I am delighted in this latest trainer talk interview to be able to chat with Racheal Richardson, a UK-based trainer. This is a fascinating interview with Rachael.
If you also want to be interviewed you can contact us here.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself Rachael
I always find this the toughest question, how to not make myself sound dull! I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, and an aunt. I can even add in guinea pig mother but that’s in the lovingly attached sense as opposed to the biological sense!
I spend a lot of time going for walks, enjoying nature, and exercising in general really, especially since Covid-19 hit us all and lockdowns started to be the new norm. I’ve just been trying to make the best of a really bad situation and come out the other end of a pandemic healthier than when I went in – which is an achievement if you ask me!
Although a small part of me, in the sense that I don’t let it define me as a person, I am also transgender. I transitioned socially and medically around 4 years ago with the support of my absolutely amazing wife, Cat.
We have been married for 11 years now and together for 14. We actually met after Cat left a random comment on my Myspace account – if you can remember that before Facebook came along and went full Borg on the internet.
Of course, transitioning has changed my outlook on many things and I would be guilty of not being honest with myself if I thought otherwise. I think the biggest change in my own attitudes came for me when my wife was very poorly with her mental health.
Before I had even decided to transition it was seeing Cat in a really dark place mentally, and having to learn so much about caring for someone with mental health issues, that had a fundamental impact on who I was and what was important. It allowed me being able to self-reflect enough to know what it took for me to be happy – and go-figure that happiness came from being my authentic self!
I also have to mention I love video games, and games in general, and have been told I am a touch too competitive sometimes. Honestly, I don’t think I am – other people are just sore losers.
That is me in short – there are, of course, loads more things I could talk about but someday I would like to make that available on Amazon Kindle for £14.99… so, with that in mind, I think I will stop here!
2. How did you get involved with freelance and/or corporate training?
I think the seed was planted during my time as a union official in my last job working for Local Government. I was frequently asked about things to do with employment law and equality.
It got me thinking ‘if I could do this for a living, I would be a much happier person going to work each day and, as choosing happiness is one of my core values, I decided to start seriously considering setting up my own business. I went on to start my own business and focus on doing what I love.
I suffer from very bad migraines and doing a job that worked around me and my health, while also being fulfilling, ticked so many boxes.
The other big factor for me setting up as a freelance trainer was my personal experience of training. I always found training sessions I had been on to be much more engaging when the person doing the training had first-hand experience of the subject.
That was something I wanted to be able to offer each time I walked into a training session. It is so important I named my business after it: Real Life Experience Training and Consultancy.
3. What subjects do you provide training on?
As the foundation of my business model is real-life experience, I offer topics I have lived experience, as well as extensive professional knowledge on, including;
a) Transgender Awareness
Training on all aspects of gender identity including an in-depth look at what being transgender means and how it can affect work and personal life.
b) LGBTQ Awareness
Training on LGBTQ awareness in an interactive space where participation and questions are encouraged.
c) Stress, Depression, and Anxiety Awareness
Comprehensive training on the top reasons for sickness in the UK currently, focusing on the effects this can have on work and personal life and steps to help employees cope with this in the workplace.
d) Training for Carers
Many employees will have a caring role in their personal lives. In this session we look at the effects this can have both personally and professionally and how working with employees can keep carers safe and at work.
e) Absence Management Consultation Service
We will work with you to take a person-centered approach and reduce current absence levels and achieve success with future absence management targets.
4. What are the biggest challenges as a trainer?
My top questions around any training I do is: ‘how will this session be engaging? How will I get the students’ attention away from everything else going on in their lives and be fully present in learning about this topic?’
I would go so far as to say it must be similar to how a stand-up comic must feel when they know their jokes/observations are funny but have doubts if others will laugh!
There are so many variables to consider but all ensure everything is spot on for students to learn at their maximum potential.
I would say my biggest challenge is being able to say after each session that I did the best I could: I am happy that I did all I could to facilitate the best session I could.
5. What is your favorite part of being a trainer?
I have worked in jobs where job satisfaction was at the bottom of the pecking order and money was at the top. This was soul-destroying for me personally.
What I love about being a freelance trainer is having the luxury of changing things up when I feel the need to. For example, if I see a new way of teaching then I can immediately adapt and bring that in.
Reflecting and acting on new ideas is so much more organic than implementing new ideas in a large organization. I can be so flexible and adaptive – freedom – that’s what I love the most.
I also get a complete sense of joy when someone says to me ‘because of you I understand something better’ or ‘you made a difference to me in how I see the world now’.
People are conditioned to chase the almighty currency symbol but doing something that makes a difference that still keeps a roof over your head and makes you feel fulfilled is priceless.
Not being swayed by the “you should be doing” but by the “you want to be doing” and being a trainer fills that part of me.
6. How do you identify the training needs of the employees or people you train?
This will, of course, depend on the type of training I am doing.
Transgender Awareness will have a slightly different method for training needs analysis as opposed to my Absence Management course. I normally go into most sessions with the assumption I will need to go through the whole of my content.
I look at training like driving a car in many respects, although someone may have been driving for a long time, they may have picked up bad habits along the way. They may not know about the new best practices for gear choice management, for example.
I think the key here is to respect that people may have prior knowledge of what you are teaching. At the same time, it’s important to make sure you are re-affirming and adding to that learning.
7. Your one tip on how to be a good trainer?
This is possibly the most overused line when anyone is giving advice but I believe it really is what makes a great trainer: just being yourself.
People respond more positively towards real people, as opposed to those who read off a cue card.
Obviously, some subjects can be rather dry, e.g. employment law, and filled with dates, test cases, and actual cases to remember.
However, there is nothing stopping you from putting your own stamp on the session: talking about real past experiences where employment law was relevant.
A good trainer injects themselves into the subject matter. When this is done successfully, you will be amazed by the results.
8. Second tip of advice for new trainers
Manage your expectations!
The old saying goes Rome was not built in a day and that is so true for new budding freelance trainers! With that in mind remember your new business as a freelance trainer will take time to develop.
I think we are all guilty of having those “movie moments” where we see things happen really fast and expect the same of ourselves.
In the space of a few scenes, Rocky goes from chasing a chicken in an ally to being in the championship fight, but life and business do not work like that.
It takes time, effort, and patience as well as (perhaps most importantly) compassion for yourself. You will be doing the best you can and the lack of bookings is not a reflection of you as a person it is merely where you are currently.
We don’t have the luxury in life to edit out the boring bits, but when we manage our own expectations we can actually enjoy that hard work laying foundations and, in time, also enjoy the rewards.
9. How has the current global pandemic affected how you operate as a freelance trainer?
I had not long set up my business before we started hearing rumbles of a new virus being discovered, so quite early I knew having online presence and services was imperative.
I looked up how to host webinars then saw how expensive that could be so spent an equal amount of time looking at how to host them for free! That’s something I strongly suggest anyone setting up now to also do. Planning ahead and keeping costs down will help you a lot!
Obviously, there were costs I incurred – I wanted the HD camera and the near-DJ-looking microphone as the quality of my content and online presence was a priority. If money was no object I’d have been set up like Frasier Crane with my own personal Roz!
I would advise thinking carefully about your priorities and buying the best quality equipment you can realistically afford.
I never expected to be doing nearly 100% of my sessions online but this has become the norm for me. I now look forward to being back in the classroom and bringing what I’ve learned about new technology into that setting too!
10. What, in your experience, was the most rewarding or fulfilling training you have taken part in as a student?
My true north is my wife and watching her mental health suffer so badly set me off on a journey. I wanted to learn about mental health issues and how we can help people, not only at work but in our home lives, to cope better and do the things that make life worth living.
The Mental Health First Aid course I went on was the most engaging and fulfilling course I have ever had the privilege to take part in. Hearing the stories of a boy who survived a suicide attempt jumping from a bridge and how he turned his life around inspired me to this day. It also highlighted how lucky I was to still have my wife, it put so much into perspective for me.
The training itself was not death by PowerPoint though of course slides were used. What made it ‘stick’ was mainly hearing real and dramatized accounts of actual experiences.
This course is somewhat responsible for why I felt real-life experience as a trainer is so important. My wife’s mental health is much improved and she is working in mental health services as a Peer Support Worker while doing a Psychology and Counselling degree. She is another massive inspiration to me and it’s been great to see her using her experiences to help others.
11. What do you like to do outside of work? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time, what ambitions do you have and what is your favorite place to travel worldwide and why?
I love traveling and just seeing the world even if it’s just a drive in the country or going on a cruise to see places like Egypt or Jordan. I would hate to look back on life and think why did I not make the effort to see this or experience this. It’s what life is all about for me: experiencing as much as I can while I can with my wife and loved ones.
In my spare time, when I just want to relax, I’m a massive movie and TV buff – you might have noticed I dropped a few examples into my answers! I just can’t help myself! Maybe it’s just how my brain is programmed to function after being a child of the 90s!
My ambition is to, first and foremost, be happy! It drives everything I do and if that means developing my business or transitioning gender then that’s what I will do.
My main ambition for the business is to bring on board other budding trainers who bring their own lived experiences and give them the confidence, knowledge, and tools in which to teach us that to inspire others to learn.
My favorite place in the world to travel to is Paris. Hands down the nicest most beautiful place in the world for me. I loved everything about Paris; the food, the culture, just everything was so lovely whenever we have visited.
Rachael’s Bio and How To Find Her
My name is Rachael Richardson and I am 36 years old. I’m happily married to my wife, Cat, and guinea-mum to 4 brilliant guinea pigs. I live in Leicester, England. I teach what I have lived and I love to teach: my hope is you will love to listen and want to learn.
To contact or learn more about Rachael and her training business:
Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds
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