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Overcome the Fear of Change: From Teaching to Instructional Design

Sep 28, 2023

Teacher Burnout

Teacher burnout is a pressing issue in education. It encompasses challenges like exhaustion and cynicism towards the profession, accompanied by a reduced sense of effectiveness. This trend affects educators worldwide, compromising the quality of teaching.

Root causes range from heavy workloads to low pay and lack of support. Addressing these factors and providing resources can foster a healthier work environment. However, many teachers have reached a point where they can no longer wait for improvements. Instead, they are leaving the profession, seeking balance and appreciation in the corporate world through careers as an instructional designers.


Teacher Exodus

"A staggering 55 percent of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than they had planned, according to a National Education Association (NEA) survey of its members released on [January 31, 2022]." This uptick has been precipitated by the steep challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbating the already prevalent issues of high workload, insufficient resources, and low pay.

A survey by Horace Mann Educators Corporation has similarly echoed these sentiments, revealing that "30% of educators said they plan to leave the profession within the next three years, while another 33% are considering it." For teachers who are not ready to retire, the prospect of a major life change looms ahead. It entails not just a career change, but a profound transformation that can be daunting for many.

Making the leap into a new career as an instructional designer requires careful consideration, planning, and a willingness to embrace the unknown, which isn't easy. But for those who are ready to leave the classroom and ready to take a chance on change, there are plenty of great resources to help set you on your next professional path into the world of instructional design jobs. 

Changing from Education to Instructional Design

For teachers considering jobs in instructional design, the journey can often be fraught with fear and uncertainty. The fear of change, a universal human experience, can be particularly pronounced when it involves leaving a long-held profession that has become deeply intertwined with one's identity.

Teaching, with its unique blend of intellectual engagement, emotional fulfillment, and societal impact, often forms a significant part of an educator's sense of self and purpose. The thought of leaving this behind can evoke a fear of losing one's identity and direction, but those looking to transition to becoming instructional designers will find that the same fulfillment and societal impact exist with instructional design jobs, just in the format of adult education rather than K-12.

Transferable Skills from Teachers to Instructional Designers

Teachers considering changing jobs may worry about transferability of their skills to a different field. Despite possessing transferable skills like effective communication, problem-solving, strong leadership, and leveraging instructional technology to create learning solutions, they may underestimate their applicability outside of education. But employers find teachers have a demonstrated track record of excelling at skills that are paramount to success in instructional design jobs.

Communication, Leadership, & Instructional Technology

Effective communication skills, developed through years of interacting with students, are valuable as instructional designers work closely and collaborate with subject matter experts as well as manage user feedback. Problem-solving abilities with students in the classroom apply to challenges in in any corporate setting. Teachers' strong leadership qualities can be leveraged in company settings to manage teams and drive organizational growth. And a teacher's ability to author meaningful, engaging e-Learning materials for their students employing technology is an essential talent that will lead to success as an instructional designer.

Recognizing the broad applicability of skills and exploring their transferability to the corporate world, teachers can gain confidence and overcome the fear of transitioning into a new career.

Financial Stability

Financial stability and the uncertainty of success in a new field can also burden teachers contemplating a career change. Stepping into the unknown and facing potential financial challenges can make transitioning daunting.

One solution is to research each job post you find. Since many jobs list a salary range for entry level positions, you'll be able to compare average salaries in instructional design with average teacher salaries to see how they compare. The more you know, the less intimidating a career change can be.

Own Your Strengths

Before embarking on a new career path as an instructional designer, it is crucial to dedicate some time to self-reflection. Take the opportunity to thoroughly analyze your strengths, weaknesses, and areas of expertise. By doing so, you can identify any gaps in your knowledge or skill set that you may wish to improve upon before searching for instructional designer jobs.

Additionally, conducting research into the role of an instructional designer will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the responsibilities and requirements associated with the profession. This will help you determine if this career aligns with your interests and abilities, enabling you to make a well-informed decision.

Gain Valuable Instructional Design Experience

The upcoming IDOL 3.0 (Instructional Design and Online Learning) presents a valuable forum for gaining relevant experience as an instructional designer. This new version of IDOL Courses is anticipated to offer an even richer array of resources, tools, and networking opportunities, tailored to support both the new and transitioning instructional designer.

By actively participating in IDOL 3.0, you can engage with industry professionals, collaborate on real-world projects to develop adult learning solutions, and acquire knowledge of the latest trends and advancements in instructional design.

Network with Professional Instructional Designers

Networking plays a crucial role in every industry, and instructional design is certainly no exception. To expand your professional network with other instructional designers and enhance your prospect of landing a role as an instructional designer yourself, consider attending industry conferences, joining online groups and forums, and actively seeking mentorship from seasoned instructional designers.

By connecting with experienced professionals, you can gain valuable knowledge, receive guidance on navigating the intricacies of the instructional designer field, and potentially tap into job opportunities or referrals. The power of networking in instructional design cannot be underestimated, as it opens doors to new opportunities and fosters professional growth.

Instructional Design and Online Learning (IDOL) Network

IDOL courses Academy offers an enriching platform for networking within the IDOL community. It brings together a diverse group of professionals, novices, and experts alike, to create a dynamic learning environment where members can share insights, experiences, and resources on becoming an instructional designer. Participating in the Academy's forums and collaborative projects provides opportunities to connect with industry leaders and peers, and develop relationships that can lead to mentorship, partnerships, or even job opportunities. The IDOL courses Academy goes beyond traditional networking, providing an active, supportive community that encourages continuous learning and growth. Plus, IDOLs have exclusive access to the academy's learning materials as well as each job post in the IDOL Talent community!

LinkedIn Network

LinkedIn offers a powerful platform for networking as you forge your path to becoming an instructional designer. It provides opportunities for job seekers to connect with a vast network of professionals both with or looking for instructional designer jobs. By joining relevant groups, participating in discussions, and sharing informative content, you can strengthen your professional network. Additionally, you connect with potential mentors, employers, and other job seekers in the instructional design field. Through thoughtful engagement and active participation on LinkedIn, you can develop a wealth of opportunities, insights, and professional connections that can propel your career as an instructional designer forward.

Build Your Instructional Design Portfolio

As you gain more experience, develop a portfolio of your work, including e-Learning solutions, job aids, video scripts, audio and video editing, your ability to teach virtually, etc. This can be done by working with subject matter experts on freelance projects, developing case studies, and creating instructional materials that showcase your expertise. Employers find that a portfolio is a powerful tool that can help transitioning teachers stand out from other candidates when applying for instructional design positions.


Digital platforms like Canva, Google Sites, and Wix expedite portfolio building. Google Sites is user-friendly, enabling creation of professional websites with ease. Canva offers captivating graphics and designs to showcase instructional design abilities. Wix provides a versatile platform for fully customized portfolio websites with interactive features to showcase your learning solutions.

Go for It!

It's time to make the leap. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the change, and then take action. Apply for jobs, attend interviews, and be confident in your abilities. You have valuable experience as a K-12 educator that will serve you well in this new career path and ultimately help you find a great place to work.

Making a career change can be intimidating. However, pursuing a career in instructional design can be a rewarding way to use your teaching ability, training and expertise in a new way. By gaining experience in the field, building your skills, and networking with professionals in the industry, you can overcome your fears and make a successful transition into this exciting new career.