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  • Writer's pictureIrina Ketkin

Shifting careers: How to transition into Learning and Development successfully

“I have been in another field for 10 years, but I think I want to shift careers to Learning and Development. Where do I start?” This is one of the most common questions people message me about on LinkedIn. So I thought I’d put together a simple 5-step plan for what you need to do to transition to Learning and Development even if you have no previous experience.

Table of Contents:


Step 1. Learn about the field of L&D

One thing a lot of professionals get wrong is that L&D is a single role. But the reality is that L&D is an umbrella term. We’ve counted over 35 different L&D-related roles.


There are many sources to learn about L&D:


Step 2. Envision your ideal employer and position

There are so many companies and organizations out there that it can be tempting to just start applying for roles with all of them. But the reality is that not every employer will be a good fit. Consider what are some pros you value (i.e., place of work, hours, responsibilities, etc.) and what are some cones you can live with (i.e., types of stakeholders you must deal with, organizational culture, limited career development opportunities, etc.).


Step 3. Tell a story through your resume

When you apply to L&D roles with no previous experience in the field, your Resume should tell a story. Not just any story – the story of you switching careers but that even though you don’t have experience, you are working on it. Perhaps you’ve taken a course, completed a qualifications program, you’re working on a relevant degree, you’ve started organizing pro bono and volunteer training sessions in your local youth center. Whatever it is, make sure that the potential employer understands that you may not have all the skills and knowledge right now but that you are working on it and you are on a journey to bettering yourself.


Speaking of, make sure to highlight any transferable skills that will help you hit the floor running. You may not have developed an online course, but you’ve managed complex projects. You may not have analyzed the learning needs of an organization, but you’ve collected the training requirements of your previous team. You may not have facilitated a group discussion, but you organized your department’s team-building last year. Whatever it is, make sure it is loud and clear on your resume.


Step 4. Apply to as many positions as possible

This may sound overwhelming, but the reality is that not everyone will come back to you with a request for an interview. Never put all your eggs in one basket. Filter the industry you want to work in, find the companies that might sound like a good fit (see Step 2!), customize your resume to hit all the keywords from the job posting, and then hit “Apply”. The more you do this, the more chances your resume has to pass through the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and you get a message in your inbox.


Consider each application and interview as an opportunity to practice. You may not get it on the first try (and if you do, please let us know so we can ask you how you did that!), but with each application and interview, you will feel more confident.


We also need to talk about resume customization. It is a good idea to have a standard resume that you start off with. But every time you apply to a position, make sure to read through the job description carefully, highlight the keywords and terms, and then include them in your resume. For example, if the job description emphasizes the need for a candidate with experience in "e-learning development" and "instructional design," and your standard resume mentions "creating digital training materials," you should update it to specifically highlight your experience in "designing and developing e-learning content using instructional design principles." This tailoring shows the hiring manager that you have the exact skills they're looking for and increases the likelihood of your resume passing through Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and catching the employer's attention.



Step 5. Create your own opportunities

There are generally two ways people get into L&D – internally or externally. The first is when the company you currently work for opens a position for a trainer, instructional designer, facilitator or any other L&D role. Then you apply and, without switching employers, switch careers. The second is when you leave your current employer and decide to pursue a career in the L&D field in another organization.


So, what does opportunity have to do with this? Simply put – take a look around and see if you can convince your current employer to create an L&D-related position just for you. Prepare to defend the need for the role and why you would be the best person. For example, if you notice that your current team frequently struggles with adopting new software or technologies, you could propose the creation of an "Internal Technology Training Specialist" role. Prepare a presentation that outlines the recurring challenges your team faces, how a dedicated role could address these issues through tailored training sessions, and the potential return on investment (ROI) in terms of improved productivity and reduced time spent troubleshooting. Highlight your own experiences in helping colleagues adapt to new tools and your passion for learning and development as reasons why you are the ideal candidate to pioneer this role.



Wherever you might be on your professional journey – a veteran in another field or just out of school, we hope these steps give you a clearer idea of where to start on your journey to finding your first role in Learning and Development.


If you want to learn more about starting a career in L&D, check out our free 5-day series that will help you with creating a personal brand that stands out and how to ace the interview.


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