You were let go from your job because of lack of performance. Your boss said you were uninspired, and she was correct. It was time to go. Now you’re wondering what the hell you’ll do. You had 15 years of productive program management, until you lost the fire in your gut three years ago.
You ran into stagnation. There was nowhere to go in the organization. You wanted a change. No, you needed a change.
Technical training was a component of your job, and you loved and did it well. You were a natural. You made technical content easy for a layman understand. You loved seeing the Ah Ha moment register on the faces of the people you trained, your colleagues and the company’s clients.
That was then, now it’s time to look for a new position.
The problem for you is that the training positions you see online are entry level. As well, they’re low-paying. If you want to focus purely on training and get paid well for it, you’ll have to pursue jobs for training coordinators and managers. This is a leap that makes you nervous but also excited.
Out of curiosity, you look up on LinkedIn the description of a technical training coordinator. The requirements are daunting at first but you know you can do it. One job description reads in part:
“Participates in, and conducts technical training programs,” it begins. “Determines training objectives. Writes training programs, including outline, text, handouts, and tests, and designs laboratory exercises…” Sounds like a lot of work.
“...Administers written and practical exams and writes performance reports to evaluate trainees’ performance. Requires a bachelor’s degree in a related area…” Bachelor’s degree. This could be a problem; you don’t have one. You rose to the top of your field through job experience.
In your heart, you know this is what you want to do.
Here’s the good news: challenges are a good thing
Employees excel when they’re mentally stimulated. When they encounter new, interesting tasks, they rise to the occasion. Conversely, when employees are unchallenged and bored, they don’t perform well. Stagnation sets in when they’ve been at their job too long.
How many years is too long? This depends on an employee’s unvaried responsibilities, or if they no longer enjoy what they’re doing. Among your various tasks, you enjoyed training your colleagues and the company’s clients more than your other tasks and now realize training is what you want to pursue.
Although you have no experience in writing online manuals, administering practical exams, and the other administrative tasks, as the job ad describes, you have extensive experience training your colleagues and the company’s clients and were told you write well.
The biggest challenge is looking for work after eighteen years of working for the same company. Making a career change adds to the challenge. You’ll have to learn how to search for work the proper way.
Ask for Network Meetings
You must go into your career change with your eyes wide open. To do this you should talk with people in the training occupation. What are the major tasks you’ll perform? What do the people with whom you talk enjoy most about their job? What do they find to be a drag? These are all questions you must ask.
How will you find said people? The largest Rolodex in the world is LinkedIn. You can find technical trainers by simply typing “Technical Trainer” in the search field, but that won’t be very productive. Instead, determine which companies for which you want to work, and DM them with your InMails.
Note: your requests will most likely be granted if you include a reference in it.
When you ask for 15 minutes of their time, be sure to keep track of the time and tell them when it’s been 15 minutes. They’ll probably answer more of your questions as long as they are illuminating ones.
After talking with each person, you ask them if there are other people with whom you can talk. Some of the people who grant you networking meetings mention one or two other people with whom you can talk, others mention three people, others four. And so it goes.
These meetings are considered a success because the networking chain keeps growing and if there aren’t immediate results, don’t worry; eventually leads will turn into opportunities. This is action that happens behind the scenes. You’ll apply for positions online.
Write your job-search documentation
You begin writing your resume and LinkedIn profile highlighting the training experience you had as a program manager. Training was a portion of your duties but don’t disregard other elements in your position that were key, such as leadership, management, organization.
More specifically, you’ll make note of all the skills and experience you notice in the job ads. Put together a spreadsheet with the skills you pull from six or so job adds and write from top to bottom the skills that most prevalent. It’s not what you’ve done that counts; it’s what you can do.
Some of the skills you notice are: Learning Management Systems, Instructional Design, Curriculum Development, Technical Training, Learning Development, Workflow Management. There are more skills you notice, but make sure to include the most prevalent ones.
Your resume is matching about job ads at 50%, but don’t worry too much about this. The feeling of excitement is great, and although you don’t come in as strong as you’d like based on your keyword matches, you have spoken with many people who have heard your desire to switch careers.
Make sure your accomplishments are at the top of your resume, beginning in the Summary, the Skills area, and most importantly the Experience section. It’s no stretch, for example, to write about delivering technical material to a diverse audience:
“Delivered highly technical information to hundreds of sales and marketing staff of varied abilities, providing a clear understanding of the material.”
Be prepared to answer interview questions
The interview question you’ll get 100% of the time is, “Why did you leave your last job?” Be ready with your answer, but don’t make it sound canned. Also, don’t begin your answer with, “That’s a great questions.” Interviewers hate this opener.
Simply state, “My position at ABC corporation was running its course. I was losing interest and it showed in my work. My boss and I agreed that it was time for a change. With the responsibility of this position, I’m sure I will excel.”
“How will you make the transition from program manager to training coordinator?” is another question you’ll get. Be sure to have an answer for this one and try to deliver a STAR story. Interviewers love stories because more skills come from them.
“I’ve given this much thought,” you begin. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could handle this opportunity. May I tell you a story about how I’ve coordinated multiple trainings that required not only delivering them, but pulling together the content?” The interviewers welcome your story.
“There was a period of three weeks when we were rolling out multiple products and our clients needed training to understand the products. My task was to train our staff. Train the trainer if you will.
“I had never written training manuals but knew if I didn’t, the other trainers would be lost, so that’s where I began.
“It was challenging at first, but I enjoyed the act of researching our products and how to best describe them.
“I led many sessions with our staff in which I encouraged them to present the material I created in front of each other.
In the end, they did very well. I saw excitement on their faces and heard enthusiasm in their voices.”
Now it’s time for you to ask questions. Don’t use canned questions you gleaned by reading articles on the Internet; rather ask questions about the position and the company. Make them thought-provoking. Show that you listened during the interview and ask question based on discussions.
After three rounds of talking with various employees at the company, including the VP of operations, you are asked to perform a 15-minute training on one of their products. You nail it and are offered the job. The salary is lower than you’d like, but this is work you will enjoy. Begone stagnation.