From Teacher to Corporate Trainer - Your Next Career?

By Will Kenny

If you spend most of your time in the classroom -- public school, private school, community college or university -- and you are thinking you would like to try something else, there are lots of other classrooms that are not in schools.

Businesses spend vast sums training their people to do their jobs. Hours are spent learning procedures, sales techniques, how to interact with customers, what company policies must be followed, how things work, what you should be doing.

And whenever policies change, or a new product is launched, or the company discovers a more efficient way of doing something, the employees need to be brought up to speed. That means more communication and training for the staff.

Education in the Corporate World
If you are considering a career change and have a teaching background, consider tapping into the training needs of the corporate world. There are a lot of ways to work in this field, but most of them involve one or both of the following:
  • Training development: deciding what is covered, in what order, how it will be delivered (classroom, intranet, role plays vs. self-study manual, etc.), how it will be evaluated.
  • Training delivery: more like what you call "teaching", being in the room to lead participants, guide discussions and activities, answer questions and check understanding.
One individual may work as a corporate "facilitator", spending most of his or her time with participants, delivering several standard courses again and again. Another might be a freelance developer who creates a course around a topic for a company, which then is actually delivered by someone else. Some people handle everything -- design, development, delivery, administration, follow-up -- while others play just one role in the process, working with others from inside and outside the company to get the job done.

Your Strengths
With a teaching background, you already have some skills that will transfer quickly to the corporate world:
  • You are used to presenting, being in front of a room, capturing the attention of your audience and having an impact on how they think.
  • You know that you have to design a lesson to have an impact. There are better and worse ways to deliver the same content, and you are accustomed to working out methods to get the message across.
  • You have learned that you can't teach everything the same way. For instance, you explain some things very directly, illuminate other topics through group discussion, and use exercises (like "case studies" in corporate life) to develop related skills.
  • You know it is up to you. Given a topic, you have to design the "lesson plan", testing, and all the rest. You don't sit back and wait for someone else to hand you the solution.
Your Challenges
There are some significant adjustments to working in the corporate world as a facilitator or training developer.

Here are a few of the big ones:
  • You do not have any authority over your "participants" (students) just because you are a trainer. You will have to demonstrate your value to every group of participants you work with, as they won't just assume you know what you are talking about.
  • You may be surprised at who else in the company gets to put their fingers in your work. Countless experts on the subject matter will weigh in, along with people from marketing, production, legal, and other corporate functions. You will find that a four-hour class on a single topic is the subject of several committee meetings, where you will have to manage compromises with numerous players who have some interest in the employees you are training.
  • Teaching working adults at their worksite is different from teaching younger people in educational settings (including college students). Efficiency and relevance to their daily activities reign supreme, and you won't have much time to get to the point and have an impact.
  • Companies invest in training to solve problems, or to prevent them, to reduce costs and risks, and to boost efficiency and revenues. If you don't understand their needs before you put together your training, it isn't likely to be effective -- and you will not have a happy manager or client.
Training development and delivery in the business world is challenging and enjoyable. You help people work better, and you can have an impact on a lot of people.

It's a great next step for the teacher who might like to try something outside of educational settings. But it is a different world, so make sure you do your homework before you leap into this very different environment.

A former teacher, Will Kenny has more than 20 years' experience as a freelance instructional designer and training developer. Will has worked on the training staff of a large international corporation, before offering freelance content development services to businesses large and small. Visit for free articles and case studies that give you a peek into the world of training development for business. Will also writes a blog on "Making Training for a Living" (, sharing his thoughts on how to succeed in the business of freelance content development.

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