“Variety and challenge.” That’s how most instructional designer candidates answer when I ask, during an interview, what they’re looking for in their next position. Usually, they mean meeting new people, writing about different topics, and using different authoring tools .

On the other hand, managers who are bringing someone on board for a short engagement aren’t interested in meeting the consultant’s goal of learning something new all the time. They want to see a track record of the consultant having done exactly what the client will be paying them to do.

How can both parties get what they want?

If you are a learning consultant, you can broaden your view of where variety and challenge come from. I was interviewing someone last week who said that he’s looking for a job that will provide stimulating and interesting problems to solve.

My first reaction was that he wouldn’t likely find that kind of challenge in assignments that usually involve writing content based on a client’s existing course design. I proceeded to describe the typically short projects with very busy subject matter experts and regulatory constraints, and he said “those are stimulating and interesting problems to me.” His broader view—beyond the content that he’s creating—will serve him well because he’ll find variety and challenge in relationships, organizational structures, directives, and compliance environments that all affect each project he’s on.

If you are an L&D manager having difficulty finding a consultant with experience doing what you need to have done, you can broaden your view of what might make the person qualified for the assignment.

Recently, I had a conversation with a client about the qualifications of the trainers she needed for a software implementation. She could have specified that all the trainers needed experience training on electronic medical records software. Instead, she was open to trainers with a clinical background and/or experience training nurses. This manager is going to have an easier time assembling a team—not to mention keeping them team—than she would with a narrower requirement of experience.

Ideally, each project assignment will be just the right match of using strong skills that the client needs while offering a bit of growth. When circumstances aren’t ideal, however, taking a broad view of experience benefits consultants and clients alike.

Joyce Lasecke has been finding and nurturing talent in instructional designers and technical writers for almost 30 years. She shares insights and observations in Fredrickson’s blog as the L&D Talent Hub.

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