Reflecting on the Frustrations of Learning and Development

Working in Learning and Development (L&D) can be a very rewarding career. Few jobs allow you to impact so many people on a daily basis without an emergency involved. As I develop and implement training, what I do has a measurable effect on my co-workers.

L&D can also be very frustrating and mind jarring. Any full-time L&D professional I’ve spoken with over the years shared a similar story of joy and woe. Common frustrations often include:

  • too many people in the company wanting training and all of it is high priority
  • not enough people in the company supporting training
  • not enough support from the top
  • not enough support from the bottom
  • technology problems
  • software failures
  • overloaded schedules
  • resources pulled without warning
  • failures of others that affect your own output
  • lack of recognition
  • recognition of others for work you did alone
  • budget cuts
  • lack of professional development

All of these and more I’ve faced in my career as an L&D professional working across several companies. I’ve faced days, weeks, months, and even years where I wanted to throw in the towel, tap out, and walk away.

But then, I have a moment.

A moment where someone unexpectedly thanks me for helping them finally accomplish that thing they’ve been trying to do; a moment where genuine recognition comes after a really hard job; a moment where the light suddenly goes on for a group of people I’m training and they leave to have a huge impact on the company. I first learned of moments like that when I taught Jr. High and High School history classes. There is something really special about watching the light turn on for someone.

In between moments, when the road seems dark, I think of something Rory Vaden said. Rory Vaden is an author, trainer, and inspirational speaker that focuses largely on sales training in his consulting firm. He wrote a blog post called the Myth of the Lifestyle Entrepreneur and in it, he said something the resonated with me as an L&D professional. Here is a partial quote of that article:

Quit buying into the lies. 

Quit allowing yourself to be deceived. 

And instead, put your head down and go back to work. 

When you get tired, suck it up and go back to work. 

Then, when you’re ready to quit, go back to work. 

After you’re sure you can’t take anymore go back to work. 

Once you’re completely empty, keep going back to work.

While he was speaking to entrepreneurs, it was a really good reminder to me that the work I choose to do isn’t always, or even often, glamorous, or fun, or exciting. Sometimes it is drudgery, pain, and anguish. When those times come, and they will, I find myself thinking of Rory’s statement above, putting my head down, and getting back to work. When it gets really bad I channel a little Jimmy V and my mantra becomes “survive and advance.” I hold out for that next ‘moment’ that reminds me why I do what I do, and why, in spite of it all, I love it.


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