I make my living as a keynote speaker and corporate trainer, but I started my career as a high school teacher. (Well, technically I started my career bagging groceries at Kroger for $4.25 an hour, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me for leaving that off of my resume.) The transition was a natural one for me, since both involve public speaking and education. I suppose I occasionally miss the controlled frenzy that is any high school in the world; but I definitely appreciate that my corporate audiences rarely run around the room trying to hit each other in an awkward attempt at flirting.
Perhaps you’re considering a career in corporate training, or perhaps you’re already doing it but aren’t sure if you should continue. So let me help. If you have these four qualities, then you’re definitely in the right profession.
You Enjoy Standing In Front Of People And Letting Them Judge You – I suppose the right way to say that is, “You like public speaking,” but I wrote it that way because your audiences will be judging you. That’s why so many people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying. It’s not enough to be able to survive public speaking; you have to like it. Otherwise you’ll probably end up wishing you were dead. And I’d hate for you to end every training session slightly depressed that you didn’t manage to die in the middle of it.
You’re Willing To Be a Little Irreverent – In the history of people, nobody likes to be lectured to. We like to learn, to be insRushpired, to laugh, and even to cry sometimes – but nobody likes being lectured to. If you maintain a rigid separation between your role as trainer and your audience’s role as student, you’ll come across as smug and condescending, and you’ll have a harder time reaching your students. If instead you can occasionally drop the formality or (gasp!) throw in a joke, you’ll establish the kind of rapport that basically forces people to give you the benefit of the doubt. Once they’ve done that, the education can happen much more easily.
You Enjoy Learning More All The Time – If you want to be a trainer, then you’ll need to know more than the people you’re training. But there’s always some cocky audience member happy to challenge your authority by citing esoteric examples from publications you’ve never heard of. Those people are annoying, and you can take solace in the fact that they have no friends. But it does mean that you’ll need to continually push yourself to learn as much as possible. Business conditions are always changing, which means the nature of your training will change as well.
You Get a Rush When You Feel Like Someone ‘Gets It’ – It won’t happen with everyone in your class, and it won’t happen with every class. But now and then you’ll realize that something you said is making someone change the way they look at the world, and you can watch that change happen right in front of your eyes. If seeing that sends a flood of adrenaline rushing from your head to your feet, then this is where you belong.
Corporate training is one of the most important elements of any business, and it’s also one of the first items to be cut from the budget. Why? Because apparently a lot of executives are perfectly content with high turnover, depressed productivity, and intractable tensions between the members of different divisions. Maybe someone should teach them about the importance of training…