Preparing for Careers in IT Training
IT pros go into training for several reasons. Some are early retirees who want to continue working, others are recovering workaholics who desire a slower and simpler career and still others are simply gifted pedagogues.
Whatever their motives, they’ll have to prepare themselves for jobs in training, which can be quite different from those in the corporate world. Although the schedule can be a little more predictable and a little less stressful, that certainly doesn’t mean it’s easy. These jobs typically will require much more interaction, and thus greater communication aptitude, than most other professions in IT.
So, how can a techie become a teacher of techies? A few suggestions come to mind.
Become an Expert First
It almost goes without saying that trainers need to possess a certain level of mastery with their subject matter. They can be the best teacher in the world, but they won’t offer any value if they don’t know more about the topic than their students.
Fortunately, that shouldn’t be too much of an obstacle. Chances are, if you’re considering a career as a trainer, you have the approximate expertise required. If not, that can be accomplished in a relatively short time — less than it takes to get a four-year degree — through on-the-job experience, intensive training or both. (And the training route will give you a chance to see professionals in action, as well as provide ideas about how you might approach it.)
Also, give some consideration to what level of learner with whom you want to work. There’s a significant amount of difference between instructing someone on the content of the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and someone else on the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE).
Pursue Trainer Certification
If you want to help IT pros get certified, you might need to pursue a trainer credential. Certification programs such as Microsoft, Apple and Novell have credentials to assess candidates’ capacity for instruction on their tools and technologies, as well as the certifications that support those.
Additionally, there are vendor-neutral programs that offer training credentials. For example, CompTIA offers the Certified Technical Trainer (CTT+), which focuses on methods and techniques for classroom delivery and management. In addition to a multiple-choice test, this certification requires participants to prepare a 20-minute video to showcase teaching ability.
These credentials are all sound, but molding yourself into a great trainer goes beyond certification, which brings us to the final recommendation.
Figure Out (and Focus On) Your Strengths
Today, there are more options available to IT trainers than ever before. Long gone are the days when the only options were classroom-based training with heavy lecture or informal, one-on-one instruction sessions executed more or less on the fly. Now, you can choose from e-learning, teleconferencing, labs, simulations and other platforms, as well as mainstays such as classroom and coaching.
To determine what kind of trainer you should be, think about what forms of communication with which you’re comfortable. Are you a good public speaker, or do you excel at writing? Do you prefer to disseminate information or start conversations? Are you better at communicating one-on-one or within a group?
These are just a few of the questions you should consider as you venture into this field.
Without question, you have to be aware of the content and audience in question. Becoming a great trainer, however, begins with knowing yourself.