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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Trainer – Where to Now?

There has been really great response to both Recommended End of Year eLearning Tools Spending? and this month's Big Question: Presenting the Value of Social Media for Learning.  For both, lots of ideas that I never would have been able to provide on my own.  I may be pushing my luck, but I received another question that I thought was a good question.

By way of background, this person is a teacher/trainer who is bright and has lots of great experience teaching and training different adults across different topics.  He's well versed in "advanced Teaching-Learning techniques."  But he's looking for a job right now and wants to point himself in a good direction.  Here was his question:

I taught MS Office and HTML for 8 years in college, then went back for an MFA in Fine Art to give my right brain a chance.  I have exceptional talent at training and communicating across disciplines and I’m trying to get back into the job market.  Any ideas about where some “sweet spots” are, niches that are growing, companies that are doing especially well now?  I appreciate any thoughts you can share.

But I've got to imagine this question is bigger than him.  A lot of the core skills that a trainer has can be applied in a lot of different places.  How do you decide where to focus your search?  How do you figure out what companies are hiring trainers?  And, of course, there's the thought in the back of my mind, do you need to re-skill to be more than a trainer?

What suggestions do you have for him?


Gary Wise said...

Tony, this both a great question and a paradox of sorts. I say this because re-skilling (hate that word)...suggest something to consider. I do believe I would pass up a stellar platform trainer to hire a so-so facilitator that had good business acumen savvy and the ability to question effectively.

I'm convinced that this is bigger than training...and therein lies the paradox. There are training organizations out there that still focus on training in the formal venue of classroom and online. Josh Bersin (Future of Biz of Learning) tossed out 4% of a worker's time is spent in formal learning. That means 96% is not...and is spent in the work context...and that's where a majority of learning moments of need are confronted. Training is not the solution for those moments. Informal learning it just-in-time Performer Support or some social venue where peer-to-peer collaboration can take place.

To me the future is being able to affect learning in that 96% of a knowledge worker's day. The paradox exists because some training organizations are not buying it. Tradition can be a paralyzing thing. Convincing a traditionalist that 96% of their opportunity lies outside of their line-of-sight is a challenge.

The plus-up-skilling includes a dash of performance consulting, a twist of Web with a sprinkle of Learning 2.0, social media prowess, and a willingness to take a risk to sell the idea to buck tradition and focus on where the work gets done.

And that would be about $.02 worth of this camper’s opinion.

Take good care!


Tony Karrer said...

Gary - that's a very interesting comment. I wonder about the market for people who can provide non-traditional learning solutions? Yes, there's value there, but isn't it a smaller market? Won't they find themselves blocked from a lot of jobs if that's their focus?

Or are you saying to seek positions where you will have some opportunity to explore these aspects.

Gary Wise said...

Yes & Yes!

That's what gives this paradox a degree of difficulty. Too bad we can't "know" how a potential hiring company thinks about training before we get hired. It would be great to know what they measures specific to learning.

If it's activity, then you're facing a tough sell. If they are focused on impact or outcomes specific to training effort, they may have already debunked tradition.

The market is indeed smaller, but finding a company that embraces the idea of sustaining human performance versus schlepping knowledge and skills as their primary gig will render a future of funding and business partnership at the table.

I guess that idea of selling risk is part of the risk...

I would not be afraid of showing a different look to a prospective employer. I get the sense there are a lot of trainers looking for work right now. They did not just fall out of the sky, and I wonder if they came from traditional training orgs that got whacked in the budget.

Tradition is often viewed as a cost center. Not so for a true business partner that drives and sustains outcomes. Showing a different face that recognizes this as important may be a way to differentiate one's self from all the others.

It's a tough sell, but being out front means you're breaking the wind for those on your bumper. It's always harder, and you have to take what you can get when a mortgage needs paid, but pushing the traditional envelope may be worth a nudge or two.


Gary Wise said...

Sorry...another thought just bubbled into my brain. How about being a covert harbinger of change? Take that traditional training job if it's offered and then start planting the seeds of change in the formal traditions they follow that can be harvested downstream when the learner is in their work context. I've got a blog post on this concept that talks about Harvesting as a downstream function of training. Here's the link if interested.

I think it popped up in eLearning Learning a few weeks ago.


Faraz Qureshi said...

One positive is this person has a skillset that *any* company can use - training, communication and possibly product design (given the MFA).

The challenge is narrowing down the sector/company. I suggest start with the fastest growing sectors. Growth = opportunity. Some that come to mind are:
- Renewable energy: This is a huge sector but there is no doubt wind/solar and other energy sources will play a bigger role as fossil fuels wind down. Downside is most companies are in California. E.g. Solar City, Nanosolar
- Efficiency/Transport: Our buildings and transportation assets need to be and are being overhauled (with govt support). E.g. Tesla motors, Johnson controls. Also smart grid is going to be a reality in a decade, e.g. Silver Springs
- Technology/Internet. 2 billion people connected already, another billion coming soon. e.g. Google (said they are hiring again in latest earnings release)
- Education: we never have enough good teachers

Let me know if anyone has other thoughts/questions. Thanks.

Infosemantics said...

I would suggest that this person start learning everything they can about e-learning technologies and think about transitioning into the art of creating and developing e-learning as a career. In my experience, good trainers already have a lot of the skills required for e-learning development. For example, they understand the needs of adult learners, they know how to chunk information content into bite-size bits that a learner can easily absorb, they're usually good talkers (so they're well-positioned if they want to add voiceovers to their own courses), and they know how to ask questions that correctly assess whether or not a learner has understood the content. This gives them a good head start over many other people trying to get into this profession. If they add skills in Instructional Design, Graphic Design, Programming, and then learn applications such as Adobe Captivate, Flash, and Photoshop, they might just find themselves in a whole new career that is currently booming with no sign of a downturn.

Rod Ward

V Yonkers said...

Here's another direction. This semester I am back to teaching in Marketing, a course in Consumer Behavior. A large part of services is "training" the customer. Understanding how customers learn about products, how branding communities are created (the same as learning communities), communication between customers and services workers, are all skills needed in the consumer side of marketing. In addition, as this person has taught HTML and has a fine arts degree, I'd start focusing on the web development/management (there is a growing need for online technology facilitators, especially in large companies). Web design and facilitators require an understanding of how people find and process information, make decisions (including the same external factors that influence learning) and, increasingly, what gets their attention and motivates the customer.