A Note from Shawntay- One of my favorite things about being an Instructional Design Trainologist is meeting new professionals (both in-person and online) that are passionate about making a change. Everyone’s instructional design journey is unique! Hearing from people of different backgrounds and how they came into the instructional design field is interesting and inspiring.
So in this new series, which I’m calling “Instructional Design Journeys: Career-Changers Who Are Crushing it!”, you’ll hear from different beginning instructional designers as they share their journeys through career-changes. They’ll share some of their favorite tips and resources that helped them transform from their old career into an instructional designer!
Five years ago, I thought teaching was what I would do for the rest of my life. For better or for worse, I was committed to my school district and being an educator.
If someone had told me then that it was possible for me to leverage my skills and use them in an exciting new way, I never would’ve believed it. I especially wouldn’t have believed I could achieve this while working for myself, full-time, from home. But now, that’s my reality as an instructional designer!
Being a teacher was my passion. However, working in instructional design has allowed me more flexibility and creativity than a teaching schedule allows. Not to mention, I’ve found an amazing balance between work and family while still incorporating the teaching skills I spent so many years developing.
I happily share my instructional design journey and the resources I relied on to get here with aspiring instructional designers. Especially teachers who want to transition out of the classroom.
My Instructional Design Journey
For the past 12 years, I’ve worked as a middle school French teacher. In my fifth year, I started researching Master’s degrees. It was a natural next step for an educator, but the popular choices underwhelmed me.
I found one school that offered an Instructional Design program, and I was intrigued! The more I researched instructional design, the more shocked I was that I had never heard of it before. My strengths in curriculum design and content organization seemed like a perfect fit for the field. Furthermore, as a teacher in a niche subject area, I had been designing and developing all my own resources and assessments for years.
Fast forward a few years, I started a family and was quickly burning out in my teaching position. It seemed like every year, more responsibilities and requirements were added to my plate. I found it difficult to balance the work I had to do outside school hours with my personal life. I was stressed and spread too thin!
At the end of that school year, my administrator let me know that my teaching schedule would be changing for the following year. I took this as the sign I needed to make the first step to a career in instructional design.
Instead of accepting the new schedule, I dropped half of my classes. I’d be making ⅓ of a normal teacher’s salary, but I’d only be teaching two classes a day. Opening up some freedom in my schedule to start working as an instructional designer
Making it Work as a Freelancer
As soon as I decided to drop down to so few classes, I knew I needed to hustle to make up for the lost income. Here’s what I did to set myself up for success as a freelance instructional designer:
Calculated Monthly Expenses
This was an important first step, and one I would recommend to anyone who decides to leave a position before they have another job lined up. I grabbed a free monthly budget template, opened up my bank statements, and tracked my expenses for the previous 3 months.
Armed with the knowledge of my monthly non-negotiables (not to mention the cold-hard fact of how much unnecessary shopping I did), I was able to calculate how much money I needed to make each month as a freelancer to continue paying my bills.
Enlisted a Support System
I was lucky to have a real-life support system in place that I could turn to for advice during this transition. Thankfully, my immediate family was supportive of my decision to step away from teaching and try something new. Both my parents made mid-life career changes, so I had a few success stories to guide me.
There’s also a huge benefit to finding an online support system. I wish I had thought of joining a Facebook community when I was in the middle of this change. The resources for career changers that are shared in The Hangout are invaluable. Not to mention how friendly and quick with advice the members are.
Updated My Resume
This was one of the more time-consuming processes I went through in my transition. A teaching resume looks quite different from other corporate resumes. Plus, I hadn’t been in the job market for almost 10 years!
The first thing I did was jump on LinkedIn and look at profiles and resumes from other instructional designers. I used these to reword my skills and experience to make them more relevant to the instructional design jobs I’d be applying for.
Updating my resume also gave me a chance to see where I had skill gaps. I noticed some commonly required skills were missing, and I knew I would need to continue learning to add them to my own skillset.
Set Up Job Searches
Even though I had some learning to do before I jumped into an instructional design position, I set up searches on LinkedIn, Higher Ed Jobs, and Monster. Getting those emails every day kept my motivation up and gave me a chance to see what was out there.
Applied for Backup Remote Work
There were no guarantees I would get work as an instructional designer soon, and my monthly budget tracking gave me a very specific number I would need to work toward to stay on track. My instructional design journey would end pretty quickly if I didn’t! Luckily, I had used Upwork in the past for a side-hustle.
I opened my profile to data-entry and content-writing jobs. Simple, low-paying work that I knew I would be good at. Content-writing was actually a good way to gain experience for script-writing instructional designers often do.
Additionally, I applied to a few other popular work-from-home sites like Appen and Rev. Were these highly-engaging, high-paying jobs? Absolutely not! But they were easy to do from home in my downtime. Not to mention, I was able to quickly begin earning enough extra income to work towards my goal of being an instructional designer.
Instructional Design Resources for Career Changers
Finding the right guidance for making a career change can be tough. Especially when you don’t have the budget for expensive graduate-level courses or subscription-based authoring tools. These resources for career changers are either free or things I considered an important investment in my transition.
Resume Writing Guide
This is a resource I found later in my transition, but it would have saved me so much time and research if I’d had it from the beginning! As a freelance instructional designer, I’m always updating and upgrading my resume.
The free guide trends towards teachers, which is perfect for me, but I would recommend it to anyone. Included are helpful tips and a sample resume that can act as a great starting point for career changers.
I’m New Here
Nyla Spooner’s podcast is the perfect resource for new and aspiring instructional designers. She does a great job at breaking down different aspects of instructional design. Even better, her podcasts are short and sweet, most around 10 minutes long!
I grabbed this book by Tom and David Kelley on a whim. It became a great source of inspiration during my transition. Although it isn’t typically associated with instructional design, it’s aimed at helping people to unleash their creativity regardless of their field of work. This is a motivational read for career changers who may be feeling uninspired in their current job.
Additionally, there’s a heavy focus on out-of-the-box problem solving that I’ve found incredibly helpful in my instructional design work. I find myself coming back to certain chapters years later as I help clients find creative learning solutions.
The Instructional Design Company Blog
I connected with Shawntay’s blog right away. Her transition to instructional design was similar to the path I was on. There are so many valuable articles that are perfect for beginning instructional designers.
A few of my favorites include Visual Design Can Be Learned and How To Be A Rockstar Remote Instructional Designer.
In the past year, despite a global pandemic, I’ve hit a few milestones in my instructional design journey. Thanks in part to the resources above, I landed and successfully completed my highest-paying contract. I managed the project completely solo and the client asked me back for a second project!
Additionally, I’ve decided to step away from that part-time teaching job. I was holding onto those 2 classes and my love of teaching, but ultimately know that moving into full-time instructional design work is the right path for me. I’m excited to see what I’ll be able to do!
Finally, I’m thrilled to be taking part in the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator System and Certificate Program. Now that I’m transitioning to a full-time freelancer, I know this will be one of the most important resources for career changers! I can’t wait to take my skills to the next level, dive into project management, and build my own courses in Articulate Storyline.
The Testimonials are In:
Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.
I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.
After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!
L&D Project Manager
The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!
Future Instructional Designer
If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!
Future Instructional Designer
I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).
Future Instructional Designer
I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.
Krista Johnson Awomoyi
Freelance Instructional Designer
I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.
This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!
Instructional Designer Training Facilitator
Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.
I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!
Freelance Instructional Designer
My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!
Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design
I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.
Turns Your Written Thoughts Into a Masterpiece!
Shawntay Skjoldager can turn your written thoughts into a masterpiece. She is great to work with and the most organized person I know!
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer
Shawntay has been incredible!
Shawntay has been incredible and her team is responsive and effective in translating my training programs into professional presentations. Don’t hesitate to contact her for your project.
Beth B. De Lima, MBA, SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP
President and Principal of HRM Consulting, Inc.
IDC is My Secret Weapon to Soar Above My Competition!
The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.
LT. COL. Jason O. Harris
U.S. Air Force Officer, Special Operations Pilot, U.S.A.F. Academy Instructor, Motivational Speaker
A Tremendous Asset to the Project Team!
Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University
Creative & Highly Talented!
Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer. She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program. It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.
Breaks Down Mammoth Projects
“Shawntay is quick study and carefully synthesizes information for presentations that are clear, concise and captivating. Her personality draws the audience in and her content mastery is excellent. A team player and organizer, Shawntay has the ability to break down mammoth projects, keep everybody on time and on task.”
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach
“I have had many opportunities to work with Shawntay—mainly in the support of implementing new eLearning initiatives. I have been very impressed by her ability to quickly learn how to use rapid eLearning development tools and effectively use them to create multiple courses within a short timeframe. Shawntay’s enthusiastic nature, attention to detail, and dedication to her work make her a pleasure to work with and a great asset to both Texas A&M University-Commerce and the broader training community within the Texas A&M University System.”
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning
Top Notch Professional
Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.
Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research
Fortunate to Find Shawntay!
“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.
Short Turn Around. On Time. Under Budget!
“We hired Shawntay to develop a training facilitator’s guide and PowerPoint slide deck for an operations manual heavy with technical content. The project was made more challenging by a very short turn around, 5 business days, and the fact that the operations manual wasn’t complete and was being updated simultaneously with the facilitator’s guide and slide deck. Despite these challenges, Shawntay delivered as promised. On time and under budget.”
Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services
Need an Expert Who Consistently Delivers?
“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships
Quality Products & Solutions!
“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”
Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach
“Invest in yourself and take your skills to the next NEXT level!”
Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.
Managing Partner, PHiG
“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”
Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics
I have known and worked with Shawntay as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations. The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention. Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.
Al Lomas CMP, CEM, CMM, CFE
Owner, Certified Consulting Services
“Shawntay Skjoldager reached in and made my training life so much easier!”
I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.
Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!
Training Specialist, LegalShield