Joining The eLearning Tribe
I frequently get emails seeking advice on how to enter the field of eLearning or Instructional Design. The advice seekers are often well educated in this or another field, but they just don’t see many open doors. Or they have a knowledge gap they need to close.
For all of you who want to break into an eLearning career, here are some approaches that might get you on the path. And if you’re already in the field, please add to this list. I’m sure your contribution will be appreciated.
Networking and Learning
Twitter and Facebook. Follow eLearning people on Twitter and join a few related Facebook groups. Don’t be shy about asking or posting questions on these sites. To find learning experience designers as well as job announcements on Twitter, you might like to use Twitter Search. When you find the right people, click on their Followers to find more.
LinkedIn Groups. LinkedIn is considered one of the premiere social sites for finding jobs. It’s also a wonderful space for learning through discussion. If you haven’t updated your profile, do so. Then be sure to join and participate in LinkedIn Groups related to Instructional Design and eLearning. A few groups with active discussions and minimal spam include:
- The eLearning Guild
- Instructional Design & E-Learning Professionals
- Training and Development
- Articulate-Rapid E-learning
Attend Local Meetings. If you live in or near a reasonably large city, join a professional association and attend local chapter meetings. Two organizations I know of with local chapters in the US are ASTD (The American Society for Training and Development) and ISPI (International Society for Performance Improvement). If you know of relevant associations on other continents, please add them in the Comments section.
Attend a Conference. If you want to make connections in the field, the networking and learning opportunities available at conferences could be worth the expense. You can keep travel costs down by attending a regional conference you can drive to, or if flying, buy your plane ticket months in advance and stay in a less expensive hotel (not the recommended conference hotel).
Join a Professional Association. There are great benefits to joining a professional association for networking and learning (and giving). Most of the benefits are listed above, such as attending local meetings or conferences. In addition, you’ll have access to the association’s publications and get discounts to their events. Search for the best ones in your area of the world—there are too many to list.
Focused Job Boards. Professional associations and Instructional Design websites have job boards that are often open to the public. Here are a few that are US-based and one in India:
- ASTD Job Bank
- The eLearning Guild Job Board
- Instructional Design Central
- SALT (Society of Applied Learning Technologies)
- Indiana University Bloomington
- eLearningCareers (India)
Other Online Job Boards. Several online services seem to attract quite a few ads for people in our field. These are Craigslist, Indeed, Simply Hired and Dice. You can set up alerts with some of these services, which will email you when positions with your keyword and desired location are listed. Search for instructional design, elearning, training, educational technologist, etc.
Google Alerts. Set up a Google Alert for terms like “instructional design job” and “elearning jobs” or “instructional technology jobs” to be notified on a daily or weekly basis. You can probably add your location too.
You may need to tweak the alert terms to find the best ones. Google will send you an email when the phrase appears on the Internet. (Note: I don’t know anyone who has done this for job searches, but seems like it would work.)
College and University Connections. If you’ve recently attended a college or university, make use of those connections. Perhaps the Career Center helps graduates. Also, check if any alumni are working in the field. They might be willing to get you an introduction or at least to provide an informational interview.
Locate Local Companies/Organizations. Find local companies and organizations that might use instructional designers and developers. These would be large companies with a training department, companies that produce and deliver training, organizations that distribute content, colleges and some school systems.
Check the websites of these organizations regularly to see if they have open positions. Call the front desk and find out the name of the training manager and send a letter or email requesting an informational interview. Although managers will likely be too busy, it’s worth a try. Sift through your contacts and see if you can find a way to network with any of these organizations.
Closing Knowledge Gaps
Learn Online. There are free and paid courses and webinars that can help you get up to speed. Check out the free webinars at Adobe OnDemand Seminars and the Training Magazine Network (free registration required). You can also pay for individual courses or subscribe to Lynda.com for some of the best systematic instruction on software applications online. If you join The eLearning Guild as a paid member, you can attend their insightful Thought Leader Webinars.
Study. The more you know about the field, the better your chances are of finding a job. You can find a good selection of books on Instructional Design and eLearning Design on Amazon. Many colleges and university libraries will have a section devoted to this too.
Some related online magazines include Learning Solutions Magazine (join The eLearning Guild for free as an Associate Member to view great articles), Learning Circuits and eLearn Magazine to name a few.
As for blog sites, this one has quite a few tutorials on Instructional Design and eLearning topics. There are probably a few hundred sites devoted to eLearning. Find your favorite blogs, get a feed reader if you don’t have one already (iGoogle is my favorite) and subscribe via RSS.
Certificate Programs. If your degree is in a field that is unrelated to Instructional Design or eLearning and if you have no experience, consider getting a certificate. It’s a reasonably quick way to get credentials. Certificates are also good for people already in the field who need to learn more. Here’s a list of US degree and certificate programs in the Resources section of this site. Certificate programs are the last category, so scroll down.
Create a Portfolio. For those with some multimedia development knowledge or those wanting to get their feet wet, consider creating a portfolio of a few short interactive learning lessons. You can download many of the tools for a 30-day trial. Be sure to first check out Online Learning Demos that others have produced. Even if your experiments are not sufficiently professional to include in a portfolio, you’ll have learned some valuable lessons in the process.
As you can see, there are many ways to enter the field through networking, job boards and informal and formal learning. I hope this helps those of you who are trying to break into a career in eLearning or Instructional Design!