Change of any kind is pretty scary for most people. So it’s normal to have some fears when considering transitioning to a career in instructional design. Trust me, I had plenty of worries when I stepped out of the classroom and into an instructional design job!
I’ve also coached many aspiring instructional designers who experience these same fears. Successful career changers all have one thing in common – they don’t let their fears get in the way of success!
You know what that means, it’s time to face your fears so you can work towards your dream instructional design job.
5 Fears to Overcome when Transitioning to a Career in Instructional Design and eLearning
Let’s talk about some common fears that hold us back from making a change and how to overcome them.
I Don’t Have Experience
This is a common concern to have when changing careers. Your resume doesn’t list ‘instructional designer’ as a current or past position. So you don’t have any instructional design experience, right? (Wrong, but we’ll get to that!)
We all know it’s hard to get a paid job without a few years of experience. Even entry-level positions sometimes have experience requirements! Don’t confuse your lack of a title with lack of experience.
Chances are if you’re considering transitioning to a career in instructional design, you already have some relevant experience. Maybe you’re a teacher, trainer, or a subject matter expert. Even if you’re just a professional with an interest in developing learning solutions, identifying relevant skills shouldn’t be that difficult.
Ditch that imposter syndrome! Here are some practices that will help you discover your relevant skills when transitioning to a career in instructional design:
Identify Relevant Skills
Spend some time connecting the skills you’ve used in previous positions to skills that are important in instructional design. Just because you haven’t been labeled an instructional designer, doesn’t mean you haven’t used instructional design skills!
Crafting your instructional design resume is all about taking your everyday tasks from your current job and translating it to fit instructional design. You can use this free resume guide to get you started.
Build a Portfolio
Once you start looking for skill connections between your current and aspirational work, you’ll be able to think of projects you’ve worked on that flex those skills.
It’s totally possible that you’ll be able to start an instructional design portfolio using examples from your current work. Here are just a few projects that would fit perfectly into an instructional design portfolio.
- Walking a small group through a new process using slides or reference materials you created
- Managing a project (no matter how small) from start to finish
- Creating screencasts or software walkthroughs to guide colleagues through new software
- Leading a meeting, including setting the agenda and listing action items
Sometimes you can grab one of these projects and transfer it to a portfolio easily. Other times, you might have to rework the projects to really show off your instructional design skills. This is going to be a focus of the new Instructional Design Tech & Accelerator Program, so be sure to check that out!
Look for Opportunities in your Current Position
Once you’ve researched relevant instructional design skills and found connections to your current projects, you’ll start to notice instructional design at work all around you.
One way to boost your confidence and get more experience is to volunteer yourself for instructional design-friendly projects in your current position.
Changing Careers will be Expensive
Let’s get this one out of the way right off the bat. It’s the most common fear when transitioning to a career in instructional design. How will you ensure your financial stability as you make this transition?
I’ve got good news. There’s a lot you can do to prepare yourself for a career in instructional design without spending money or leaving your current job. Will it be easy? Nope! It’ll likely require some early morning, late-night, and weekend work. Here are some easy steps you can take:
- Rework your resume
- Learn more about the field (check out this article for a great starting point)
- Get to work on a portfolio
- Join instructional design communities on Linkedin or Facebook
- Search instructional design job postings in different areas (freelance, higher education, and corporate)
Of course, I also firmly believe that investing in yourself is important and worthwhile. If you have the opportunity to develop your skills by taking a course, going to a conference, or even just buying a book, do your research to make sure the value is worth the cost!
I Don’t Know Anything about Articulate, Camtasia, Captivate, etc…
Once you start looking into instructional design, you’ll find that instructional designers wear many hats. Some develop online courses using software like Articulate or Captivate, but not all do.
If you’re getting nervous seeing job postings that require developing, video editing, or graphic design skills- don’t worry. There are plenty of instructional designers who stay hands-off when it comes to those parts of the job.
First, you have to think about what kind of work YOU want to do. Do you want to stay on the instructional design end of the spectrum? This includes work like helping clients analyze their training needs, interviewing subject matter experts, organizing content, scripting, and storyboarding. Or is course development up your alley? eLearning developers take a course storyboard and bring it to life using a combination of development and graphic design skills.
Now you’ve just got to refine your searches based on what you want to do. In my experience, smaller companies that have never worked with an instructional designer before often have no idea what we do. This is why you might find job postings that list every technical skill under the sun! Potential clients often don’t realize until I tell them I work with a team of people who contribute to course development.
I’m Not a Project Manager
As a former teacher, I completely understand this fear! Oftentimes we don’t see ourselves as ‘managers’ in our current roles. Or, you work under a manager, so you assume that they do all the managing, right?
Let’s bust this fear right now! You don’t have to have a manager title to be an effective manager. Don’t let job postings that require project management skills scare you off. Think of any instance where your contribution led to a completed task. Here are a few examples I’ll pull from my own, pre-Trainologist life:
- Planning when I would teach curriculum in order to administer tests by a given date
- Setting action items for different department members so we can achieve a goal
- Organizing my own to-do list to meet a deadline
- Dividing up tasks between team-members to make a project easier to tackle
These all show my ability to project manage without ever having that title!
Transitioning to a Career in Instructional Design & eLearning will be Too Difficult
Change is overwhelming, I get it! Would it be easier to just stick with the same career you’ve been in? Of course, it would be easier! But will you be fulfilled professionally? Will you meet your personal growth goals? Probably not.
Changing careers is a difficult thing to do, regardless of the field. But it’s definitely not impossible. Don’t take it from me, you can read about instructional design journeys from four different career-changers here.
What Are You Waiting For?
Instructional design and eLearning are dynamic, fulfilling professions with built-in options for leveling up. So what are you going to do today to start transitioning to a career in instructional design?