How Are Trainers Doing Salary-Wise? And What Can You Do About It?

In 2015, the average annual salary for training professionals was $83,494, according to Training magazine’s 2014/2015 Salary Survey of 1,280 readers ( This is up 3 percent from the previous year.

Checking out the latest Salary Survey figures makes me think of my own experiences negotiating for salary during my career. Until just recently, my practice was to blindly accept—without negotiation—whatever salary was offered to me when a hiring manager called to tell me I had a job. The first time I got offered a full-time job with benefits, the level of my passivity was comical. The Human Resources representative who called me actually felt sorry for me, and let me know that the position was approved for a higher salary than I was asking for. She didn’t have to do that, and to this day, I remember that kindness. Of course, she never should have done that. I should have known enough about hiring negotiations to know that you don’t have to timidly accept whatever salary is offered to you because you’re just so grateful anybody wants to hire you.

The first thought I have is that young professionals, and even some middle-aged and late-in-life professionals, need training in hiring negotiations. The second thought I have is that the Learning professionals, who would develop that training, may be in need of the same kind of help themselves.

I’ve never seen a study of the psychological tendencies, and most common personality types, of Learning professionals, but my gut instinct is that those who gravitate to a field where you nurture others for a living aren’t always the toughest negotiators. To be a successful trainer, you need to be an emotionally intelligent, sensitive person. I have that same personality type myself (even though I don’t train anyone), so I know how hard it can be as a sensitive person to push hard for yourself in financial negotiations. You need to role-play during those negotiations, acting the way people you don’t like act on a daily basis. I work with a man who has a very high regard for his own self-worth (much higher than he should have, actually). He loves himself, and in negotiations, he loves nothing more than to take the floor and talk unendingly and argumentatively until he gets what he wants. I don’t recommend taking an argumentative stand in salary negotiations, but people like that, who savor debate and competitive interactions, have something to teach us more sensitive, self-deprecating types.

I’ve taken the lessons I’ve learned from watching this person and thrown it in his face, pushing for myself in my performance self-evaluations, and in my face-to-face conversations with him, about why I deserve a higher salary, along with individual recognition. He hasn’t wavered and given me what I want, but I don’t stop pushing for myself. I’m no longer the timid, automatically acquiescent type in the workplace.

I’ve learned to turn my sensitivity and empathetic nature toward those who deserve it, and who won’t take advantage of my kindness, while turning a harder edge toward those who require it.

When you think about developing programs to nurture employees and executives at your company, it’s good to also think about your own needs. You want to develop employees with the self-confidence and engagement in their own development to demand what they feel they deserve. You also should focus on doing the same for yourself—finding ways to sharpen your advantage in salary and professional development.

What have you learned over the years about advocating for yourself? What can you tell other Learning professionals about expressing your value to the C-suite, and to the lines of business managers you work with?

Can having lines of business managers, who become your champions, help you in your professional development?

I have a manager—other than my own—at my company who champions my work. The problem is he isn’t in a position to help me. I thought maybe it’s different for Learning professionals because you’re developing programs for the employees of the managers you work with. Do you have any stories to share of how a manager other than your own, whom you successfully worked with, helped support your growth and development—and salary progression?

What other key strategies can Learning professionals use to get a higher salary, individual recognition, and access to a promising career path?

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