News from my world: I took my first massage therapy continuing education class this weekend!  I improved my ability to nail down trigger points, learned a bit about gua sha and what it can do for fascial adhesions, and got a cool petichiae hickey on my neck for my efforts.  Woohoo!  I also got some insight to what it’s like to work in a physician’s or chiropractor’s office—very different from what we’d learned in our schooling so far.

Having been through the process myself, these are my six tips for taking continuing education courses as a massage therapy student.

1. Find out whether the content suits you.

This means a couple of things.  On a basic level, does the topic interest you?  Will it help you in your career? If you can’t answer “yes” to both of these, don’t waste the money.  You’re not going to retain the information well, anyway.

On the second level of deciding whether the content is appropriate, will you be able to understand the subject matter at your current level of education? There were a LOT of students in the course I attended (probably because of the super discount!) and the professionals and more advanced students all made sure that the newer students were helped and cared for.  I’d like to think that all massage therapists are friendly, helpful people who would always behave like this … but I also know that this just isn’t the case.  Ask the instructor of the course or your own massage instructor whether a given CE course seems appropriate for you.

2. Figure out the nitty-gritty.

I shouldn’t really have to say this, but … know where the course is being held.  Know how to get there, and the number to call if your car gets unexpectedly carried away by a tornado just as you are planning to leave.  Know what time it starts.  Know whether you should bring sheets and oil and towels, whether you can pay by check, and whether you need your student I.D. on hand.  Send as many emails as it takes, make as many phone calls as you need to in order to figure all this stuff out beforehand.

3. If you’re shy, bring a friend.

I can’t say enough in favor of this tactic.  I was mildly petrified (as I tend to be) at the prospect of being a student in a room full of people with more experience than me.  Seeing a friendly classmate’s face and knowing that you’ve got someone nonthreatening to sit next to is a total lifesaver. As it turned out, everyone there was incredibly nice.  But that didn’t stop the Shymonster from attempting to devour my GI tract from the inside out when I first walked in.

4. Present yourself well.

Dress well.  Come prepared.  Listen attentively and speak intelligently.  Who are the people around you?  Which one of them might be a future employer, or might someday be in a position to refer clients to you?  If you have no idea, you need to assume that it could be anyone, be they classmate or instructor.  Any first impression could constitute an informal interview. Treat it as such.

5. Speak up.

So the instructor said something intriguing but vague, and you’d like to learn more details about it.  Do you

A: ask for more information, or
B: keep your mouth shut and hope you remember to Google it that night?

Question number two: if you are paying to learn from these people, why would you actively avoid getting your money’s worth?

The folks who are teaching you know their stuff. That’s why they are teaching and you are learning. If you could glean the same amount of expertise from Wikipedia articles on the subject, you wouldn’t be spending the big bucks to hang out with these people for a day. So ask.  Ask when you’re confused.  Ask to be sure you’ve got something right.  Ask just because it’s interesting to you.  If they are short on time and want you to call or email them later, they’ll let you know.  As long as you’re on subject and haven’t been told to hold off on questions, questions are probably welcome.  People love to talk about things they know, so why not give them the chance?

6. Keep in touch.

If you clicked well with other students or instructors, get their email or business card or what-have-you.  Find them on LinkedIn or their website.  Businesspeople spend lots of time dressing up to go to boring meetings where they can meet other people in their fields.  They call it networking.  If you take a massage therapy continuing education course and fail to connect with even one person, you’re blowing a chance to build a network of smart massage-type people in a way that avoids the necessity of pantyhose entirely. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE AMAZINGNESS OF BEING ABLE TO NETWORK IN COMFORTABLE SHOES.  I do not use caps lightly; this really is a big deal.

Bonus tip! Edibles = new friends

I actually learned this one at my other continuing education workshop this weekend (having two careers can be bizarre sometimes), through the Cincinnati Association for the Education of Young Children. The provider of goodies can count on being the most popular kid on the block, period. I’ve you’ve got a case of the nerves going in, this might just do the trick of gaining you instabuddies as soon as you walk in the door.

Students?  Pros?  Continuing ed instructors? What are your thoughts on taking continuing education courses as a massage therapy student? Please share your insights!

[The multiple intelligences study tips will return soon.  I had one for logical learners all planned out, but said plans were foiled by the realization that my ability to use spreadsheets is sadly ... sad.  Very sad.  Some coaching from the husband is in order, whereupon the general kickbuttery shall resume at a furious pace.]

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