When I first took my job as a Corporate Trainer many years ago, I had no idea that my new career and its responsibilities would be so misunderstood by others. After all, people seemed to have a full understanding of my previously held jobs.
I never had to clarify or explain my job when I worked as a Tour Guide to put myself through college.
Right after college, I was hired as a Flight Attendant for a major U.S. airline. Other than explaining to people why flight attendants point to the emergency exits with two fingers instead of one, most people had a full understanding of what I did for a living.
Eventually, I made my way into sales. When I told people that I was a Sales Representative, they immediately understood. Occasionally I’d get asked, “What do you sell?” and that was about it.
Fast forward to my current position. There seems to be no shortage of confusion when I proudly tell people I’m a Corporate Trainer.
This confusion about my career became very evident a few summers ago when I traveled to my hometown to attend my high school class reunion. With 80’s music playing in the background, about 50 or 60 of my former classmates and I mixed and mingled over poor-quality hors d’ oeuvres. Occasionally, I’d bump into someone that I actually remembered without the aid of their “Hi, my Name is…” tag.
After the basic conversation about marital status, children, and the city in which we currently reside, someone would inevitably ask the question, “What do you do for a living?” My response: “I’m a corporate trainer.” With those four words confusion reigned supreme!
Based on the number of blank stares I received, most of my classmates had no clue as to what I do for a living. A few even responded with, “Oh, so that’s how you stay in such good shape!” Judging from that response, many of them confused my job as a corporate trainer with the job of a personal strength/fitness trainer. (Little did they know that my “good shape” was as a result of a strict gym regime and a low carb diet that I started three months prior to the class reunion. Hey, you can’t blame a guy for wanting to look good!)
My former classmates are not the only ones who are misinformed about my noble profession. I recall having a lengthy conversation with a fellow passenger on a flight from Atlanta to Washington, DC. Flight time from wheels-up to wheels-down is about 1 hour and 45 minutes. It took that amount of time to explain to him what I do for a living.
We’ve all been there. Having narrowly survived the madness of boarding your flight, you attempt to get settled into your seat. The passenger seated next to you strikes up a general, yet cordial conversation.
Passenger: “Business trip?”
Me: “Yeah. I just finished delivering a training workshop.”
Passenger: “Oh, so you’re a teacher?”
Me: “Well, kind of.”
Passenger: Blank stare, silence, interested, yet confused look.
I won’t bore you with a script of the exact conversation, but just imagine trying to explain the difference between training and education, teaching versus facilitation, and working with adults in a learning setting as opposed to children. Before I knew it, the flight attendants were welcoming us to the Nation’s Capital and reminding us to stay safely seated until the “fasten seat belt” sign had been turned off.
The misunderstanding about my job is not limited to the general public either. I’ve also learned that some internal employees are somewhat unclear about what training professionals actually do.
When I was employed as an in-house trainer, providing training for a large call center operation, I encountered several colleagues who didn’t understand the full scope of my job. They knew I provided training, as most of them had attended a few of my courses. However, that’s where their knowledge of my job seemed to cease.
I heard on more than one occasion “Gee, I wish I had your job. You really don’t have to do anything when you’re not teaching a class.” Is that so?
Little did my colleagues know that a well-versed (and hardworking, I might add) corporate training professional does a lot more than just teach classes. Most of us collect extensive amounts of data while performing needs analysis and evaluating our training programs. Most of us design and develop courses and course materials. Most of us partner with others within the organization to conduct performance consulting. Most of us manage our LMS platforms. And the list could go on.
As trainers, we do a lot more than just teach classes. However, classroom facilitation is probably the most visible aspect of our job, so I can’t blame them for being a bit misinformed.
Being a Corporate Trainer has been the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. Despite having to periodically explain what I do for a living, I know I’m making an impact by providing people with valuable skills and knowledge. I’m honored to be among the ranks of thousands of others who do so every day.
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