That Doesn’t Count (in Their Eyes)

I write this as a voice needing to be heard about career growth in the field of learning and development. This article is a compilation of conversations I’ve had with many senior professionals who are dedicated to continued professional growth while striving to develop talent within organizations both internally & as external consultants. 

You, the Experienced Professional

team shotYou have several years of experience and a Master’s degree in your field. You’ve been a Senior-level, a Specialist, a Consultant, a Partner, and a Project Manager – but never a Training Manager. “Influence without Authority” is your mantra.  The projects you led have been in the millions of dollars. You’ve interviewed, selected, and hired multiple vendor resources and made decisions on resource allocations and pay rates. But, you’ve never been a Training Manager.

You’ve run your own consulting firm for several years, hiring multiple subcontractors and developing their competencies on relevant software, project management, and client consulting skills. And yes, you’ve even had to fire someone you hired. You’ve run your budget to determine what software, office equipment, and marketing avenues to pursue, and which conferences/certificates to obtain to keep up with your own learning. You write proposals, network with stakeholders, influence, learn from and form partnerships with your peers. But, you’ve never been a Training Manager.

You’ve provided several years of service on the board of local non-profits in your field where you were in charge of a six-figure budget, including a year as president during which you lead a board of a dozen members and oversaw a chapter membership of several hundred. Your graduate school advisor asks you to come back and serve as part of a panel on successful alumni in the field. You are sought out by undergrad and graduate students, as well as those in job transition, for coaching on how to get into and succeed in the field. You’ve presented at conferences on learning topics such as building teams, leadership development, project management, business acumen, and performance management. But, you were never a Training Manager.

The Work Environment

Your bosses or clients are Training Managers, Directors, or Vice Presidents of Learning & Development. In a matrixed organization, your indirect bosses are leaders of functions such as HR, IT, or specific business units. It is not unusual that, at a minimum, 80% of your bosses have no formal background in training or learning and development. They have a background in sales, finance, marketing or engineering or other not directly applicable fields.

Executives at your organizations say that “learning people need to speak the language of business!” The managers you report to, as described above, have experience in certain facets of the business. They have the title “Manager” and yet, are not trainers, facilitators, e-learning developers, instructional designers, graphic designers, or video producers.

As a consultant, you work with several organizations where the Training/Design Manager, Director of Training, or Learning & Development Manager has few direct reports; several organizations have managers with ZERO direct reports. They are, in essence, program managers who own and train content on a particular topic. But, they have the title Training Manager.

The Interview

interview conversationAfter your years of experience internally at the senior individual contributor and program manager level – but not people manager level – and after building an external consulting business from the ground up, successfully building relationships and increasing profits for those who hire you and for the team you hire, you feel you are ready to lead a team at the manager level on an internal basis.

You apply for several full-time roles with no response. Soon, however, you get an interview for a direct hire manager role through a third party recruiter. The interviewer questions you on decision-making, experience with budgets, managing performance and developing people. She is impressed with your resume and the scale, variety, and complexity of project teams you’ve led and the tough decisions that you have had to make due to stakeholders’ budgets or time constraints. She asks to submit you as a candidate to the position.

Two days later you get a call from the recruiter. “I’m sorry,” she says, “but the company we’re working with says that they really don’t want to hire someone without previous management experience.” You ask, “What about running a business and hiring staff for the past several years? Managing subcontractors and clients nationally and globally? Or serving as President of a non-profit board for a chapter with several hundred members? Or being an internal program designer and project manager for leadership development programs valued at several million dollars annually?”

“That doesn’t count in their eyes,” the recruiter says.

Employers, Talent Development, Recruiters

Recruiters and Talent Development experts promote selling one’s “transferable skills,” those skills that carry across different jobs. (An example of this might be managing a team on a non-profit for 3 years to use skills that would transfer to leading a team in the corporate sector).  Why then, does managing a team of consultants, or leading teams of non-profits, building relationships and executing and outperforming business projections as a small business owner, not transfer over to “counting” toward managerial skills?

You as an experienced professional count, as do the many others like you. You count, and you are out there, applying for managerial jobs. Perhaps the definition of what “counts” as managerial experience needs to be expanded. If a successful Sales Representative can become a Training Manager with no training background, then an experienced learning professional who has written, trained, facilitated, led teams, and  project-managed hundreds of workshops, and demonstrated people leadership in several places surely deserves an equal opportunity to be a Training Manager, right?

“That doesn’t count in their eyes,” you were told. Your reply might well be, “Oh, then it’s not the kind of place for me to seek work.” The search for a place to fully utilize your talents, leadership, business, and management – and of course, training – skills continues.

A Hopeful Success

“How did you finally land your job back in corporate as a Training Manager?” You ask a colleague and friend. “I’ve been thinking about the same thing, but I keep hearing I don’t have the ‘management experience.’ I know you have a similar background; how did you do it?”

Your colleague sighs, “Oh. It was not easy and I heard the same thing you’re hearing – it took me two years. Really, it came down to someone giving me a chance. I have a small team and I still get to dig in and do the work.”

You are happy for your colleague; her perseverance has paid off after a long wait. She has also gotten an opportunity to work for a leader who believes in developing others.

She is a Training Manager. You can be too, with the right organization, willing to look past the title on the resume, and talk to the person who’s lived it.

Planting Seeds

“Hop in the car, boys, it’s time to head over to the Johnsons’ and do spring cleanup!” Last weekend, as Part of Yellow Giraffe Learning’s 5 for 5 Give Back Campaign, (where Yellow Giraffe donates 1 hour of time/$ to a good cause, and 1 hour free kickoff

Last weekend, as Part of Yellow Giraffe Learning’s 5 for 5 Give Back Campaign, (where Yellow Giraffe donates 1 hour of time/$ to a good cause, and 1-hour free kickoff meeting to clients), owner Gabriella Broady decided to involve her family in the experience.

Brendan helpingThe Broady family, consisting of Gabriella, husband Dan, and two sons, volunteered with the HOME program, which stands for “Home & Outdoor Maintenance for the Elderly.” The assignment? Help seniors in the community with getting their yard/homes in shape for the spring.

Here are some of the lessons they learned:

1. You never know where the best stories will come from, or when. 16-year old Brendan and 10-year old Logan were amazed to hear stories from Mr. Johnson, a WWII Navy veteran who was at Pearl Harbor.

As the boys put away the rakes and gardening tools, Mr. Johnson showed them pictures on the wall of his garage, which included an aerial photo of the ships in the harbor prior to that fateful day, and the ship on which Mr. Johnson served.

Logan & Brendan asked a ton of questions, which Mr. Johnson was delighted to answer. The looks of wonder, alarm, and curiosity on the boys’ faces said it all.

2. People have a wide, and sometimes surprising array of passions, knowledge, and expertise.Gabriella and Logan spent time with Mrs. Johnson weeding flower beds, and during that time, discussed activities that the boys are involved with at school, etc.

Logan and Mrs. Johnson soon became enthusiastically embroiled in a conversation about baseball and the Minnesota Twins. Mrs. Johnson follows stats and players’ names as closely as Logan; Logan was extremely impressed and mentioned his surprise on the family’s drive home. 

3. When you help others, you get as much out of it as those you endeavor to help. 

Upon leaving the Johnson’s home, both families were giving hugs, handshakes, and had beaming smiles on their faces. Brendan remarked, “That was so easy – they were SO fun! We can totally do that again. I can’t believe those stories! I hope we get to do more for them! Can you believe he was my age when he enlisted!?” Logan said, “I think they like having us around to talk to even more than they cared about getting yard work done! I can’t believe how much Mrs. J knows about baseball!!”

Logan helpingGabriella and Dan Broady smiled, knowing their boys gave as much as they got with this volunteer experience!

As we approach Memorial Day Weekend, Yellow Giraffe Learning Partners would like to thank all of our veterans; we honor your sacrifice.

Owner Gabriella Broady and her family would also like to thank our clients for continuing to provide opportunities for small business owners, and thank the Johnsons for planting seeds of knowledge in us with their stories.


YGLP 2011 By the Numbers

Thank you to clients, business partners, and mentors for another great year with Yellow Giraffe Learning Partners (YGLP). Your support is priceless, and we appreciate you!

Here is a summary of what we’ve accomplished through our partnership with you:

Repeat Business is Critical
One way to know a company is successful in partnering with clients is to look at repeat business. Yellow Giraffe Learning Partners is happy to share that:
• 4 client projects in 2011 were repeat clients from 2010
• 2 additional clients called upon YGLP for more than one project in 2011

Thank you for your continued support in 2011. As consultants, it is a special treat to work with multiple areas of one organization and helps us to have a more strategic view when we partner with you.

Referrals and New Business
2011 was an exciting year for Yellow Giraffe Learning Partners as we collaborated with new organizations and industries. Referrals continue to be a source of clients, as do social media efforts. YGLP also refers talented professionals to projects regularly as a way to pay it forward.
• 7 new clients in 2011
• 3 referrals led to new client projects in 2011
• 2 new industries, including Financial/Life Insurance and Semiconductor Manufacturing

Thank you for trusting Yellow Giraffe Learning enough to refer and/or partner with us this year. We love working with you to enhance employee and organization development goals.

Collaborations with Other Consultants
Owner Gabriella Broady loves working with talented people, and she sees collaboration with other learning and development professionals as a win-win arrangement for all involved.
• 6 talented colleagues hired as subcontractors
• 1 part-time employee was hired to assist with accounting and administrative duties

Either as a solo consultant or using multiple consultants, we commit to meeting and exceeding your project objectives.

Fascinating Projects
1. Creating programs from scratch was a theme embraced in 2011. Organizations were ready to hire again, and needed Yellow Giraffe Learning Partners to design, develop, and implement programs to maximize global sales, customer service, and onboarding processes.
• Global Sales Training – E-learning
• Global Customer Service & Onboarding Training – Blended Learning
• Global Onboarding – E-learning
• Leader Onboarding – Blended Learning

Partnering with organizations to provide them with tools needed to work with their customers and to minimize “getting up to speed” time for new employees: priceless.

2. Performance Support & On the Job centered learning was a second theme for the year.
• Robotics/Semiconductor on-the-job troubleshooting experiences
• Leadership “Desk Mentor” toolkit for new managers
• S.P.O.T. checklists for sales opportunities at the customer site

Can’t Win ‘Em All
As with any organization, Yellow Giraffe Learning Partners did not earn every project we sought in 2011. This is an excellent reminder that there is always room for improvement in any organization.
• 6 proposals submitted to 5 different organizations were instead awarded to other consulting firms, or in a few cases, the organization decided not to pursue the initiative.

Yellow Giraffe Learning Partners appreciates the opportunity to seek projects with your organization. We’re open to future opportunities that may arise.

Revenue Increase
Yellow Giraffe Learning Partners is thrilled to announce 2011 as the best year since 2009 incorporation.
• 94% increase in earnings, almost doubling 2010 earnings
• Sad Note: 1 client did not meet client obligations in 2011 due to inability to pay; otherwise YGLP would have doubled earnings over 2010

What a great year! YGLP’s Company Plan was to meet or exceed 2010 earnings, as 2010 was a 24% increase over 2009. However, Yellow Giraffe Learning Partners first and foremost has a goal to do “interesting work” that challenges us, and affords us the opportunity to assist organizations with developing their workforce.

Giving Back
As a consulting business focused on developing others through education, Yellow Giraffe Learning Partners also firmly believes in supporting the global and local community.
• 2 years in business in 2011, and YGLP donates to 2 charities
• Mentored undergrad and graduate students in the field of learning and development
• Provided interview coaching for those unemployed
• Served on the Board of American Society of Training and Development, Twin Cities

Lessons Learned
Despite over 2.5 years in business, owner Gabriella Broady is still constantly learning new things about herself and how she wants to partner with clients, colleagues, and subcontractors. Decisions about how to scope projects for proposals, whom to hire as a subcontractor, and forecasting availability are added to the necessity of executing on projects that have already been earned. Passion, drive, and hard work continue to see us through and keep us bright eyed as we head into 2012.

To sum it up, 2011 has been a very rewarding year at Yellow Giraffe Learning Partners. We appreciate your trust, partnership, and commitment to us, and we return that commitment to you.

Many happy returns!


We Can Learn Much from Our Children about Interviewing

Recently, I had the enjoyable experience of baking holiday cookies with my 6 year old son. Logan announced happily that he was my “assistant chef at the cookie factory” and that he is “much better than last year, because now I can do everything but crack the eggs.” Logan described his ability to measure, double a recipe, and stir large amounts of ingredients.

Within the hour, Logan decided to promote himself to governor of Minnesota, where we live. He introduced himself to me, and announced that he was “inspecting all businesses in Minnesota, to see if they are doing ok,” and then proceeded to make sure that I had clean hands, a clean oven, and then went to check on his father who was working on a remodeling project in our home. He promptly announced that his father was building a larger cookie factory, and that he better clean up his tools so no one at the cookie factory gets hurt.

The interviewing part comes in next. Logan announced that it was time for elections. “Oh, are you running for governor again?”, I asked. “Nope. I already did that job. Now I am going to be president of the United States!” With a big smile, I asked, “Well, I am glad to see you’ve got ambition, Governor Logan. Tell me, why do you think people should vote for you?”

Logan’s immediate reply made my mouth fall open, as it’s smooth and authentic delivery was something many adults strive for in the interview process. Logan declared, “Well, I think people should vote for me because I am nice to everyone, and I know how to help them with their jobs and their houses. Also, I used to work in a cookie factory, so I can bake cookies for everyone and they will have something good to eat.” I laughed out loud, looked at my husband and said, “Well, that sounds better than a lot of reasons I’ve heard to vote for someone.”

The conversation ran through my head several times, and I reflected that what Logan had done was successfully navigate through an interview! Here are some lessons that resonated from Logan’s conversation with me:

1. Tell the Story:
Logan was able to tell a story about why he was visiting the “cookie factory”, and what his job was as governor, in addition to why he should be elected President. What is your story? Why do you want the job you are applying for right now? Recently I asked a friend why she was interviewing for a job with a healthcare company. She told me a story of how as a child, she was often ill, and remembered all of the paperwork and appointments her parents went to, and that they were often confused about payments and procedures. She determined that she wanted to work in healthcare “to help others feel more comfortable about their health situations.” What a great story to share on an interview!

2. Know What You Have to Offer:
Logan simply stated what he could offer: being nice to people, help with businesses, and cookies. When going on an interview, how prepared are you to discuss your strengths, what you are good at, and what you can offer the prospective employer? It is more than knowing you can make cookies; it is knowing that you can offer a tangible result, such as, “people will have something good to eat.”

3. Connect Your Experiences:
Logan was able to tie in a seemingly unrelated job of his work at the cookie factory with a way to use those skills in his new role as President. These days, the average person has 10 careers over a lifetime, and it is likely that they may be from different industries or using opposite skill sets. How can you tie the lessons learned in each of your work experiences, so they may add to your story? How do those experiences help you do a better job today?

4. Be Genuine:
The enthusiasm Logan shared for his ambition to be President, complete with his belief that he was right for the job could only bring a smile to an interviewer’s face. An interview is a conversation with another person about what you would like to do as an employee or consultant in the organization. Being able to answer the question, “Why should I hire you?” by using tips 1-3 above will go a long way in getting a potential employer to see how you are unique from other candidates.

While Logan has never really worked in a cookie factory, nor served as governor, I have faith that his ability to communicate his skills and ideas at age 6 will serve him well into adulthood.

Suddenly, I am hungry for a cookie.