7 Mistakes Killing Your Career as a Training Professional


The job of “Training Professional” has evolved significantly over the last few decades. Much of the information and training within our own field is outdated. This is by no means a definitive list of issues or problems. These are simply ideas to get you rethinking about the work you do and how you do it.

#1 You’re Great at Training…and Like to Talk about it!

You like to talk shop. When anyone asks, you’re happy to tell them all about the cognitive theories of learning, and how your work is backed by the latest research. You share too much about “how the sausage is made”.

Everyone loves to talk about the work they do. And that is not a bad thing. But it depends on the intent of  each conversation. If someone asks you for a training course, do you explain the entire ADDIE process and each step in great detail? Stop doing that.

How, as training professionals, we do what we do shouldn’t be a mystery. But understand that most of the leaders you serve don’t really care about how you do what you do, or why one method/model is better than the other. They simply want it DONE! It is assumed that because you are a professional you will do something effective and efficient for the business. It’s about the business, not you and your awesomeness!

#2 You’re Invisible

You work hard. You do it because you love it. Any time away from your work feels like a waste of your time. Because, more often then not, you have a long list of courses/solutions that need to be addressed. So you have a tendency to keep your head down and cranking out the work that you love. And this is great if what you are creating is visible on a consistent basis and easily identified by everyone as your work. But there are other benefits to getting away from your work.

As a training professional its important that you understand the work that is done by those you train. And not just the steps of the business processes. Visiting a representative sample of the people you train will inform your work as well as help build the relationships required to effectively navigate your career. Despite how good you are at your work, you need to be visible to the business. You need allies in every department advocating for you and helping you gather content or learn more. Nobody navigates your career but you. And some times its as simple as getting out of your office and just meeting people.

#3 You Go for Perfect!

We all strive to be the best we can be. And as training professionals we’re here to help others do the same. However, perfection can stifle your ability to produce and add value to the business. Imperfection to you is most likely fantastic to business leaders and the employees you serve. Remember that knowing too much is often a curse. Good enough, done quickly, is often the highest form of perfection. That doesn’t mean what you’ve done can’t be improved. It simply means that the improvements can wait.

Letting go of perfectiionisitic tendencies is not easy. There are more than enough self-help books to help you address the issue. But in our case, much of it is self-inflicted. Stop comparing yourself and your situation to other training professionals. There are few, if any, training situations that are alike. Your job is to understand your clients, your leaders, your organization, and how training best supports the objectives of the business. Simple, imperfect, solutions often are better than perfect ones.

#4 You Rely Too Heavily on Tech

You love your eLearning development tools. You geek out on the latest and greatest mobile devices, A/V gear, virtual reality, simulations, and game-ified training solutions. Technology is disrupting everything and absolutely impacting the work that we do. But jumping directly to technology based solutions is not always the most appropriate thing to do.

Technology-based training solutions often require a significant amount of time to design, produce, and deliver. If you are short on time, less advanced solutions can get the job done. In many cases finding a SME and connecting her with those who need to learn is a great place to start. That may mean a 1:1 conversation, or a 1:many classroom, or virtual classroom event. It’s not as sexy as a self-paced, interactive, online training course, but you can always upgrade to that later.

#5 You Don’t Understand the Business

You don’t have a solid understanding of how the entire business operates. But that’s only one part of it. Many training professionals don’t even understand the basics of managing the training function or the business of training. If you are asked to create and sell certification training to the company’s distribution channels would you know everything that is involved? Do you understand how to price your training? How will you collect the money? Are there tax implications? Do you even know anyone in the accounting department? In many businesses training has shifted from being an expense to generating revenue. That significantly changes much of what you do.

If this happens to you and your department, don’t panic. There is a learning curve that you now must climb, but its not impossible. If you’ve done the hard work of building and cultivating relationships within the business you should have enough allies to help you make this shift. The most significant part of successfully navigating this shift is letting go of your obsession with learning and performance. You need to consider your new output like a business. Your training is now a product and must be treated as such. Getting to SOLD becomes the priority. Not the only priority, but definitely the top priority. So you will still need to create solid learning content, but it won’t matter how awesome it is if you can’t SELL it.

#6 Historic Instructional Design Models rule your work

ADDIE is your friend. It’s been your guiding light for years, maybe decades. Every training project is a careful execution of the steps. You have the templates prepared for each phase of the work. You’ve mastered the project plan and can run it half asleep. Unfortunately, times have changed. And everything is still changing… and faster than ever. The 21st century presents us with training challenges never before encountered when your favorite methods/models were published. As Marshall Goldsmith, the #1 executive coach in the world, would say, “What got you here won’t get you there”.

Let it go. You don’t need to change over night. Start small. Read a lot. Discover a lot of new options and then find small projects you can use as experiments. Change is not easy. But being open to it is the first step towards successfully transforming your career.

#7 You Believe Only Trained Training Professionals Can Create Effective Training Content

You spent a lot of time and money mastering your craft and gaining the proper credentials. Now you’ve got your dream job and seeing non-training professionals creating what they call “training” pushes your hot buttons. This can be unnerving but shouldn’t surprise you, or worry you.

You know that hyper-motivated engineer who takes it upon herself to create her own powerpoint slides, and schedules the monthly lunch and learn simply because she wants too. She understands that educating the staff and workforce means fewer 1:1 training conversations taking up her valuable time. You should understand that too.

Learn to embrace the willingness of others to help. You are no doubt under-staffed and over-booked with training requests. Let go of your pride and accept that in today’s business environment everyone is a teacher. Everyone shares what they know. Hoarding knowledge is no longer seen as a good career move…for anyone. Not only should you accept the help of SMEs, but you should actively encourage and support them in their efforts to share what they know.


These are only a few of the many areas causing conflict for the professionals in our industry. Do you have more? Share them with us by tweeting @litmos and sharing your thoughts on how we can improve our careers and move the entire industry forward.