This is the second part of a three-part series on what it takes to become a trainer. In Part 1 we discussed how to decide if training is the right career for you. Part 2 explains what you need to excel in a training career.
First steps
So you’ve decided that becoming a technical trainer is the career for you, and your next question is—now what? How do you move forward with your newly chosen career?

Planning a career is like planning a trip, and any time you want to take a trip, you’d be wise to remember two things: a packing list and directions. This week we’ll discuss what you need to pack for a career in training, and then next week you’ll receive your directions.

The trainer’s packing list
All trainers need two things:

  1. Teaching ability
  2. Technical ability

Have you got both? If not, your first task is to get them. Teaching ability ultimately comes from teaching. There are books you can read and classes you can take, such as Microsoft’s Training the Trainer. Ultimately, though, you’ve got to get in front of a class and pay your dues. Here are a few suggestions for getting training experience:

  • Volunteer to teach in church.
  • Be a teacher’s aide.
  • Attend night classes at your local college.
  • Team-teach a training class where you work.

Technical ability comes from lots of places: experience, books, videos, friends, wherever you can grab it. However, you’ll have to pick a few specific areas of expertise, because no one can be an expert on everything.

Okay, you’ve got your teaching ability and your technical ability. Can you prove it? It’s a cruel truth, but if you want brokers and training directors to give you work, you’ve got to have the certifications. Eventually you’ll need both technical certifications and one or more teaching certifications. These are like passports—you’ve got to have them to get into the far-off kingdom of Big Training Bucks.

Your packing list should also include some business sense, both for your own sake and as a part of your teaching ability. If your career goal is to become an independent trainer, then you’ll have to learn about self-employment tax issues, deductions, depreciation, and cash flow. In addition, you’ll need some travel sense, such as what to take and how to deal with travel agencies and such. Finally, you’ll need some market sense so you’ll know what courses are hot, which ones are going to be hot, and what the market will bear as far as rates go.

Make sure you have new batteries in your radio for this trip, and stay tuned for Part 3: What direction should you take to get started?

Bruce Maples is a writer, trainer, and consultant living in Louisville. If you would like to comment on this article, please post your comments below. If you would like to write to Bruce, or have any topics to suggest, please send us a note .