Corporate Training is an exciting and growing field. If you have decided you are interested in becoming a corporate trainer you may be worried about your lack of experience. It can certainly be intimidating as you begin to look at job postings. You may even be tempted to give up on pursuing corporate training as a career. You might be surprised, though, about how much experience you already have and how you can take steps to gain more on your own.
I’ve been in the corporate training field for the past 20+ years for companies big and small. In this article, I’ll share ideas and resources you can use to build up your own experience.
1. Take a skills inventory
One of the first things I recommend you do is to take an inventory of your existing skills. What do I mean by that? Basically, it’s a brainstorm where you write down skills that you have which are transferable to a corporate training job.
(By the way, if you aren’t sure what all a corporate trainer does, be sure to check out my Career Spotlight: How to Become a Corporate Trainer article.)
For example, one skill area that a corporate trainer should have is the ability to speak or present in front of an audience. Chances are, you have done this as part of a past or current job or in some other capacity.
Often, we don’t even realize all of the skills and experience we already have. We fill ourselves with so much self-doubt that we can end up talking ourselves out of even pursuing something.
Now, I’m not saying that brainstorming on existing skills is going to magically make you fully qualified for every corporate training job out there. It won’t.
At a minimum, though, it should help you to see at least one or two (or more) things that you CAN use as examples of your experience in a resume or interview.
Oh, and guess what? I have created a FREE Resource to help you with this!
2. Your current job
One of the best opportunities to get experience is within your current job.
The reason I am such a fan of this method is because that is how I got my start.
My career path looks like this:
“Regular job” —-> Department Trainer —-> Full time Trainer —–> Trainer/Instructional Designer —-> Trainer/Instructional Designer/e-learning developer —-> Full Time Instructional Designer
My first “regular” jobs were at Walt Disney World and then CarMax. I was a department trainer in Character Entertainment and then at Disney Vacation Club. I also taught Walt Disney World Traditions (new employee orientation) a couple of times a month. At CarMax, I was in sales but then also mentored/helped train new sales people.
Initially, my main interest was in training and facilitation. Eventually, I decided to move full time into instructional design. As you can see, though, the path to becoming a full time corporate trainer started with my becoming a trainer within a “regular” department along with teaching as part of the new employee orientation at Disney.
Similarly, you should look for and/or create opportunities for yourself to get experience.
Whatever department or role you have now, there are probably things that you do well that you could train others on. Or, if there are a good bit of new people being hired, there may be a need for assistance within whatever new hire onboarding or training your company does.
If you aren’t sure where you should start, check with your boss. He or she will probably have some ideas for you and will appreciate your initiative.
If your company has a training department, you can also check there. Training departments are always seeking out subject matter experts who can help with training. Oftentimes, they need help verifying that the content is correct. There can also be opportunities where they want the SME to actually present. See where your training department has needs and offer to help.
3. Volunteer Organizations
Another great way to start getting experience is through organizations that you volunteer at. Your kids’ school your church, the local community theater, the zoo…. Any place that you or your family are involved with could be a candidate.
When my son was in Boy Scouts, I wanted to help out there. They needed a webmaster to run the Troop website. At the time, I had never had a website or been involved with any kind of website development but I volunteered anyway because I DID have an interest.
I taught myself WordPress and became the webmaster. It was a great learning experience for me and it helped the Troop. A true win/win.
Similarly, you can look for opportunities where you could put together a training session. If some volunteer training already exists, see if you could help with presenting it. If it doesn’t, you could offer to create some.
Check with the head of the organization and see what you can do to help.
4. Join a Professional Organization
There are several professional organizations that are learning and development focused. These can provide some good opportunities to learn more about the profession while also meeting and networking with people who are already in the profession.
I go into detail on several that are specific to corporate trainers in this article.
Toastmasters in particular will give you a lot of experience with presenting and public speaking. You also get a lot of valuable feedback to help you improve.
There can also be some good volunteer opportunities with any of them where you can gain some good contacts and, possibly, more experience too.
While watching a YouTube video isn’t going to give you actual experience, they can be good for learning some of the basics. This will then help you to “talk the talk” when you start interviewing. Of course, you have to be careful since not all YouTubers are created equally when it comes to quality of information.
There are lots of good videos that cover things like presentation skills but, it might also be helpful to look for ones that cover any types of software that you might use. PowerPoint, for example.
I’d also look for tips and tricks on any sort of meeting software like Microsoft Teams or Zoom. If you don’t already have experience with presenting or training online, it would be good to start getting familiar with some of those tools.
Start with the Your Learning Career channel where I have lots of these types of videos with more on the way. (and don’t forget to SMASH that subscribe button or whatever it is the kids are saying these days…)
6. Take Online Courses
You do have to pay for these, though. With Udemy, you pay for each individual class. Prices can go up to a couple hundred dollars but Udemy has sales all the time where you can buy just about any class for a lot less. Usually $10 – $13.
Skillshare and LinkedIn Learning have an “all you can eat” approach where you pay a monthly or annual fee and then you have access to all the courses.
I have not taken corporate training courses specifically on these platforms but I have taken/purchased several other types of classes like various software courses and some related to blogging, for example.
The quality varies but you are able to preview courses on Udemy before you buy. With Skillshare and LinkedIn Learning, you already have access to everything if you got the subscription so if you don’t like a course you’ve started, you can move on.
If cost is an issue, be sure to check out your local library’s website. Many libraries offer LinkedIn Learning access for FREE! Here is an example from a library near me: https://www.hcpl.net/services/digital-media
All you need is your library card and you are able to access all of the courses at NO COST. Pretty sweet!
7. Create a Mock Presentation
Getting experience in front of people is obviously going to be very important. These opportunities may not always be available, though, so what can you do in the meantime? I mentioned looking at videos either on YouTube or as part of online classes. Along with those, you can create your own presentation(s).
Basically, pick a topic that you would feel comfortable training on and create a presentation that you could use for practice. It doesn’t really matter what the topic is. Initially, it will just be for you. The goal is to get comfortable with various tools you would be using in a corporate training role. PowerPoint or Google Slides, for example, and using a laptop to go through your slides.
There are many other tools you might want to check out as well. For the foreseeable future, the ability to train virtually will be a skill you will want to have so, taking a look at virtual meeting platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams and how to present using them would be helpful.
In 8 Tips for Engaging Your Learners in a Virtual Training Session I give several ideas on how to use these platforms more effectively.
Eventually, when you start interviewing for jobs, it is likely you will be asked to do a presentation as part of the interview. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put together a presentation you could use for that.
I talk more about these types of presentations in Creating a Job Winning Training Presentation for Your Interview.
8. Certificate Programs
If you are looking for a little more formal option to get some experience, there are several certificate programs available through various organizations.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when looking at certificate programs.
First, is it from a reputable source? If I were looking for a certificate program, I’d start with some known entities.
ATD, for example, has a Trainer Certificate. Most hiring managers in a training or learning department will know who ATD is so when you list that certificate on your resume’, they will recognize it.
You can also find different types of certification programs related to corporate training from various colleges and universities. A good place to start is the ATD Degree Directory. You can search for degrees, yes, but there is also an option to search for certifications.
9. Degree Programs
Speaking of degrees….If you want to go the really formal route, there are degrees you can get. Do you need a specific degree to be a corporate trainer? No, not usually. Can they help? Sure.
While it’s focused on instructional design, I talk more about degree programs in Do You Need a Masters Degree to be an Instructional Designer?
Personally, I got a Bachelor’s in Advertising when I graduated from college. And then proceeded to never work in Advertising.
Point being, I’ve had many corporate training jobs and my degree was never an issue. A lot of jobs do like to see a college degree of some sort but it doesn’t necessarily have to be training specific.
Later in my career, I got a Masters Degree in Educational Technology. This was a personal choice, though, and was not required by my employer. I noticed, though, that when I started applying to more Senior level positions, they listed Masters degree as either a requirement or a preference. That is something to keep in mind for future but I wouldn’t worry about it at this point.
If you have the desire, time and means to get a corporate training related degree, there are definite benefits. You get a really good foundation and you will gain some valuable experience that can be added to your resume’. I also think it could give you the edge against another candidate who has a more general degree, all other things being equal.
As you can see, there are a lot of ways for you to gain experience as a corporate trainer. If you think corporate training is the right career path for you then I would definitely encourage you to start taking steps toward getting more experience.
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