcasts and low cost or free online courses. For example: MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has free online courseware, and some can even earn you credits! Do not spend time feeling defeated about the obstacles you face, even negative comments from peers and others. Focusing on the positive will help you ignore that noise and notice opportunities instead.

After you find the learning materials that will give you the knowledge you need, it is up to you to turn it into a skill you can build on. For example: Have you heard feedback that you could use better communication skills? Read up, or take a course, or watch others, then practice these new ways of communicating every time you get a chance. Need to resolve conflicts? Learn it and practice on the three people who really get under your skin. Before you know it, people are noticing your different way of working. Sustain it through practice and refer to your clear vision of your next step and pretty soon opportunities will come your way.

It helps if you realize you can do it, take charge of your career advancement and set a clear vision to get results, such as a fat raise and promotions. It also helps if you are in a field you actually like. If not, then use the above steps to get into a field that interests you more. Lay the groundwork with education (your organization might pay for it!), strong connections and focused actions to bring you forward every day.

Here is a brief story of how I did this: I decided I needed to advance my career after my second child was born, so that my husband and I could afford for him to stay home and raise them, keeping them out of daycare. He was to run a part time home business and I needed to get a 15,000 raise in the next year to make it work.

I was an expert in workforce training but not a leader, so; still on maternity leave, I set off for the library and checked out The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey and a few others on leadership. I had a vision and repeated my goal to myself daily. I used each new skill I learned and became indispensable to a boss I formerly clashed with, and; I met my goal, becoming the leader of twelve other training professionals and trusted with high profile projects and initiatives. As we lived in an expensive part of California, we were proud to be able to keep one parent home in a part of the country where housing costs account for most of the household income. This experience was one of the best lessons of my life: that you can make learning work for you; just take it into your own hands.

* Don Clark, 2015

Katy Caselli is the author of Building Giants: A Proven System to Transform Your Workforce Through Effective Training. She has taught thousands of advancing leaders in small and large corporations on both the east and west coasts of the United States. See more at