Most professions today need certain specific skill sets that have to be learned in the classroom or through experience. While formal education provides a basic framework to all of us, we still need to invest time and effort in acquiring knowledge and functional skills specific to an industry. That’s where professional trainers come into the picture.
If you thought that anyone armed with above average public speaking skills and a funny icebreaker could become a Corporate Trainer, think again, because there is more to it than what meets the eye. Here is what you need to know about a career in corporate training:
The first step
There is no one method to become a trainer. In my experience so far, I have hardly seen any young professional articulating his ambition to become a trainer at the start of their career. Corporate training is typically a job people come to after they’ve worked for a while and gained considerable experience.
“Most of our trainers started at the company in a technical position and became interested in training. They became experts in their domains after a period of time and also demonstrated an inherent ability to work with people, so we promoted them as in-house trainers” says Ravi Kant Verma; a training manager with a Delhi-based IT company.
A good first step for professionals is to develop a technical or functional skill that they can build on and use as a way to transition over to a training job. Expertise in a field will also improve the credibility of a professional which is critical for the success of a corporate trainer.
Corporate training as a career
Progressive organisations have realised that training their employees on a continuous basis is the only real way to stay ahead of the competition. Corporate trainers typically find themselves teaching topics that people don’t learn in their formal education, such as communication skills, business writing etiquette, public speaking, presentation skills and other job-specific functional and technical skills.
There is a great need on behalf of corporations to improve the way their employees present themselves to the outside world and training them is the straightforward answer. Trainers have the option of working as in-house trainers with organisations, join a specialist training firm or even work as independent/freelance trainers.
How different is this from teaching?
There is a difference between conventional teaching and training. The former is simply conveying information, which can be accomplished with a PowerPoint presentation or a classroom lecture. Professional training, however, provides people with the tools and skills they need either to change their behaviour or develop new skill sets they never had before.
In order to teach other people new behaviours, a trainer should develop these abilities beforehand. Also, most importantly, corporate trainers have to deal with mature adult audiences who have their own experiences and perceptions. Teachers have a certain position of authority because of which students have a natural tendency to follow their instructions, trainers enjoy no such luxury and have to build strong relationships with their learners to get the message across.
Skills required for a career in training
Trainers need to possess a natural ease in dealing with people, an ability to present themselves with confidence, speak before a large audience with conviction, a mature thought process to create training material relevant to their audience, spontaneity to respond to difficult situations with ease, a good sense of humour, loads of enthusiasm and most importantly a passion for the subject matter that is being presented.
Most good trainers also have that indefinable ‘charm’ that makes them create magic in a training forum and leave a lasting impact.
Can you train to be a trainer?
There are several ‘Train the Trainer’ programmes available for aspiring trainers. Most certification programmes last anywhere between 3 to 5 days.
Academic bodies like ISTD (Indian Society of Training & Development) and XLRI (Jamshedpur) offer such certifications. These certifications are also offered by several Training and Consulting firms. Getting a certification is a good start for new trainers and usually helps them understand ‘training’ as a function and also helps them acquire ‘trainer-like qualities’.
Training certifications typically verify that their holder has an adequate grasp of essential fundamentals, at a certain acceptable level. A certification programme will equip you with the basic knowledge of how to make presentations effectively, design training courses, how to conduct a training needs analysis, how to set objectives for a training programme, how to deliver training effectively and evaluate the effectiveness of training.
Professionals must note that certification says nothing about quality or richness of experience and does not measure or reflect the hard-to-quantify characteristics that distinguish a ‘seasoned trainer’ from a novice. It is, however, a great ‘starting point’ for those relatively new to the field.
In the words of the famous author, Mark Twain, “There is nothing training cannot do. Nothing is above its reach. It can turn bad morals to good; it can destroy bad principles and recreate good ones; it can lift men to angelship”.
Corporate training is an elusive art. There is no checklist to follow in order to excel in this profession. You not only need tremendous confidence in your level of expertise, but also in your ability to entertain and educate an audience.