How did I do this?
Many instructional design hiring managers state one of the first things they look for when it comes to the hiring process is the candidate’s portfolio of work samples. In this blog, I will discuss my 45-day journey to completing my instructional design portfolio and landing a job with the help of IDOL courses Academy.
What is an Instructional Designer?
First, let’s talk a little about the role of an instructional designer (also known as an ID). According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), “An instructional designer applies systematic methodology to develop content, experiences, and other solutions to support the acquisition of new knowledge skills.” In a nutshell, an instructional designer is someone who develops and designs instructional courses and materials for learners. Those designs include assets such as instructor-led training presentation materials, participant workbooks, job aids, infographics/handouts, multimedia videos, storyboards, virtual trainings, and eLearnings. Instructional designers are also responsible for evaluating training to determine whether the learning solution’s outcome was effective. Instructional Designers use adult learning theory models (Bloom’s is an example for those of us who come from the education world) to assist in this process. The most commonly used adult learning theory model for IDs is ADDIE.
My Instructional Design Journey
I knew my ultimate goal was to become an instructional designer, so as a teacher, I began taking on other roles that I knew would help me build my experience. I served as a technology coach, presented at educator conferences and professional development events, and I landed a role as an adjunct technology trainer...but it still wasn’t enough. I was applying for jobs, but still not getting callbacks. Fast forward to 2019, Gretchen Johanson, one of my former managers, had a conversation with me about my career goals. The conversation ended in her telling me about the many different industry Facebook groups she had joined, and her membership in the IDOL courses Academy. She told me how it had assisted her in landing her dream job as an instructional designer. Needless to say, not even two weeks later, I was enrolled and one step closer to leaving the classroom. That was January 24, 2020.
Tips to Completing Your Portfolio in 45 Days
Now, let’s get to the good stuff. 😍 It is nearly impossible to land a job as an instructional designer without a portfolio of your work samples. When I received confirmation of my enrollment into the academy, I immediately started reading through lessons and mentally coming up with a plan to help me reach my goal of landing a job before Spring Break in April. As I explored the academy, I realized many of the lessons I had designed as a teacher and trainer, with a few minor changes, would work for my portfolio. I started going through all my resources to see what I could use that would be transferable into the adult learning world.
Decide early on which industry you would like to work in as an ID. This will help you select topics that are geared towards your target audience within that industry. I knew early on I wanted to take the corporate route; I am a certified Business teacher...it makes sense, so my samples focused on topics that would be of interest and benefit employees at major corporations.
Once I decided which topics I wanted to focus on, I began using Trello as a project management tool. I planned out the next 45 days, making sure I forced myself to complete at least one asset to place in my portfolio each day. I worked on my portfolio during my free time at work, and when I got home in the afternoons. Weekends didn’t exist for me, but it was only for six weeks. I got over it!
So as you plan out your 45 days, break down your tasks in a way that makes sense for the process, but also in a way that will ensure your success. I did the following:
During Week 5, I started setting up and completing interviews. I received a callback to set up a second interview for an ID position. This gave me even more motivation to make sure I had my portfolio completed before the interview.
That interview from Week 5 turned into a third interview, which then led to a job offer. Not only did I have my portfolio completed within 45 days, but I also had a job offer the week after that. I accepted a position as an Instructional Designer for a large corporation before my Spring Break deadline. I negotiated my salary and signed my offer letter on March 16, 2020...remember, the date I signed up for the Academy was January 24, 2020!
My manager told me the thing that stood out to her the most was my portfolio. I am glad I pushed myself as hard as I did to make sure I met my deadline because COVID-19 happened during my hiring process. But, it didn’t block what was meant for me because here I am, over one month later, working as an ID! With the focus, determination, organization, drive, and a strong support system, your path to becoming an instructional designer will be one of the biggest success stories of your life.
Written by: Santana Kennedy, Instructional Designer
Santana is an Instructional Designer and educator with over eight years of experience in facilitating and designing learning experiences. She develops these experiences through instructor-led trainings and eLearnings. She has Certificates in Training and Performance Improvement, Educational Leadership, and Corporate Instructional Design and Online Learning (IDOL courses Academy). One of her biggest accomplishments was being selected as Teacher of the Year in 2016.
Let’s connect via LinkedIn and follow the link to my Portfolio to view my sample designs.