Transitioning from Education to Corporate Training

Instructional design and development for education is different than that found in corporate or government organization. Adding a few key skills to the repertoire is needed when changing areas of focus.

If the number of social media posts and so-called academies popping up is any gauge, transitioning away from roles in education into “corporate” training and instructional design appears to be a popular discussion item of late. Of course, every person should follow their bliss and leave roles or jobs that aren’t meeting their needs. However, it needs to be said that this isn’t a one-to-one swap of job and type of work experience—meaning those seeking a new role in training or instructional design need to acquire additional skills to be successful.

Why? Well, thinking about it from the other direction, someone in corporate training or instructional design likely would need to take some additional college credits and pass a state licensing or certification process, so it is with leaving education to enter the training and instructional design job market. Facilitating learning with adults is different than guiding instruction in a school setting. Instructional design and development for education is different than that found in corporate or government organization. Neither side would find it easy to change roles and quickly and easily adapt. Adding a few key skills to the repertoire is needed. And they include more than knowing how to use one (or more) of the rapid development tools.

Skills to Acquire

Take classes. Read books. Participate in workshops. Attend conferences. Meet ADDIE and its origins in instructional systems design. Spoiler alert: It isn’t a process or project management tool. Instead, it is guidance that helps to ensure all aspects of the design process are addressed—including evaluation and iteration.

Here are specific skills to acquire/hone:

  • Writing for business
  • Use of images and graphics, as well as the styles—they are different in professional settings than K-12
  • Working with style guides
  • Writing assessment items for adult learners
  • Designing for asynchronous, self-directed (eLearning) courses
  • Designing for synchronous, virtual learning
  • Presentation skills
  • Facilitation skills for adult learner audiences
  • Assessing needs for learning and development
  • Skills to craft a needs analysis, which is a report of the needs assessment results for key stakeholders and other leaders
  • Specifying the overall learning strategy—which may be expected to be a part of the needs analysis (report)
  • Evaluating whether the learning content worked, including appropriate data collection methods and best ways of both quantifying and qualifying the results
  • Working well with subject matter experts (SMEs)
  • Managing learning development projects, which may include some of the basics of Agile and other methodologies found in corporate learning and development (L&D)
  • Developing a relevant project portfolio of samples and examples
  • Crafting more accessible learning content
  • Basics of UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) to gain a basic understanding of navigation, object placement, etc.
  • Basic office applications such as Microsoft Office (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, Teams) and Google Suite for Business (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Gmail)
  • Basic coding for developing elearning content
  • Basics of working with video content

A bit outside of the instructional design and development arena but still valid to explore are skills such as:

  • Working with difficult people
  • Coaching and/or managing peers to success

Job Titles and Several Related Roles

Organizations can be creative in the ways in which they position and label learning-related roles and departments. For example, some organizations position all learning-related roles in the Human Resources department. Others—especially in technology and manufacturing—position learning-related roles in the key functional areas and departments. Sales training and customer training-related roles might be found either in the sales area or in key functional areas.

Job titles, descriptions, and responsibilities may vary widely, too. For example, job titles currently include:Trainer, Sales Trainer, Technical Trainer, Training Specialist, Training Manager, Instructional Designer, Training Developer, Organizational Development Specialist, eLearning Developer, eLearning Content Specialist, Instructional Technology Specialist, Learning Technologist, UX/UI Designer, LMS Administrator, Project Manager, Compliance Trainer, Onboarding Specialist, HR Trainer, Nurse Educator, Call Center Training Manager or Specialist, Client Training Manager or Specialist, Operations Learning Specialist, Organizational Effectiveness Manager or Specialist, Curriculum Developer, Talent Development Manager or Specialist, Instructor, Learning Specialist, Learning and Development Manager or Specialist—so on and so forth. Specialist job titles may be at the manager level, or not. Many of these titles likely report to a director, senior director, and/or vice president.

Is This a Good Fit?

Before applying for an L&D position, create an inventory of your current skills. Then seek to be clear as to exactly what your interests going forward will include and what daily work looks like. Ask and answer questions such as:

  • Do my interests lean toward using rapid development tools (such as Articulate Storyline or Rise, Lectora, Adobe Captivate, etc.) to craft digital learning?
  • Would I be able to translate my current classroom experience and interests into classroom skills training and facilitation?
  • Do my interests seem to align with helping teams and/or individuals succeed?
  • How do my current skills align with each of these considerations today?

A Word of Caution

A (strong) word of caution regarding the many academies and bootcamps out there today and what they propose to “teach” you. Some might be accused of being long on promises and short on the right types of experiences needed to be successful before, during, and after hire. Do the research.

Of note, Training magazine offers pre-conference certificate programs in person and hands-on experiences at its annual Training and TechLearn conferences, as well as Live+Online Learning virtual opportunities.

Hoping for a Pendulum Shift

For someone who loved school and nearly every teacher and college professor, seeing teachers leave the field is deeply troubling and sad. Good teachers doing the hard work and striving to become truly great teachers throughout their careers are so needed. And students everywhere deserve them—whether that’s teaching in their classrooms, elevating their career to administration, or designing and developing curriculum. Here’s hoping the pendulum shifts back to education being the career of choice again and society elevating it to the level it deserves.

Dawn J Mahoney, CPTD
Dawn J. Mahoney, CPTD, is the program content manager for Training magazine. She also owns Learning in The White Space LLC, a freelance talent development (“training”) and instructional design consultancy. She is passionate about developing people through better training, better instructional design, and better dialog. E-mail her at: