In my adventures across the corporate world as a trainer and an OD consultant - first as a senior consultant in a high brand value niche market training organization and then as a free lance trainer and consultant, I came across many wide eyed youngsters who would watch my 'performance' in awe and later come and ask me how they could be trainers too. As any trainer would tell you, its very difficult to explain to your participants how you reached the spot where you are - not the least so if you have to do that in the 10 minute break between two sessions. Still, I always tried my best to give them a whirlwind tour of my career path. Since Im not sure I did a very good job of that, I thought it would be pertinent in this my first article on this post to answer some frequently asked questions Ive come across. So whether youre a fresh professional whos suddenly discovered that the mission of your life is to transform and motivate people, or a youre a much experienced manager whos decided that its high time they passed on the wisdom of your life to others, I hope some of these tips will help you in your journey. Since Im based in india, some of the points are India specific, but I hope it'll help anybody. So here goes:
I want to be a trainer - where do I start?
Good question. The first thing you need to identify is - how much do you like people? if you hate people - friend - this world is not for you. This does not mean that in order to be a great trainer, one needs to be in love with people - but if youre the sort - in whom people elicit the deepest disgust - then I think you should choose some other profession. Honestly speaking, I have come across some trainers who dont really like people - and many of them are good trainers - but they could never be inspiring, motivating coaches because their dislike of people would get through to their participants. So, the long and short of it is - if you like people - then you have the very first qualification need to be a trainer.
What about stage fright?
Okay, so you like people. The question is do you like them when theyre sitting around in a group and watching you stand in the spot light trying your best not to make a fool of yourself? if the answer is a no - then read no further. Being a trainer requires a lot of courage. Did you know that studies have proven that fear of public speaking is the number one fear that people have in the world? And if you want to to be tackling that fear everyday of your life - what you need in the sackfuls is courage. In order to find out whether your knees dont knock together when youre on stage - take the opportunity to give a presentation to your senior management - if youre a working person or participate in a debate in college if youre a fresh graduate. Remember everyone has some amount of fear of public speaking. The point is can you bear the anxiety that it generates or does it debilitate you so much that youre unable to perform on stage. If its the latter, then perhaps you need to work on that first before you take the plunge.
Do I need some specific qualifications?
Frankly, theres no particular academic qualification needed to be a good trainer. Ive personally come across trainers who used to be engineers in their past life, and also former doctors, army personnel, software nerds, house managers, creative and advertising professionals, actors, teachers and people from all kinds of professional and academic backgrounds. So the answer to your question is - no - you dont need any specific academic qualifications. What you do need is good communication skills, a great personal presence, an attractive voice (but this is not essential), good languaging and grammar and a good hold over the subject you want to implement training programs for.
If youre looking to be a technical/functional trainer then you need a good strong background in the particular field of your choice either academic or professional. In case you want to be a soft skill trainer or an achievement motivation trainer then a degree in HR or training and development , apart from your bachelors degree would be helpful. An MBA would be great. If youre already across the stage of getting educational qualifications (though I personally think nobody ever crosses that stage ever) you can get a diploma or enroll yourself in some short term training programmes which will give you some basic facilitation skills. The aim is not just to get it on your CV but to arm yourself with some basic skills like presentation skills, voice modulation techniques, body language, impression management, etc. These skills are important because it will make you feel more confident facing a participant group for the first time and also potential employers would prefer people with some basic background in training and facilitation. To tell you the truth when I became a trainer, I didnt have a clue as to what it took to be a trainer. But then that was in the days when training hadnt caught on in such a big way in India. I had the opportunity to learn on the job - but you may not be so lucky. So I suggest you seriously look at that training or degree before you start applying.
Can I be a freelancer right away or should I look for a job?
Wanting to start freelance? Nopes - not a good idea. Being a free lance trainer is very tough if youre a fresher. One - no good company will touch a fresh training professional with a barge pole even if you give them free training. The reason - most training programmes are arranged by the HR professionals of the client organization. Arranging great training programs is part of their KPAs (Key Performance Areas) Why would they ruin their appraisals by giving you a chance to hone your skills on their staff? So, your best bet is to start applying to a training organization for a job as trainee professional. The benefit you get is that you can practice your skills by tagging along with a senior trainer who will coach and guide you. Later you start getting a chance to conduct some simple modules on your own. These modules would probably have been tested again and again by various trainers in the organization and all you would be doing is replicating them. So the chances of you making a mistake would be very low. The confidence you get out of your early successes will go a long way in helping you when youre standing there as a single trainer doing a completely new module for the first time.
The other thing you could do is to find a free lance trainer and get an apprentice job with them. Of course you musnt expect to get as many chances to be doing modules on your own when you work for a free lancer because free lancers are far more cautious about their clients then larger training organizations. One slip up and the freelancer loses her/his client, but the larger training organizations have much more space to experiment simply because they can soothen the ruffled feathers of a client whos had to bear the brunt of your learning by promising to send a better trainer next time. The freelancer doesnt have the luxury of doing this. However the benefit of working as an apprentice with a freelancer is that you get to work on a larger range of training areas than if you work as a traineee in a large training organization. As a trainee you would probably be put on the drill of doing the same module again and again for different clients - thats how large training organizations work. But freelancers usually have a range of areas where they implement training programmes.
How much would I earn?
That varies. It depends on where you find a job, what qualifications you hold, what experience you have and other variables. if youre just starting out, expect to get anything between Rs. 8,000 - Rs. 20,000 depending on the kind of training you find and the company you get a job in. For example, fresh trainers in call centres would get something in between that range. However, if youve already worked for some years in another field and have decided to jump into the training bandwagon, you could get something much higher. If you have an MBA degree then expect a relatively higher starting salary even if youre a fresher. After 10 years of training - the sky is the limit. You can earn as much as you want to provided youre prepared to work your backside off (excuse the language).
When do I start?
I wish I could say - Now. But that wouldnt be fair. If youre a fresher, I seriously suggest you get some experience in working as a professional before you think of becoming a trainer. Theres nothing a participant hates more then some rookie telling her/him how to do his/her job without knowing a thing about what its like to work in an organization. They'd slaughter you in the training hall and then youd lose your confidence in yourself as someone who has the potential to inspire and teach groups of people. So a better idea would be to get some experience yourself. Find out whats it like to work under a dominating boss, or handling an angry client, or getting into an ego conflict at work, or managing three deadlines at one go, or even the feeling you get when you get a long awaited promotion. Your personal experience of working in an organization will help you relate better to your participants and handle their doubts with maturity and empathy. Because ultimately thats what it takes to be a great trainer - somebody who knows what its like to be on the other side of the stage.
I hope Ive answered some of the key questions in your mind, but if you have any more questions which I havent been able to touch, do write to me on and I'll address them in my next post.
So best of luck to all you would be trainers, I hope these tips helped out a bit in the first step of your journey. Remember me when you get there!
From India, Ghaziabad
Nice to know about trainer's profession.
I am Education Instructor in Indian Air Force since 1992 and have 6+ years of training experience. My qfn is B Sc, BEd and MHRM and now planning to switch over to HR field.
During my interaction with many Hr professionals, I have been advised to choose trainer as the next profession. I feel I can do this because I like people and always feel talking positive things. I am presently teaching English to new IAF trainees so language is also not a problem. With my latest Master degree in HRM from IMT (Distance Edn) I have come to know about man management.
I would like to know your advide.
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