So, you want to have a successful career as an Instructional Designer? Let me tell you, it is a large learning and development ocean out there, and spending some time thinking through which direction you would like to go can provide a useful map on how to navigate it. Whether you’re looking to transition from the corporate world into freelance instructional design, or you just received a certificate or degree in instructional design and you’re on the job hunt, there are several questions you should ask yourself to ensure a successful journey and career path ahead.
How well are you networked?
This is critical. Throughout your career you will have many twists and turns. The world of instructional design is an ever-changing frontier of new technologies, new lingo for old strategies, and new ideas for getting learners intrigued and engaged. If you start networking now, you will have the support needed to help you navigate career changes and enhance your skill set to help you stand out.
Here are some quick and easy ways to increase your professional network:
- Join national and local instructional design groups on social media. Here are a few of my favorite resources:
- Join the The Quality Matters Instructional Designers Association, Association for Talent Development, or Instructional Design Central.
- Join and spend time on instructional design online communities like e-Learning Heroes and The eLearning Guild.
- Talk to your superiors and colleagues if you are full-time and get to know your short-term colleagues if you are a freelancer. Talking to people you are working with, in any capacity, will grow your connections immediately.
What type of learning interests you?
There are as many platforms for learning as there are stars in our sky. Well, maybe not that many, but it sure feels that way. If you’re new to this world, I recommend you at least try developing for live and virtual training at some point, since most solutions out there are blended. Here are some things you will eventually want to add to your toolbox.
- eLearning/webinars/virtual classrooms
- Instructor-led training
- Technical training on software, soft skills (emotional Intelligence, sales skills, customer service skills), or a different area of expertise
- Content curation
Where do you want to apply your instructional design skills?
Follow your passion. Are you interested in physics, culinary arts, construction, veterinary pursuits? You can either seek full-time employment in your area of interest, or you can freelance for them. If you can find a company or industry for which you are genuinely passionate, it will help you design learning that is much more engaging! Here are some examples:
- Education (k-12 or higher education)
- Corporation (If so, what industries interest you — pharmaceutical, finance, construction, etc.?)
- Non-profit (If so, what sector of non-profit?)
- Government (If so, what branch of government?)
What other area(s) of development are you interested in?
Often times, Instructional Designers can be straddling many different roles in a given position. I suggest you explore these various areas and determine if there are different skills you’d like to spend time enhancing throughout your career.
- Graphic design
- Audio/video script writing
- LMS Management
- Project management
- Assessment writing
- Copy editing