Surprises During My First ID Job

 Before you get that first job in Instructional Design, you might have a lot of questions and wonder what reality will be like. What skills will I use on the job? What tools will I use the most? What will the role really be like? Will my actual job be close to the job description? Will there be any surprises? I mean, what in the world does an Instructional Designer even DO?!

Of course every job, company, and person will have a different experience. But I will share my own experience so you can get a glimpse into what you might expect in your job from my perspective. For more experiences, check out Gretchen Johanson’s blog post Lessons Learned During My First Big ID Project or check out the IDOL series: Diary of a New IDOL by Kristi and Veronica.

Some things I expected or assumed going into my first Instructional Design job. However, some things surprised me.


The Top 3 Things that Surprised Me:

1. You might be the only instructional designer on your team. Being the only ID on your team sounds scarier than it actually is. In fact, a few of my direct colleagues are essentially IDs and do the building and designing exactly like I do, however they have more of a project management piece to their job so they are just called something slightly different. At least in my job, regardless of your job title you can ask your colleagues a lot of questions. I have found that they want my feedback and insight/opinions on their projects as much as I want their feedback on my projects. 

2. You might not use Storyline or Captivate. Those two authoring tools seem to be the biggest in the industry. BUT it’s not guaranteed that your job will use either one of them. Though just because there’s a chance you may not use it in your job, that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable to learn and have experience with them. I’d definitely encourage anyone going into Instructional Design to at least learn how to build something in one of those two tools. LinkedIn Learning has some great tutorials for both authoring tools. Additionally in Santana Kennedy’s blog, she writes about some of the software skills that are needed to become an Instructional Designer.

One of the biggest things I design in my current role is Instructor Led Training slide decks. These are done in Google Slides. I also record some of the training I make using Camtasia. I was actually really surprised that my team didn’t use Storyline or Captivate, especially since it’s a big tech company. Though for the record, my team is looking into Storyline and it sounds like there’s a good chance we’ll be getting it in the next few months. :)

3. You might not work on the whole project start to finish. Some IDs of course might be responsible for completing a whole project on their own start to finish. However, in my role I’m typically given a training brief filled out by stakeholders and others in the company. They have already done the analysis, though there is some level of analysis and question-asking that I have to do to understand the project and the request. The majority of the time, we work on projects in a group so each of us will take a specific piece of the project. I might be assigned to create the slide deck. A colleague might be assigned the task of developing the assessment questions and answers. Another colleague might be responsible for sending out the announcement during the launch of the new promotion or change. There will be times that I have a bigger role in a project (develop + deploy the training) but I didn’t realize how much of a team effort these projects could be. One of my favorite people to follow is Cathy Moore. She has great insight on the questions to ask to determine if training is in fact needed. Check her out! 

All of this is to say you CAN do this. You might always feel like an imposter but just know we’ve all been there...or even ARE there. Every ID job is different. It’s overwhelming reading each job description trying to figure out what exactly your role would be in the company you are joining. I have found the ID community is pretty great and if you get stuck and don’t have support in your company, then definitely ask the community. We’ve got you!

Written by: Sara Velasco

Connect with Sara on Linkedin.

Sara is an educator who made the switch to become an Instructional Designer after 12 years in the classroom. She loves creating fun and engaging content to help learners learn and remember skills and knowledge. She always has a growing collection of books on her nightstand that she wants to read and has always been a lifelong learner.


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