Learning has been a key element in the survival kit of humans since ages, and it is for a while that professional learning or executive education has received a significant amount of attention. The traditional belief that learning is limited to schools and universities and that one learns only until a certain age is gradually getting obsolete and is being replaced by the concept of lifelong learning. According to the Harvard Business Review, lifelong learning has become accepted as an economic imperative as new job models reconfigure the business world and acquisition of new skills becomes a critical phenomenon. Such high demands in the domain of lifelong learning are shaping new types of job profiles and responsibilities.
As humans, we have an innate need to learn and this need is fuelled by curiosity. We always tend to seek answers to questions, reactions to actions, be it as a child or as an adult. Sometimes, we are conscious about the learning and we label it, whereas there are times when we learn and it remains implicit. The new-age learner learns throughout their life, can accept or reject a modality of learning, has a limited attention span and numerous channels to learn from. As a learning professional, you might get the opportunity to take part in this learning revolution and witness the paradigm shift!
Becoming a learning professional
A learning professional could be functioning in a business or an academic set-up and can be involved in strategic management, conception or delivery of training programmes. To become a learning professional, the technical skills might vary depending on the industry you are working in or the type of your job.
A particular job profile might require strong pedagogical skills as their daily work revolves around making training courses and content relevant and engaging for learners, no matter which industry. For someone else, business skills might be imperative. If one is developing a training module for sales and marketing professionals, they need to be familiar with the knowledge levels of these professionals that they intend to train, the amount and level of knowledge to be imparted and the market trends, and it requires an in-depth understanding of the specific business and function.
For other types of jobs, project management skills or negotiation skills could be a mandatory prerequisite as their responsibilities might include handling multiple high-profile stakeholders or negotiating contracts with providers or clients.
Since each profile has its unique requirements and challenges, let us explore the demands and expectations from a learning professional through four fictionalised personas:
Rishi, Learning & Development Specialist, DWZ Corporations: Rishi has completed his MBA in Human Resources Management. He now works as a Learning & Development specialist in a multinational company. His responsibilities include co-creating and delivering training and development programmes for employees working in Purchasing and Sales & Marketing. He works mainly with external providers and internal stakeholders to develop and deliver programmes for employees to help them stay abreast about recent trends in the market as well as the new developments in organisational strategies and policies.
Ria, International Programme Manager, Custom Programmes, WXY Technological University: After pursuing a BTech degree in Computer Science and working for two years in a software company, Ria joined a technological university as the International Programme Manager for custom programmes. She is in charge of developing and managing custom educational programmes for organisations. She works with the university professors to support them in organising and delivering content and making sure that they are in line with the specifications provided by the client organisations. She is the key point of contact between the university and the client organisations.
Ayaz, Instructional Designer, YXW Pvt Ltd: Ayaz holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and master’s in Education Technology. His job at a rapidly growing edtech company is that of an Instructional Designer. His responsibilities range from creating new training courses and curriculums to redesigning the existing ones and developing training materials like teaching manuals and student guides.
Maya, Associate Professor & Researcher, WXD University: Maya specialised in Cognitive Sciences in her master’s programme and earned a PhD by producing a thesis in the topic of gamification for children’s learning. She currently teaches Learning Sciences at the university level. She also collaborates with other researchers to perform a broad range of research in the field of learning behaviour, gamification and pedagogy.
The above are just a few examples of job roles in the field of Learning and Development. The range is certainly very wide and in the days to come, newer job prospects would open up for learning enthusiasts.
If you plan to build a career as a learning professional, here are a few tips which you might find useful:
Learning about learning: Be curious and continuously learn about the latest trends in learning, like what is working well, how learners are reacting, and current research on learning behaviour.
Placing the learner at the centre: Develop empathy and try to put yourself in the shoes of the learner. Your goal is to understand how a piece of information can be conveyed in the most compelling way to a potential learner. To do that, you first have to know the learner well, their needs, the time they can offer, their aspirations and their readiness to learn.
Tech-friendliness: Technology is an integral part of 21st century learning. It is essential to make friends with technology while working as a learning professional as it is with the help of technology that you can provide a richer and unperturbed learning experience to people and also not be restricted to territorial limitations.
- Creativity and innovation: Being creative and experimenting with ideas is advantageous in learning. Following a rudimentary approach to learning is no longer acceptable as today’s learners are not sitting in an enclosed space and responding to a pedantic approach.
Choosing a career is never an easy job and neither is it definitive, especially in the context of a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world. Exploring different avenues is of utmost importance. To be or not to be a learning professional is still a question you would have to answer for yourself but at least collect enough reasons to choose either!
Soumi Das is a clinical psychologist-turned-learning and development professional. She is currently a Programs Specialist for Leadership Development programmes at Saint Gobain, Paris.