In 1990 I founded what became the most successful NLP start up in the country. In just four years we had the largest NLP programs of their kind in the US, and 18 years later that company is still going strong. So I frequently am asked what kind of professional and business opportunities are there in NLP. You can find a tremendous amount of misinformation in the media about the opportunities as an NLP professional. A significant amount of that misinformation is purposefully perpetrated by companies and individuals who are selling get rich quick schemes. As you’ll see from the following, I find that kind of marketing offensive, especially in a field that professes to be about human development. Or it may be simply that those companies and individuals can’t see beyond their own self interest—a very limited model of the world. In fact, as you read on, you’ll see that, if anything, I am discouraging spending money on NLP training.
What are the real opportunities to use NLP in your professional life? Basically there are four effective ways to apply NLP in a profession or business. First and most obvious is to develop a practice as an NLP therapist or coach, a therapist being someone who’s dealing with remedial issues, fixing something that is broken, and a coach being someone who’s dealing with generative issues, that is making what already works work even better. The second way, and the one I think prompts this question most frequently, is the opportunity to become a professional NLP trainer. This is perhaps the most tempting and also the most challenging way to make a living with NLP. The third way is to start an NLP seminar business combined with a private practice of some kind and perhaps adding other aspects such as consulting to organizations.
The fourth and I think easiest, most satisfying, and most successful way is to apply NLP to your own field of dreams, in your own area of expertise, your area of passion and delight, whether it’s in the profession you already have, or a hobby or pastime you really enjoy and want to take even further. People are applying NLP in this manner in every field of human endeavor from the arts and sciences to business and athletics, and that is where I have seen the greatest degree of personal satisfaction and financial success, bar none, amongst NLP students.
The direct way to all of these opportunities is to first develop your NLP skills by applying it first in your own personal development. You do this by using NLP as a personal practice much as meditation or yoga or the martial arts are practiced: with consistency, enjoyment, and the guidance of a good mentor. One of my friends and NLP developers Tamara Andreas told me that when she and her sister Connirae were developing the Core Transformation Process she used it exclusively to deal with every issue that came up in her personal and professional life for a three-month period. She said that she achieved the greatest degree of personal and professional development in the shortest period of time that she had ever experienced.
From there, to using NLP in assisting other people in their personal development is a pretty simple and direct step. And in fact you can develop your expertise in both areas at the same time. If you’re not already a coach therapist or consultant you can practice with the people in your own NLP training with your friends and neighbors creating a study group or playgroup and is trading coaching sessions with other students you can also use a lot of the self-study tools are offered through our bookstore in a variety of other sources. All of these ways can be used to enhance and develop your skills as an NLP practitioner both in your personal and professional development.
The most enticing and tempting career possibility NLP is perhaps that of an NLP trainer. You attend an NLP training and see that person standing in front of you in the front of the room, smiling, teaching, commanding the respect and attention of the crowd and getting paid for the privilege. Looks pretty good, doesn’t it.? And yes, it can be quite delightful to get paid to stand in front of a group of people and enjoy their full attention and admiration and respect while you talk and enjoy yourself and get paid for the privilege.
So do you think there might be just a little bit of competition for those opportunities? Oh yeah. In addition, I really doubt that there’s full-time employment for more than 15 or 20 people in the entire United States as NLP trainers. A number of NLP businesses make it a big part of their pitch to promote NLP as a get rich quick business scheme. Some have been selling this for about 10 or 20 years now, and if it really was that simple there’d be an NLP training center on every street corner in the country. It simply doesn’t work that way. In the US, especially, NLP hasn’t really crossed into the mainstream as something people know that they need. By contrast, it has done that in Europe to a very large extent. In countries like England Germany and France, you do find an NLP training on practically every street corner. So while there is a very strong perception of the need and usefulness of NLP training in one’s life in Europe there is also an enormous amount of competition for NLP students.
In fact, in Germany I’m told, most of the “NLP trainings” are actually living room study groups with three or four students, which is a very substandard education in many ways. So unless you’re in a country where you get to be among the first to promote NLP, or you just happen to be a very well-known author, or a television personality, or you have some other unique advantage, the competition is pretty tough.
There are far easier ways to make a living. And yet if you really want to do this, the most successful way that I’ve seen it done is basically to start a combination of a personal NLP practice and a seminar company. There are a number of what I call mom-and-pop NLP organizations, typically husband and wife, or two partners, who conduct the entire training themselves. This includes the full promotion, marketing, administration, and logistics. These organizations take advantage of the referrals for personal work that are generated as a result of their seminars and promotions of the seminars. If you find this kind of work to be truly emotionally satisfying for you, truly what you want to do, then it can be very worthwhile and personally fulfilling.
The fourth way, however, is the one that I recommend the most because I have found it to be the one where people enjoy the greatest immediate success and satisfaction. This fourth way is to use NLP in your already existing professional capacity. Whether it’s teaching or management or public speaking or consulting or science or art, NLP is such a fundamentally strong enhancement of all our human skills that it makes a wonderful and substantial difference in your personal success and satisfaction in virtually any area. I have conducted upwards of a hundred NLP trainings in the last 18 years and this is the surest way in which I have seen people consistently enjoy applying NLP professionally.
So the answer to the question are there solid professional or business opportunities in the field of NLP is definitely yes. Like anything in life, there are easy ways and there are ways that are not so easy. The easiest and most direct way to approach this is first of all to practice applying NLP in your personal development. Play and practice as much as you can with anyone and everyone you can enroll.
First of all you’ll enjoy the greatest enhancement in your skills improvement in your flexibility and enjoyment of life and secondly you’ll garner a real experiential basis for appreciating what extent you want to make NLP a part of your professional life. I know a number of people who have never overtly used NLP as a career, yet they have enjoyed it for years and continue to play and learn. They get a lot of personal satisfaction out of the continuous learning and personal growth that is implicit in the practice of NLP.
Then the next step in a natural progression is to start using NLP in working with other people in a more formal context. This may mean slightly shifting your responsibilities at work, or it may mean starting a part-time coaching practice, or volunteering at a local counseling center or coaching the local sports team. If you then want to move into the presenting a training area the first step is to join your local Toastmasters group or some venue where you will get consistent practice with your public speaking skills and get to experience standing in front of an audience and delivering.
After all, wouldn’t you rather find out from your own experience whether or not you really like presenting to an audience before you commit yourself fully -and invest a substantial amount of time and money? Finally, the surest and safest route to a satisfying NLP career is using NLP in discovering, exploring, and achieving your very own dreams.
Whichever you choose, best of luck and happiness.
President, NLP Comprehensive