Become an IDOL 86: IDOL Success Story with Michael Shackleton

Oct 13, 2023

Guest: Michael Shackleton

This episode of the Become an IDOL podcast features Michael Shackleton, an instructional designer who transitioned into the field after 14 years of teaching. Michael shares his journey of discovering instructional design, enrolling in the IDOL Academy, and building his portfolio and skills. He discusses his application process, interviews he went through, and how he landed his first job as a learning content designer at a large company in Manchester. Michael offers advice to others looking to make a career change, emphasizing the importance of being yourself, accepting feedback, and pursuing your passions.

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Enjoy the Episode Transcript below:   

 

Robin Sargent 
Welcome to Become an IDOL. I'm Dr. Robin Sargent, owner of IDOL courses. This is the place where newbies come to learn and veterans share their knowledge. I have here with me today, Michael Shackleton. And he is one of our IDOL Academy Alumni, and one of our IDOL success stories. So Michael, we please do a better job of introducing yourself and sharing a little bit of your background?

Michael Shackleton
I will, thanks Dr. Robin. I used to be a teacher. I left teaching in July last year. So just over a year ago, 2022. And I've been a teacher for 14 years. Before that I worked a little bit in IT. And it took me a while to decompress after I left teaching. And I found my way to instructional design. And here I am today ready to hopefully pass on some advice and some nuggets of information to people who might want to do the same.

Robin Sargent
So I think that your beautiful accent is obvious. And I just love it. And I think you'll have to share where you're from and where did you teach and what kind of grade level.

Michael Shackleton 
Hopefully, people will recognize that I'm from the UK. So I'm from the north of England in the UK. So I live in Manchester now. So I have a little bit of a Manchester accent. But I'm from the northeast, originally, which is a little place called Middlesbrough, which is quite hard to find. It's sort of between Leeds and Newcastle I suppose. I used to teach in what we would call primary school. So that would be elementary school. So the children were aged 10 and 11 for most of my teaching career. So in the UK here that would be just before they went off to high school. And the role changed as kids stayed the same age, but they seem to get older as I went through my teaching career.

Robin Sargent
That's funny you say that? I feel that same way about even my own children.

Michael Shackleton
They honestly the the things you sort of end up having to deal with in teaching in primary school you think well, these are sort of high school issues. These shouldn't be having to deal with some of these. I love the kids like I especially like teaching and working with the more challenging children and sort of trying to get a bit more of a bond with them and trying to figure out if I could sort of help them engage a bit more with education, and do that. I worked in Leeds for a number of years. And then I worked in Manchester, where I live now. I worked in a school in Manchester for eight and a half years.

Robin Sargent
So when did you know that you were ready for a career change? What was it that started showing up in your life and in your career that you're like, maybe I'm ready for something else.

Michael Shackleton
I had a couple of periods where I wasn't able to work. And those were mental health related. And I haven't really put the emphasis maybe on myself enough. And I think one of the things that happens when you're in school is that you're sort of operating in a little bit of a bubble. You go into the building at the start of the day, you don't leave. You don't really see anything in the outside world. All the problems that happen inside school are a little bit more amplified, because that's kind of all you know, you don't really get a break during the day, you have to sort of mask and be this other character, this other person. And over time, it sort of gradually became sort of obvious to me that I couldn't do that anymore and seek sort of reasonable care of myself. I had some conversations sort of with my partner. So I left a year ago. So I would say probably even two years ago, I was thinking about it. And then once I got to the Christmas before I left, so the Christmas of 2021 I pretty much made up my mind that I needed to do something that would allow me to be more flexible, that I could have a little bit of a chance to breathe. And the thing that I sort of say most to people, which sounds really small, but is actually big, is I wanted to be myself. I wanted to be able to have a drink, go and get a drink when I want one. I want to be able to go to the toilet when I want to and I want to sort of dress in my own clothes. I felt very much that I needed to do something for myself. And being inside a quite a rigid structure in education meant that I couldn't do a lot of those things. So I knew by the Christmas I knew I needed to make a change.

Robin Sargent
And so you know you're ready to make a change. And I'm sure you explored maybe lots of options. What did that exploration time look like for you?

Michael Shackleton
Oh, well, I mean, at that point, I have to say I did things the wrong way. I left without a plan. I left, I sort of handed my notice in, I knew I was leaving. On my very last day the other teachers were asking me what I was going to do, and I did not know. And I still, I still kind of have to pinch myself to think that that's what happened. I had a bit of help money wise. I put some savings aside. But I really needed 2, 3, 4 months off from not thinking about it to decompress. And it wasn't until I signed up for a course that was specifically to help teachers sort of figure out what they wanted to do next, that I became aware of the world of instructional design and eLearning. And then the different opportunities that are out there. So reflecting back on what I said previously about the being in school, being a bubble, I think all you know, is teaching. So to come out of it, you need to sort of shake that off, and then consider and look and see what things you can do with your skills and acknowledge that you have those skills, and then spend some time sort of playing around investigating, doing a little bit of learning and figuring out what the right path is for you.

Robin Sargent 
So you were in this course. And they I'm sure they showed you a myriad of options. Was Instructional Design at the top of your list as soon as you found out about it, or did you consider some other things?

Michael Shackleton 
It was up there, but I honestly did not have a clue what it was. That was the first thing, I didn't have a clue. I hadn't heard the words before. I knew what eLearning was because we'd have to develop a lot of things in school during COVID and sort of figure out our learning around that. But yeah, I had to just sort of dig around and research. I knew I wanted to stay in learning, but I also knew that I wanted to be creative. And so the more I looked into eLearning and watching YouTube videos, and doing tutorials like listening to people talk about it. I listened to an interview with yourself on Daphne Gomez's podcast, and just thought, well that's a path that I think makes sense. And allows me to move in a direction that I want to be in. Whether it's the end goal, I don't know. But it's definitely something that I can apply my skills that I've got from teaching and use it in a way where I can be more creative and be more imaginative in the things I'm doing.

Robin Sargent 
So that actually that podcast episode is out what led you to IDOL Academy? How'd you find us?

Michael Shackleton 
Well, that's how I found you. Yeah, I think I looked through like a couple of different places. I saw yours. I followed advice and went on LinkedIn. Well, I knew what LinkedIn was. But I didn't ever think that I would use it. I didn't have what you would call a resume in the UK, we call them a CV, I didn't have one of those. So I started from zero really in October, November, last year, so just over a year ago, kind of got all my skills in a line and started reaching out to people on LinkedIn. And I started to reach out to people and talk to people on communities on the IDOL one on various teacher ones to ask about if people had done the course. And if they'd found it really useful. And the feedback I have to say was honestly so favorable and and I just sort of thought I need to take the plunge, I need to do this thing that's going to help me give me the skills and the confidence to move into this area.

Robin Sargent 
So you signed up in January of this year. And so you'd actually I mean, as far as timeline goes, you made that decision pretty quickly.

Michael Shackleton 
It happened really fast. Yeah, I think November time, I decided. And then I think I registered an interest to join the course. I think it was the sort of back end of January, I started cohort 13, unlucky but not for me, it was very lucky for me. Got into it. And I think straightaway, I felt I knew I'd made the right choice, because straightaway, I was learning new things. And yeah, I kind of take some of the things that I've learned on the course and I I've used them in in work now. I'm two months into a job now and I use them all the time.

Robin Sargent 
Alright, so now you've enrolled in the academy and you got started. So what did your journey look like when you're actually in the academy? How long did it take you to finish your portfolio and start applying, what did that look like for you?

Michael Shackleton 
I wanted to do things in quite a logical way. I didn't want to sort of jump ahead. I want to start at the beginning and and really sort of methodically go through each and every step. So the first thing I did was, I've made a website. I kind of sketched out a roughly idea sort of color palette and and it was basically a starting from nothing. I started to create things using Canva and generate more creative ideas. And then after that I began to build like an idea for a Rise course and made that. Then I think that whole premise at the start of the academy was to do it messy, which is a phrase that I still use. Now I'm using it sort of almost every day, because it just means you just start and you can't like, give yourself an excuse, you just have to get on with it. So I did that I spent, I think I spent eight weeks, like really working, joining the discussions, talking with people in the community. Like listening to the mentors. I joined it as many different things as I could to try and soak up as much information as I could. And all that time building my CV, listening to feedback. But I think that's one thing that I would definitely say helped me with direction was when you get feedback, don't take it as a criticism really listen to it and just use it to move forward because everybody wants you to succeed. And that's what the feedback is. It's not to pick you apart and drag you down. It's to build you up and make you feel more comfortable. So I think after I got to eight weeks, so I would probably say that was March, I spent another four weeks specifically going into eLearning design and doing a couple of extra badges. I worked on I think we did the Genially badge, I did the Canva badge. I deliberately tried to build up a few more skills. And once I've done that, once I got to April, and then started applying. So I was applying for jobs using specifically as a teacher, something that was skills led that could show people that I wasn't just a teacher, but I had applicable skills that could fit a role. I think I was probably applying in April. So that would be three months after I started the course maybe three, four months.

Robin Sargent 
Yeah. Okay, so now you started the application process? Do you have your portfolio done by the time or I mean like good enough, anyway?

Michael Shackleton 
I would say good enough. One of the thing that I tried to do throughout was having spent so much time not feeling that I could be myself was to put a sense of myself, not only on my website, but in the stuff that I was making. So I tried to make courses. I used 7Taps as an example, like as micro learning. I tried to make sure that my voice was in the things and not only like by narrating but I also mean my personality was in those things. Because as soon as I started, I thought I want to make sure that I stand out in some way, in a positive way. So people can see not only that, perhaps I've got the skills for it, but also the person behind the skills. I think, especially as someone transitioning into a new industry and coming in without necessarily corporate experience in some of those skills. I think that felt like the right thing to do. So yeah, my portfolio, I kept adding to it, I didn't stop, I kept tweaking and adjusting and like putting different things on my CV and resume. And as soon as different applications were getting sent out, I was highlighting different things. I was sticking stuff on LinkedIn. Posting to people the things that I've made. So it was sort of a constant, developing churn, sort of things going out all the time.

Robin Sargent
I love how you've talked about that your beginning goal was that you just wanted to be able to be yourself, and like your best self and put that out into the world. And then even in your job application. That's what you started doing. I even noticed on LinkedIn, too, that you even had unique images, I think Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Michael Shackleton 
Yeah, I linked, was it Merrill's principles of learning to the film Predator, because I just thought there's always a key to unlock somebody's learning. And I thought, well, if I can make this particular key, something that more people are familiar with. And I think while I was applying, I posted links to that course, on loads of instructional design groups on LinkedIn. And I got loads of feedback, and it led to more connections, and then you start having more discussions about things. And then eventually, that sort of led to me in May, someone who I'd connected with as a result of those conversations, said that they had a job not directly for me, but they posted that they had a job that had opened up. Just like a six month contract, but I wouldn't have found out about that had I not gone out and sort of put myself out there and being myself.

Robin Sargent 
I love that. Alright, so you're putting out applications. Do you have any idea Michael, how many applications you put out before you found?

Michael Shackleton 
At first I was doing like very quick applying. I wasn't really specializing the content in my application necessarily for each role. I think I was doing anything between five and six applications a day, or at least a month. So that's probably over 100 isn't it? I did quite a lot. I found that it was better to try and stand out and do something slightly different than to just send off something generic. But I always sent, clear, a letter almost emails, things with it, which was linked to that company. I always tried to highlight the things that I could do that reference their job specification. And I changed how my skills based section of my resume looked, because I wanted it to stand out. I actually took some of the images from the IDOL Academy of my little badges. And I stuck them at the top of my CV, and the more I tweaked and adjusted and became a little bit more confident that I was doing the right thing the more I made it a little bit more personal. And the only way I could say that I could use feedback for that was that I started to get more feedback. I started to get more response. I started to get more interviews. And that was only because I sort of started making myself stand out more, not in a sort of aggressive look at me way. But in a look, this is me, if you want to have a chat, get back to me.

Robin Sargent 
I love it. So how many interviews did you go to? Do you remember?

Michael Shackleton 
Every interview that I had was online, and I've never had an interview online? I'd always I mean teaching, you had to go in and do a lesson like before that obviously, like, I'm sort of 44 now. Like this is like before teaching. Well, yeah, the internet wasn't really a thing. I did quite a lot of interviews online, I think I got eight to 10 online interviews. But I very much treated those as a free swing. The first few I got, it was very much I need to learn as much about you and what you're asking as to what you're going to learn about me. So if I got negative feedback, I didn't mind because I knew that it was all a process of sort of building and learning and picking up information as I went along. I think I probably had about eight to 10 online interviews. And then I got down to the final two for a role. And I didn't get it because of a task that I had to do after the interview where I'd dialed back myself a little bit, I wasn't quite as creative as I could have been. Following that, they called me back and gave me some like coaching about how I could do things differently next time. And that happened on a Tuesday morning. In the Tuesday afternoon, I had an interview, which was my first face to face interview. And that turned out to be the job that I got offered. Because everything had fallen into a neat little pattern.

Robin Sargent 
So all it was like you were learning all along the way, even when you're getting nos, you're like that means next opportunity. And that helps me prepare for that next one. Tell me.

Michael Shackleton 
It's so hard to not take that personally. But you have to not take it personally. Because there's always other people who've got like more skills, there's always somebody else, there's also always another opportunity. So never, ever take it personally even when you get no feedback. Just say right, okay, well, I'll take the learning from that. I now know what sort of questions you're going to ask. And I know how to read people better in those situations. I think the one thing coming from education that I found really hard to explain was that I didn't have experience of working with stakeholders or subject matter experts. And it took me a long time to figure out that I could answer that question and talk about people who worked in the school who were like in management, who were sort of people who governance for the school, and I could talk about them in that way, but really had to carefully consider my answer. But again, I only did that by learning from each experience and for asking. If you don't ask, you don't get anything back and if they don't answer well, that's fine. You haven't lost anything, have you? You've just got to keep asking for like, What did you think? Could I have answered this question better? A lot of people will generally if they have time give you at least something.

Robin Sargent 
Yeah. So the one that you have now, can you share whatever you are allowed to share about the role that you landed? And what that interview process looked like? And you said you actually went in person for that. So is it like right around the corner or tell us more about the job that you got?

Michael Shackleton 
So the job is like a six month contract. The role is a learning content designer. So I went in for an interview. It's in a large firm. So I live about 15-20 minutes outside the center of Manchester which is like the second biggest city here in the UK. I love living in Manchester. It's an absolutely brilliant city. If anyone wants to come and visit please ask and I'll give you some advice. It's a great place. So the company have a rich history in and around Manchester as being a company that looks after people. And they're very community focused. And they employ about 70,000 people here in the UK. So they're quite a large organization. But they have a massive central office in Manchester. And so I went in and had a face to face interview with two people from the team. One of them would have been my boss. It was very much an interview, which focused on two things. One was skills, but the other one was behaviors. And that was the one where I think they knew that I didn't necessarily have all of the skills. But then after the interview, I felt like I'd nailed the behaviors bit. And I felt like I'd really clicked with the people in the room. And I left that, I had another interview, I think two days later. And it was during that interview, I got up, I came out and had a message to say that they'd offered me the position. So I did a little bit of negotiation, which again, isn't like it's not like me at all. But I asked for a little bit of time to think about it, which I definitely wanted to do anyway, because it's the first offer I'd had. But I talked it through with my partner, and myself and her kind of agreed that it was good, like a really good opportunity. And yeah, I think three days after the interview, I'd accepted that position. And so yeah, I've got a six month contract, possibility that it might be made permanent. And they're really pleased with the work that I'm doing. And as a learning content designer, I'm making eLearning, I'm doing loads of stuff that comes up in IDOL. I'm doing Storyline, I'm doing Rise, I'm learning the Adobe Suite, which sort of builds on top of Canva. But I'm also getting masses of time for, like professional development and learning new skills. So the learning doesn't stop when you get a job. If you kind of find a really good organization, you just keep adding to skills, and you keep asking for help. And one thing that I really remember in the interview that really stood out and my boss has said this to me since was that he asked me about peer reviews, he said, How would you feel about peer reviews, and I said, I love them. And that was because on IDOL, you do that you have to send stuff out. And you have to get people to look at it. And you have to be not too thin skinned or anything and take it personally and just keep improving your work. And he said great, because that is what our job is. We're a team, we'll all review each other's things. And none of us is too precious to accept that we can't make changes here and there, because it makes the standards higher. And so having that question came up was great, because I knew that the grounding that I'd had on IDOL really set me up for succeeding in work.

Robin Sargent 
That's incredible. So I know that you said that they have so many 70000 employees, and they're a big company. Can you tell us like what kind of industry they're in?

Michael Shackleton 
I'll tell you the name of the company. It's called the Coop. So they started in 1844. See, I know the history now I've had to learn it. So in 1844 they started, and they called them, I think it's the Rochdale Pioneers or something like that. I'm not sure that's exactly right. But a group of businessmen set up a company and they want it to make sure that the employees were looked after so you can be a member of the company. And they do an amazing amount of charity things. I would say their main areas of business, they look after funeral, they do funeral care. So they provide people with funerals. You could purchase like different service care options through them. They do insurance, but they also have, it's quite diverse. They also have what you would call very small supermarkets like very, very tiny sort of convenience type shops. And so the range of employees is extraordinarily vast, because you get people who are perhaps in charge of bringing the deceased into their care, and liaising with families who lost someone. But you also have people working in shops stocking shelves. And then you have people like myself who work in one of the main offices, and provide services for them. And that everything in between all of those roles also exists as well. So the range of the things that they do is extraordinarily broad.

Robin Sargent 
So when you are creating learning materials, what area of the business do you focus on? Or does your department create training wherever there's a need, so you could be making it for the supermarket workers or the insurance employees or tell me where you're at?

 

Michael Shackleton
Yeah, we're doing things for everyone. So we make things for the staff that work, sort of behind the scenes, we're making resources for people who work in a very sort of public facing roles, who work with members of the public to talk about, like store safety. There's classes for how to maintain vehicles that are used for funeral care. I'm working on a piece of work at the moment, which is to let people know a little bit more about the world of logistics and how they move product around in time for them to be in the shops the next day. So it's everything. I think that since I've started eight, nine weeks ago, the range of things I've done has been really broad and the range have tools I've had to use has also been really broad. So I feel really fortunate. It hasn't just been, oh, here's the new guy, he needs a bit of training. Let's just give him the easy stuff to do. It's been have a go at this tool now. Oh, you've got this. You said you've got this skill on your CV? Right? Okay, let's work on that and then do this piece of work. So it's been so varied. I've actually been doing... the team, are more of a design studio than they are as learning designers. So we're actually making, there's like animations are being made, films are being made, podcasts are being made. So the range of things that I'm doing is actually so much broader than I initially thought. So it's a creative environment where, yes, we're doing eLearning. Yes, we're using the skills that we've learned, but it's very much based on design and engagement and trying to get people interested in all aspects of the business.

Robin Sargent 
What a unique opportunity, Michael, I don't even think you understand like, how rare it is. Yeah, yeah, I mean, because so many times you might end up in a role and all you build is compliance, or all you build is like software training for the end user, for that company. But you get to, you're never going to be bored.

Michael Shackleton 
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I think one of the things that happened in the interview was like they said every day is different. And I don't think I really appreciated what it was. And I think my boss has been so brilliant. And so welcoming and the team has been so good. I think I've sort of reached the point where people have stopped asking me how my job is because I'm so like effusive and positive, and it's brilliant, you'll never guess what I'm doing now. And so it makes people a little bit jealous that I'm sort of doing all of these incredible, like, wonderful things. These are all the things that I'm learning are things that I had always done as a bit of a side hustle. I'd always done outside of teaching. And I'd always wanted to be more creative. I've always want to do media things. I've always wanted to be more artistic and the things that I've done in design. I never did it, I never got paid for it. So to come in, and sort of on the basis of thinking I was going to design learning, and then to be shown these are the things that actually we're also doing this and we're also doing this. It's been so brilliant. I can't really get over it really that I'm in this position. And even if I don't stay beyond the six months, what a brilliant experience to take into whatever I might do next.

Robin Sargent 
Absolutely. So was there anything that surprised you that you didn't expect good or bad in your new role? So far, you said a bunch of positive things. Was there anything like oh, I didn't expect to do this.

Michael Shackleton 
I don't know, I think some of the topics that we have to cover in the range of the business, I don't think I quite had my head around that. So some of them, like I mentioned funeral care, like they provide amazing service to customers in that area. But that means that some of the topics that we're having to do, like just mentioned about how a varying the range of the services, but to be talking about, let's say to be working on a podcast and sort of coming up with ideas for how an interview is gonna work and designing animations that are gonna run alongside it, and stings and things like that, and how to pull quotes out and then flipping and then going back to, you know, like a course on advising people how to embalm someone. Well they're totally different. So I think I found that quite difficult, I think that ability to flip and switch between the different areas. But actually, that difference, that change, that sort of diversity in the different topics that we're doing is probably a strength because it means that, like you say, it's not something that you're going to get bored with. I think perhaps some of the topics are very sensitive, we have had training about how to discuss with members of the public about, like someone who's died and how to refer to the first that person as the deceased. And, and we have had a lot of support with it, but it was definitely something that I wasn't expecting to get this sort of information. Definitely. Yeah, it's it's all woven together with sort of a rich variety of different topics.

Robin Sargent 
Well, you have throughout your story, Michael just shared so many different pieces of insight. I mean, I'm just thinking about even what you said about being your mindset and being able to keep learning and except feedback. But if you have to give your last piece of advice for those who want to become an IDOL, what would you share?

Michael Shackleton 
I think the big thing, one of my big fears before I started was had I got too old to do it? Had I reached a point in teaching where I was like, well, it's too old. I can't leave, I can't change. I can't do anything differently now I'm just gonna have to stick with this. And I think historically that's the advice I probably would have got from my parents. Well you've got a good job there, you might as well stick with that. And actually, no, you need to find the thing that really excites you. And you need to find an opportunity that gives you the chance to be yourself. I think that is the biggest piece of advice. I made the conscious decision not to pretend to be anyone else in this whole process, and to be myself to offer honest feedback. And to just feel comfortable in my own clothes and my own skin again. And that's the thing that's really stood me in good standing in terms of finding a role, finding brilliant colleagues, and just making connections with people and finding out about the industry sort of asking questions on LinkedIn, posting things that I've made on there and building connections with people and building a community. I couldn't have done any of that without sort of getting a little bit outside of my comfort zone, trying to be myself, forgetting that I was sort of in my mid 40s. And I, you know, perhaps in the past might have thought that it was too late for me to make a change. All of that's nonsense, you can do it, you can make a change. All you have to do is sort of find the thing that really gets you excited, and pursue it. And yeah, you know, the job is out there for you. If you look.

Robin Sargent 
I am so glad that you are yourself, Michael, and I'm so glad that that thread is throughout your entire story. And thank you so much for sharing your experience and your story with us on The Become an IDOL Podcast.

Michael Shackleton
Oh, thank you so much for asking.

Robin Sargent 
Thank you so much for listening. You can find the show notes for this episode at idolcourses.com. If you liked this podcast and you want to become an instructional designer, an online learning developer, join me in the IDOL courses Academy where you'll learn to build all the assets you need to land your first instructional design job, early access to this podcasts, tutorials for how to use the elearning authoring tools, templates for everything course building and paid instructional design experience opportunities. Go to idolcourses.com/academy and enroll or get on the waitlist. Now get out there and build transcendent courses.

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