Post written by ATDChi member Lisa Erlich. This article is part of a series of member-written content on Career Development in Talent Development.
Use Your Superpower to Break into Learning & Development
At the start of my career, if someone had asked me where I saw myself in 5 years, I definitely had a plan – grand plans on being the Editor-in-Chief of a print magazine. Nearly 25 years later, my B.A. in Journalism with a Minor in French has only slightly factored into my career pivot into Learning & Development.
So how did I find Learning & Development, much less get started? My superpower. My superpower is the ability to simultaneously see the bigger picture and connect the dots to deliver on what needs to be done. That takes three things: Flexibility, Curiosity and Empathy.
THE POWER OF FLEXIBILITY: 1997. The internet was new. Print magazines were developing an online presence – this was where it was “at.” I took a job where I was able to write and produce online content and learn the business quickly.
THE POWER OF CURIOSITY: 2004. I was new to Chicago – no job – and I got an offer at an affiliate marketing company. This wasn’t your typical, in-your-face pop-up advertising. This was eyebrow raising. In 2004, affiliate marketing generated about $1.5 billing in the U.S. According to Statista, affiliate marketing spending in the U.S. alone is expected to reach $8.2 billion by 2022. Bingo!
THE POWER OF EMPATHY: 2010. I’m still with my affiliate marketing company. It’s no longer a start-up but in hyper-growth mode. I was on the client services team but could see we were in need for more focus on our teams. We needed a cohesive approach to onboarding, consistent job functional training, and better support for our people managers.
Despite the fact that I didn’t have any formal training, I did my research, crafted a proposal, gained endorsement from the executive team, and got the go-ahead to design and deliver a Learning & Development strategy.
With my focus on continually learning, I found great partners and worked closely with key stakeholders across the organization to build and scale our first people-focused development programming.
So how do you translate all of this?
Identify, and rely on, your superpower: Not sure what that is? Ask yourself: What are my strengths? What do I enjoy? Once you’ve identified them, put them to use – offer to be a peer coach, lead a team meeting, volunteer to share new information or a new process with your team.
Keep your eyes open for “trends”: Have the pulse on what’s happening in your space, in your organization. Is there growth? Are there shifts? Are there new opportunities? That “trend” could be the next big thing. Ask yourself, what will your role be?
Educate yourself along the way: Start to immerse yourself in the Learning & Development world.
You’re here now, but continue to leverage TD.org to read articles, find conferences, and keep following the blog posts on TD.org and ATDChi.org.
Network with local HR professionals or Learning & Development groups on LinkedIn, and follow #learninganddevelopment on LinkedIn.
Check out Eventbrite for free industry webinars.
Take online courses on your favorite e-learning platform.
Don’t get me wrong, it's critical to have a short-term goal, but as quickly as things change these days, adaptability and identifying new opportunities are just as important. Chef José Andrés said recently on the Smartless podcast, “We have the tendency to plan too much. When you plan too much… what happens? Things usually never go as you plan them.”
If you want to break into L&D, keep your eyes and ears open, leverage your strengths, and make your own opportunities happen.
About Lisa Erlich
Lisa Erlich has been an innovator and thought leader in the Learning & Development space for more than a decade. She lives in the suburbs north of Chicago with her husband, 2 boys and dog. Reach out to Lisa at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisa-erlich-b9577663/
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