Preparing for a job in the training industry
Whether you want to be a trainer, a sales person, a project manager – or any role from a multitude of others – the training industry can provide a rewarding and interesting career.
Filed in Skills development
Moving into any new industry can be daunting, but many people have successfully made the move from other industries into training - whether that's IT training, e-learning, soft-skills training or management training. One of the great things about the training industry is the wide variety of roles available - so moving into training doesn't have to mean becoming a trainer. These roles include:
- training sales
- training sales management
- training consulting
- field sales
- consultative sales
- project management
- course development
- instructional design
- e-learning/multimedia developer
As you can see from this list (which isn't exhaustive, by any means) there's scope for people with a proven track record in one industry to successfully move to another.
From which industry are you moving?
It's clearly going go to help if the industry in which you're now working is similar to the training industry - for example, it's far less of a leap for someone working in sales in the HR industry to move into the training industry than it is for a car sales person, who's likely to have learnt how to sell in a way that's too 'productised' or pushy for the training industry. But that's not to say that the leap can't be made - a successful sales person is always going to be someone who is good with people, listens well, can learn about the products which he or she is selling and who is good at offering advice in a non-threatening way.
Do your research
Just as you would want to do some research before moving to a foreign country, so you need to do your homework before leaping into another industry. You can't make any assumptions about how an industry works - they each have their own markets, products, services, culture, ways of networking, professional organisations, publications and so on.
Which qualifications will you need?
For starters, you may lack qualifications and experience. Experience is that old chicken-and-egg problem: you can't get it until you have it. Qualifications are somewhat easier, though require an investment in time and money. For IT trainers, there's a requirement to learn both a technology set and how to train. Learning a technology set can put you in direct contact with an IT training company, experiencing what it's like to be taught first hand; how courses run; how trainers work; what the courseware is like. So there's a double benefit - it's certainly better than learning from a book. You may even be able to make contacts which can help you find your first job - IT training companies are generally friendly and encourage networking.
IT trainers also need to be accredited to deliver courses in their chosen technology: for example, being a Microsoft Certified Trainer is a requirement if you're going to work in any Microsoft Certified Provider Partner for Learning Solutions (the long and official name for an authorised Microsoft training company). This training - and the subsequent examination - isn't a cakewalk, so be prepared. Also, because IT changes all the time, you'll need to be continually learning.
As an additional string to your bow, or if you're planning to teach topics other than just IT, a qualification in training will help open doors - whether you plan to train within a training company, or in the training department of a large organisation. TAP (trainer assessment programme) is delivered by The Training Foundation and is recognised by The Institute of IT Training as a qualification which entitles you to higher levels of membership. It's a popular programme which won the Queen's Award for Enterprise Innovation in 2005. Another route is to take an NVQ - again, the Institute recognises NVQs (at level 3) when accrediting members. CIPD (Chartered Institute of Professional Development) also offers a range of courses which result in a recognised training qualification.
Joining professional bodies
Membership of a professional body will also provide valuable credibility: we've already mentioned the Institute of IT Training (for a career in IT training) and CIPD (for a broader career) - and there's also the British Computer Society, again, a great body to be a member of if you're involved in IT and IT training.
Learning about training
Of course, if you're moving into sales, you're not going to need to learn how to train, but you are going to need to learn about training itself - and about the products/concepts on which the training is about. The learning industry requires people within it to learn all the time - so if you don't like learning, don't bother! You don't need to be a SQL Server expert to sell SQL Server training, and you don't need to be a behavioural psychologist to sell team leadership courses - but you do have to understand the basic principles and be able to hold an intelligent conversation about them.
If your goal is sales, then membership of bodies such as the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management is going to set you apart from your peers - and even if you're not a trainer, membership of bodies such as The Institute of IT Training can help you with networking, learning and career progression.
Learning about the training market
You also need to learn about your chosen market. Here the Internet makes life much easier - enabling you to identify and research the market, market leaders, publication and so on without wearing out any shoe leather. The learning industry is remarkably competitor-aware, so a potential employer will expect you to know about the industry and about its competitors. It's yet more learning - but it's essential if you want to impress at an interview.
The effort, once you've landed your job, will be well worthwhile. The training industry is a constantly changing, stimulating and interesting place to be - with lots of career opportunities.