While many career paths are either shrinking or have too many qualified professionals—think attorneys— there is good news for people who want a career in corporate training. It’s one of the fastest growing occupations.
You can either take a traditional or nontraditional path for this career. The traditional path involves having a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in training and development, education, human resources, computer science, or instructional design. For someone right out of school, having these degrees opens the door for entry level jobs.
Going the traditional route is wonderful for people who are just starting their careers and can financially afford to take an entry level position. But what about the people who decide they would like to become a corporate trainer after spending years in another field?
Chances are they would not be hired into an entry level position. So if that door is closed, how can they make the transition from their current career to one in learning and development?
It’s not as difficult as it may seem.
Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with people who want to learn how they can become a trainer.
The first question I ask them is ‘do you have any experience training someone one-on-one?’ Their immediate response is usually “no.” What I have found, is if you ask the right follow up questions, most people actually have done some training. It might be at their church or synagogue, serving as a soccer coach, but they have trained.
What I have observed is that people who want to become a corporate trainer usually have several key characteristics in common. They have good communication skills; interpersonal skills and are genuinely interested in helping someone accomplish a goal. It’s not surprising if in high school they worked on the school newspaper, were on the team lead for cohort projects, did volunteer work and often took the lead in project refinement.
Others started their careers as reporters. They are good at asking questions and most important they know how to listen. But the one criteria that I look for is their motivation. If people don’t enjoy seeing others improve chances are this is not the right field for them.
What I encourage people to do is to create a list that captures past experiences which are applicable to the field. The key is to demonstrate to others and to themselves that they have the basic skills that corporate trainers need. Maybe they are a member of Toast Masters. Or they write a blog. Or they facilitate meetings. All these experiences matter.
There are five more important steps that people should take if they are trying to start a career as a corporate trainer.
- Read everything you can about the field. The amount of information that you can find just by doing some Google searches is phenomenal. Get familiar with the trends, issues and challenges people in the field are experiencing.
- Join LinkedIn groups that are for people in the Learning and Development field. There are rich conversations every day. And, by participating you can start to network with people in the field and learn the vernacular.
- Volunteer to train at a nonprofit. Sign up through organizations like VolunteerMatch.org. You will have more opportunities than you probably can handle. If you are not confident that you are ready to lead training, then ask the training volunteers if you could shadow them. It’s a great way to learn and add valuable experience to your resume. It’s a win-win. You help the nonprofit and at the same time you are adding much needed experience to your resume.
- Find a mentor. Find someone that has the skills and let them know your passion to change your career. Often, seasoned facilitators will be honored to spend some time with you and perhaps mentor you. Many of the TrainSmart facilitators and I have provided this education.
- Take certification courses. Check your local community college, and online courses to either get an addition degree or get certified in some aspect of training. There are lots of programs for virtual facilitation and instructional design. Full disclosure: TrainSmart does offer the only instructor-led Train-the-Trainer: Master Trainer Certification Program in the United States that is certified by the International Board of Certified Trainers.
While taking our TTT does not guarantee that you will earn the certification immediately, it provides adult learners with a strong foundation and a confidence that they can do the job.
Update: Looking to become a certified trainer in 2016? We are offering open enrollment courses in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Philadelphia and Orlando. Have a group of 5 or more, we have on-site options for you too.