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Ask a Trainer: Finding Career Growth in L&D


Tue Dec 08 2020

Ask a Trainer: Finding Career Growth in L&D

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Hi Tim,

I work as a facilitator within my company’s learning and development department. Over the last several years, I’ve slowly moved up the ladder, and now I’m what we call a master facilitator—the highest level for my position on the team.


While I’m proud of how far I’ve come, now that I’ve reached the top level of my position, I’m starting to wonder what’s next for my career. I don’t want to just settle into this position forever (especially since I’m only in my late twenties), but I’m not sure where to go next.

Is the next step for me to move into some sort of managerial or leadership role? If so, how do I approach that? What advice can you offer to help me find career growth in L&D?

Thanks for reaching out! This is a great question, and it’s one that I think a lot of learning and development professionals face at one point or another during their careers. I have faced this dilemma trying to navigate my own career path.

Several years ago, I worked for a small custom e-learning development company where I worked directly for the owner. While it was a great experience, I often found myself wondering how I could move up and advance my career, especially when the only next level up was the owner of the company.

Like you, I figured the only way to advance my career and make more money was to move into a leadership role. So, I left that small company and accepted a director-level position at a large technology company. To make a long story short, I’ve learned a lot since then about advancing one’s career.


Here’s some advice based on my own experience.

Figure Out What You Really, Really Want from Your Career

My first tip is for you to step back and think about what you really, really want for your career. While it might seem logical that your next step involves moving into a leadership role, it’s important to understand that being a manager and a leader is different from being an individual contributor. The truth is, the things you love about your current role will likely be nonexistent in a managerial role.

So, what do you want from your career in the long-term? Maybe it is to move into leadership, and if so, that’s great. By all means, pursue it. However, if you’re simply looking to make more money, take on new and different challenges, or show career advancement on your resume, then moving into leadership may not be the right choice. This brings me to my second tip.

Explore Other L&D Career Paths

When you’ve been working and growing within a particular L&D career path (facilitation in your case), it’s easy to get tunnel vision about what’s possible. If your goal is to make more money and advance your career, there are many ways you can do that without making the leap into leadership.

Take a movement and look at what your fellow L&D colleagues are doing outside of facilitation. You may discover you’re interested in growing into instructional design, program management, or something else. Even if your goal is to move into leadership, expanding your abilities into the other facets of L&D will only help you in the long run. And this brings me to my third tip.


Don’t Be Afraid to Explore Other Companies

If I’ve learned anything about career growth, it’s that when you’re feeling stuck, it’s not always due to the position you’re in, but rather the company you’re working for. If finding growth means you need to find it somewhere else, that’s OK. You mentioned you’re in your late twenties. It’s highly unlikely you are going to stay with your current employer until you hit retirement. Am I right?

It’s OK to be selfish about what you want for your career. After all, it’s yours and it belongs to you and no one else. Hop on LinkedIn or the ATD Job Bank and see what’s out there. You may find opportunities that never occurred to you.

I hope this helps for now. I wish you the best of luck in your career growth.


What other tips do you have for finding career growth in L&D? Share them by commenting below.

Do you have a learning question you’d like me to tackle? You can email them to [email protected]. Also, visit the Ask a Trainer hub to check out all of your questions and my answers.

We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.

Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

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