Writing the “Accidental Trainer” got me reminiscing about the early days of my own training career.
For the most part, we as L&D professionals, are very good at providing guidance to people, departments and/or businesses regarding learning gaps. Great at pointing out the flaws in a training program or the weakness in a learning strategy.
I wish that same type of guidance or a mentor had been present early in my training career. That being said, it is generally understood that you are a culmination of your experiences, good and bad; and I know there are times when I say to myself – “If I only knew then, what I know now”. Oh sure, there is always someone who will point out, “I wouldn’t change a thing, my experiences made me who I am today”, yada, yada, yada and blah, blah, blah. If we are to be honest with ourselves, we know there are things we could’ve, should’ve, would’ve done better if we had only known…looking back here are a 3 things I would change, or would offer up as advice to those people who find themselves to be “Accidental Trainers”.
1) I would have read more. You read, you learn. Despite what my business cards told me, I had shockingly little knowledge about the training field when I took my first official training position. But while being passionate about your field is a critical foundation, so is building your knowledge. Be passionate, not just about people, but about your field. Feed your curiosity. Here are 2 resources to checkout. This handy infographic: The A-Z Guide to Improving Your Own Learning and 30 Recommended Reads for Learning Professionals by Michelle Baker.
2) I wish I had developed connections earlier. I have been a part of ASTD for years but it’s only been the last 6 or 7 years where I have been the most productive. I now have developed a solid network of true learning professionals, better late than never. If I had been smarter, I would have focused on building my network earlier; spending less time struggling to keep abreast of the quickly evolving learning industry. I certainly wish I had read this article 10 years ago, but then go back to point #1. Suggested reading: 5 Ways to Boost your Network Using Social Media and from Blanchard: 6 Steps to Spring Ahead in Your Professional Relationships
3) I should have asked more questions, sooner. Pride can be a great thing – but can also hold you back (this is true in any profession not just L&D). I had plenty of questions, but would go back and research answers myself rather than to just raise my hand and ask. What was I afraid of? Losing the respect and credibility of my peers? PULEEZE! My network is an incredibly giving group of people. I should have mined that wealth of knowledge sooner – but then again, go back to point #2. Suggested Reading: The Career-Boosting Benefits of Life-Long Learning or Strengthen Your Strategic Thinking Muscles by Harvard Business Review.
I’m sure if I take more time to reflect, I could come up more pearls of wisdom to pass along – but I see these three as being the most critical to sustainable professional growth. Although there is one more point I’ll mention before I close.
Bonus point: I should have challenged the learning “norms” sooner. Now, the reason I list this as bonus point is that I’m not completely convinced the time to challenge the norms was “then”. There are still a lot of learning professionals with their heads buried in the Learning Styles sand. Therefore, confronting stale or antiquated notions with my peers may not have solved anything. You know, as well as I, people will not change their mindset until they are ready to – not a moment earlier. But I do wish I had found my voice and pushed the envelope a bit harder, a bit sooner. Remember where we started this journey: 5 Tips to Starting Your Own Learning Revolution and anyone serious about taking up the call to action about innovating themselves this is a must read: Poke the Box by Seth Godin
Next week I’ll be reflecting on things I did as young, accidental trainer that might have been career killers – but at the end of the day made me a better Learning Professional. I hope you’ll join me and be prepared with the stories!
Now I’d like to hear from you – what advice would you give your young trainer self?
Share your stories in the comment section below. Also, if you have any reading or blog recommendations pass those along too. Remember – sharing is caring, let’s build the rebellion together!