January 2nd, the second day in the new year of 2020, I received an email that changed my career trajectory. “Congratulations on your assignment with PADI!”
I finally became an IDOL!
Three years ago, I came to the United States as an international student. My major was Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). My first job was teaching Chinese in an elementary school. A year later, I got my second job as an ESL teacher, however, after six months, the language center I worked at shut down. At this point, the only thing I wanted to do was to find a job as soon as possible. Then I found my third job, as an education consultant. Guess what? Six months ago, I was laid off.
What do you want to do with your life? What job will provide a stable working environment? I asked myself.
The lay-off made me rethink my career seriously. Luckily, my savings allowed me to take a break for a few months, so I decided not to seek the next job right away. Not this time. I would instead think it through, have a plan, then find a job, knowing at the same time, I had to face the pressure of unemployment.
I left the Bay Area, where I had called home for three years.
Six months after losing my job, I became a learning experience designer in the world's leading diving education company and enjoy a new life in Southern California.
Are you curious about how I did it?
When I reflected on my career interests, I knew I was always passionate about technology and learning. So, I did some research about eLearning or edtech-related jobs and came across a position called instructional designer (ID). I continued researching, and I learned a teacher could transition to an ID.
Honestly, I am not a self-disciplined person, at all, I knew there was a vast gap between an idea and a result/fact, so I needed to be a doer, not a dreamer, anymore. In my case, I needed to join a boot camp to train/push me for an ID job so that I could better prepare myself for a new career.
I don't remember how I came across IDOL Courses Facebook page, and after watching the free masterclass on teaching you how to land an ID job without a degree, I decided to join The Academy, as a founding member.
I told myself, you needed this, try it out. If you didn’t like it, there was a money-back guarantee within the first seven days, so don't worry. Guess what, it turned out, it was the best investment I made.
Learning Process (3 months)
Where do I start? Dr. Robin helped me a lot; without her, I wouldn’t have gotten my first ID job. The course was self-paced, bite-sized, so I watched the videos at least twice to make sure I fully absorbed the content. We had weekly online training and coaching calls. I also replayed them many times because I learned a lot from guest speakers and peer Q&As. In the middle of the program, I scheduled a 1:1 coaching call with Dr. Robin (tip: schedule the call as early as possible), she helped me plan out every step I needed to take to get ready for job hunting, including building LinkedIn page, resume, and portfolio. She helped me to overcome my lack of confidence. Her expertise and encouragement are priceless to me.
Paid opportunities and mentorship (plus peer mentor)
I can't say which one was more of a bonus, the paid opportunities or the peer mentorship. After I finished The Academy, I was ready to build my portfolio. I was able to get paid opportunities through the IDOL Talent Pool and put the title of ID on my resume. I was hired as a freelance contractor by IDOL courses. This made a significant difference on my resume, as we all know if you don't have an ID title, how hard your job searching would be. I also benefited from the mentorship with Dr. Robin and a peer mentor in the private Facebook group. My peer mentor and I talked every week to check each other's progress and advise each other, I can't stress how helpful it was. My peer mentor helped me prepare with mock interviews, so I finally landed two offers after applying for 50+ jobs. I know we will be keeping in contact with each other because we have become friends. We are the same age, and she also got an ID job recently. I'm so proud and so happy for her.
The private Facebook group
What a supporting and lovely group of people. We share the same passion for ID and learning, and we love to help each other, share our knowledge, and no holding back.
I heard there was a free online learning experience design (LXD) program, which was also excellent and prepared me for my current role as an LX designer. The program is reputable and well established and has had several graduates. The round I took had 100’s of participants. I was able to meet other learners from all over the world and from various backgrounds. Not all the learners were newbies like me; many of them were already in the industry and had years of experience. It was an excellent opportunity to connect with people. I found two other senior IDs located in my area, so we had video calls to complete the course challenges together, and we also became friends.
I have to say getting yourself a LinkedIn premium membership is a good investment too. Besides premium features, you also get free access to LinkedIn Learning. There are many ID related courses, but I think The IDOL Academy was enough. But if you want to learn something new, it is always an excellent resource. I personally only watched ¼ of the ID course videos (honestly, they are not necessarily long) and found some topics, and downloads were very helpful. Christy Tucker's site is well-known, I gained a lot of insights from her, and like to check new/old articles. There are lots of ID/eLearning/L&D related podcasts. I listen to them on the road, Become an IDOL's podcast is my favorite. I'm a big fan!
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is the world's largest association dedicated to those who develop talent in organizations. I joined my local chapter and connected with many L&D professionals. Many people were job seekers, like me, who wanted to become L&D professionals. I met IDs, trainers, and recruiters…and asked them out to coffee and mentorship. Volunteering at ATD was very helpful, not only because it gave me some experience to put on my resume, but also an excellent way to build relationships with board members. They are willing to help you and have insider resources. I'm volunteering in the training development group, where I get hands-on experience as an ID and learn new skills. Another benefit of joining ATD is it makes it easier for hiring managers to find you. I got messages from hiring managers on LinkedIn, saying that they reached out to me because they saw me in the ATD network, and they would like to talk to ATD members. Also, I was able to gain insights into interviewing members. L&D is a small world, so it is worth it to participate.
I have found these resources very helpful on my journey. My story helps prove that changing to a career in ID/LXD is possible, and there are so many ways to do it. You just need to choose what works best for you. It took me three months to learn the knowledge and prepare my resume/portfolio, and took me another three months to land a job. Six months of unemployment was not easy, but all hard work eventually paid off. I know I’m on the right track, I feel less fear and happy that I made the right decision.
This is my IDOL story, and the journey continues.
By: Lusha Sha
Lusha Sha is a learning experience and instructional designer. She designs meaningful online learning solutions and professional development courses enhancing learning experiences. She is an edtech enthusiast, a tech-savvy educator, and a lifelong learner. In her spare time, she enjoys taking photos, hiking, and running along the beach.