When Saundra O'Rourke attended a two-week training session with her mother between high school and college, she had no idea it would lead to her future career.
The corporate trainer at the session made such a tremendous impression on O'Rourke that her curiosity was piqued. How did she enable everyone to understand? What great skills did she possess?
"She explained concepts in a variety of ways until everyone understood and could apply them, and she encouraged participation among the group." O'Rourke says.
In college, she took a psychology class from a professor with the same attributes, and was inspired to find out what "mythical skills" these two individuals possessed that made everyone want to learn more about everything they were teaching, she says.
After college, O'Rourke took an entry-level position as a benefit analyst with a large insurance company. She spent 18 months searching for ways to demonstrate her abilities as a training and development specialist and gain the experience necessary to be taken seriously.
Recognizing the need for a cross-functional training program within two areas of her department became just the break she needed. "The challenge was the benefit analysts lacked the knowledge and interpersonal skills to successfully resolve customers' issues," she says.
Spending several weekends designing a training program, O'Rourke then presented the plan to her boss. "He was impressed enough to ask me to facilitate the program," she says.
The company saw result immediately: It boost customer quality surveys, fewer callbacks, and increased first-time call resolution. She even received an award from the company and a $1,000 cash prize.
O'Rourke's experience then led her to a full-time training position at ADP, where she has gained some valuable insight into the training world. "In the beginning, I thought if I facilitated a workshop, met the course objectives, and the participants left happy, then it was a job well done," she says. "As my business acumen grew, I learned the hardest part of working in the training and development field is validating the impact of learning on business outcomes." She also learned two key things to be successful in her field—knowing your business, and being a leader.
Those who are successful, she says, focus on their organization's core strategic objectives and how learning and development can impact reaching those goals. "If you can't tie the course objectives of a workshop to the overall strategy and goals of your company, then you should be questioning the purpose of the workshop," O'Rourke says.
She also recommends leveraging your expertise to help you out in other unexpected areas of your company. "Then you will be able to leverage your operational experience to attain higher levels of success in this profession."