Transitioning to Learning and Development: A TLDC Event Recap

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This post highlights eight key takeaways and shares a list of resources from TLDC's Transitioning to L&D event.

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Introduction

Last week, the Training, Learning, and Development Community (TLDC) hosted an incredible event called Transitioning to Learning and Development (T2LD). Designed primarily for transitioning teachers (but open to everyone), the event included 13 presentations by L&D professionals (including yours truly), plus an expert panel with hiring managers.

With a week-long event, there was way too much wisdom shared to capture in a single post. So, I’m just going to hit some highlights. I encourage you to watch TLDC’s social media and newsletter to be notified when the recordings are publicly available. (I’ll update this post with the link when they are published.) If you registered for the event, you can access the replays now, using the login link you were emailed.

Here are my key takeaways from the event. You can find a few other summaries by conference attendees in the Resources section at the end of this post.

Update: The recordings are now available at TLDC’s event website or on their YouTube channel.

Job transitions are tough. You are tougher.

Mike Veny began the conference with a session called “Finding Your Rhythm: Maintaining Your Mental Health During a Job Transition.” He shared tips for building resilience, coping with uncertainty, and bouncing back from rejection. In fact, he advised participants to “stop chasing victories and start chasing rejection.”  

When you do get rejected, it’s one of the greatest opportunities you have to grow if you choose to use it as a teachable moment. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?”

Ask for feedback from organizations that reject you (see Mike’s presentation for three questions to ask). And build resilience by focusing on the eight dimensions of wellness.

Mike’s advice was to focus, not on being the perfect candidate, but on becoming the best version of YOU. Some of the other speakers echoed these sentiments. Cara North reminded participants not to judge themselves by the impossible standards of what others post to social media, and she told the group to “be confident in talking about your perspectives.”

You have valuable transferable skills, but you must be able to communicate them.

In my presentation, which focused on L&D superpowers that teachers have, I shared that 70 percent of employers in the U.S. are willing to train a candidate if they have transferable skills. Teachers have many wonderful transferable skills and just need to be able to articulate them well for L&D hiring managers. To help with that, I shared example statements that could be included in resumes to highlight these skills.

In her presentation about career options, Kim Scott spoke about the transferable skills teachers have that apply to each role. This is a wonderful session for anyone transitioning into L&D who is wondering what else is out there besides ID. 

Rick Jacobs stated that teachers have about 80 to 90 percent of the skills that instructional designers need. He stressed the importance of being honest about your experience and articulating the transferable skills you have that apply to the job you’re applying for.

Instead of trying to sound like an instructional designer, sound like a teacher who understands the needs of business.

In the panel discussion, Heidi Kirby advised participants not to lie about their title or things they did. Remember, if an employer does a background check and calls your previous employer, it’s important that they can verify the information on your resume. She also gave this advice: “Explain how what you did on the job relates to the job you’re applying for.”

Besides your resume, another way to highlight your transferable skills is through your portfolio. If you’re not sure how to create one, check out Ashley Chiasson’s presentation, which provided many valuable tips for building a portfolio. Just remember, as the hiring managers panel pointed out, if you’re going for an instructional design position, communicating the analysis and design process can be more important than the finished product itself.

It's important to find your perfect fit.

There’s more to L&D than instructional design. In fact, that’s (part of) the title of Kim Scott’s presentation. She spoke about six other L&D roles—what they do, example job titles within those roles, transferable skills teachers have that would make them good fits for those roles, and how to know if you’d enjoy the work.

Kim advised transitioning teachers to start with their skill set—what they’re good at and what they want to do—before deciding on a career goal. (For an example of why this is so important, see Raven Wilson’s presentation from TLDC’s Road to L&D event earlier this year.)

Sara Stevick also advised participants to make a list of their likes and dislikes, align the job description to that list, and then ask, “Is it the job for you?”

And if you don’t find your perfect fit right away, that’s okay. Many L&D professionals have worn more than one hat—often at the same time.

You know you’re ready to apply for a job when you read the job description and you say, “I know exactly what that is, and I can speak to it, and I have examples that I can provide.”

Always question; never assume.

You may be familiar with what they say about assuming. Some of the speakers reiterated the importance of not making assumptions. For example, Sara Stevick pointed out that we cannot assume that training is the answer to a business problem, echoing Cara North’s advice from the previous day that training should focus on business results.

Both these speakers also talked about the value of asking questions, as did Heidi Kirby in her presentation called “How to Gain Useful ID Experience Before You Get the Job.”

The most important question instructional designers ask is “why?” Mike Veny mentioned this question in the context of finding your reason for doing the job. Other speakers talked about it in more of a needs analysis context—figuring out the root cause of a performance, behavior, or business problem.

Regardless of the context in which it’s used, as Sara Stevick said, “’Why?’ is going to be your best friend.”

Tailor your application for the job you want.

Sara mentioned that one of the core competencies of an instructional designer is “being able to filter through information and provide the most relevant, pertinent information to the job at hand.” Demonstrating this skill is critical when applying to jobs in L&D.

Matt Vosmik spoke about the culture of L&D, emphasizing the importance of understanding the organizational culture when you’re applying to jobs and after you’re hired. Doing some research about an organization before you apply can be really helpful in both tailoring your application and verifying that it’s a good fit for you.

Along with understanding the organizational culture, it’s also important to learn the lingo so you can translate your resume into language that L&D hiring managers understand. Laine Istvan’s presentation focused on commonly used industry and business terms in the field of instructional design. I’ve included some of the acronyms at the end of this post, but for the full list, be sure to catch the recording of Laine’s presentation.

Give the hiring manager a reason to take a chance on you.

Never stop learning.

Several of the presenters talked about the importance of upskilling and lifelong learning. Cara advised participants to explore the ATD Capability Model and pick a capability to improve.

Sara spoke about core competencies for L&D professionals, and she mentioned that her community, Teaching: A Path to L&D, is currently working on a free course that will simulate an instructional designer’s first three months on the job. The course is scheduled to be ready in November, so keep any eye out for more news about that.

Some other resources for learning about L&D are included in the resources section at the end of this post.

Be part of a community.

Several speakers talked about the importance of community. Heidi Kirby and Cara North both advised participants to network with people who are on the same journey (or at the same level) as you, those who are a bit ahead of you, and those who are where you eventually aspire to be. Build relationships with these people, and they will, more than likely, be happy to help you in the journey of transitioning to L&D.

Bela Gaytan shared a useful acronym for networking, MINGLE:

  • Motivation: Define what’s motivating you to find support, connect with folks, and build your community.
  • Include: Include others in your networking journey.
  • Natural: Be yourself and focus on your strengths and talents.
  • Give: Give AND take—helping others while also giving yourself the care you need.
  • Learn: Find out who others are learning from, and review your progress to learn what worked and what didn’t.
  • Enjoy: Have fun with networking and celebrate your wins.

Even if you’re an introvert like me, networking doesn’t have to be painful. Take Bela’s advice and network in ways that are most comfortable for you. Personally, I love the virtual tables at TLDC’s events, which are places where informal conversations happen, kind of like hanging out in a face-to-face conference. TLDC is a wonderfully supportive community with many free events like this one. Other communities are listed in the Resources at the end of this post.

Be a cool human so you bring fun to others.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

I look at learning and development as my small way to change the world, one learning experience at a time. 

Bela and I both received feedback from participants who appreciated our focus on inclusive design and accessibility. I believe strongly (and I know Bela does too) that L&D professionals have a critical role in and responsibility for creating more inclusive learning experiences and workspaces. We need to make sure that we model inclusion as well as we can in our work.

It takes all of us to proactively jump in and be champions for diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, [and] accessibility.

Besides modeling inclusive design in learning experiences, L&D professionals should also model L&D best practices in their resumes and portfolios. As an example, Joseph Suarez said, “if I don’t see that someone can chunk content on their resume, that’s a good indicator that they can’t do that on the job.”

The conference organizer, Luis Malbas, is a prime example of being the change. After all, he formed TLDC to create the learning and development community he wanted to be a part of. Thank you, Luis!

If you can't figure out something, just build it.

Remember, you've got this!

Devin Torres spoke about five types of Imposter Syndrome, as well as the systemic barriers that can lead to feelings of inadequacy. 

Systemic barriers are really easy to disguise as equal, but they are never easy to disguise as equitable.

Devin spoke about overcoming her own self-doubt and asking, “Why not me?” If you struggle with similar feelings, I encourage you to watch the recording of this excellent session. 

Joëlle and Cara also touched on self-doubt, emphasizing that everyone experiences it (and if you don’t, it might be because of the Dunning-Kruger effect). The key is to not let it keep you from going after what you want. Remember, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.

Fear will only hold you back. You really just need to let it go. You have nothing to lose.

The support system mentioned earlier can help you overcome feelings of inadequacy. Remember, L&D folks are helpers. We will be your biggest cheerleaders when you’re feeling self-doubt.

Find the cheerleaders. . . . Find the people who are willing to help just to help.

Also practice positive self-talk as Mike Veny mentioned. Remember the transferable skills you have that make you a great candidate for L&D work. Find a way to showcase those skills on your resume and portfolio.

When you're feeling defeated, challenge yourself to be creative.

Resources

For more detailed summaries of the Transitioning to L&D event, I encourage you to follow or connect with Melanie Knight on LinkedIn. She posted many helpful infographics of the sessions throughout the week. I also saw an excellent summary by Megan Grandmont-Melendy.

I gathered as many of the resources that were shared throughout the conference as I could below. I’m sure I missed some, so feel free to share any resources I overlooked in the comments.

Many, many thanks to Luis and all of the conference organizers for an amazing event!

View the recordings on TLDC’s event website or on their YouTube channel.

Communities and Organizations

Conferences

TLDC hosts events year-round, so be sure to join the community for updates. Other conferences mentioned this week are listed below:

Related TLDC Recordings

Free eLearning Authoring Tools

Advice, Tips, and Tutorials

Podcasts

Books

As an Amazon affiliate, I earn a small amount if you choose to purchase a book from the above links. This doesn’t affect the price you pay and helps to support this blog.

Miscellaneous

Acronyms

  • ADDIE: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation
  • ATS: Applicant Tracking System
  • ID: Instructional Designer/Design
  • ILT: Instructor-Led Training
  • KPIs: Key Performance Indicators
  • KSA: Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes/Abilities
  • L&D: Learning and Development
  • LMS: Learning Management System
  • LXD: Learning Experience Designer/Design
  • OKR: Objective Key Results
  • PD: Professional Development
  • PM: Project Management/Manager
  • QA/QC: Quality Assurance/Quality Control
  • R&D: Research and Development
  • ROI: Return on Investment
  • SAM: Successive Approximation Model
  • SME: Subject Matter Expert
  • SOW: Statement of Work
  • UX/UI: User Experience/User Interface
  • vILT: Virtual Instructor-Led Training
  • WIIFM: What’s in it for me?

Speaker Websites or LinkedIn Profiles

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