Adam Kirby: Changing Careers Is Simply Reapplying Your Skills
When I tell people I’m a grad student studying Training & Development, and that my former career was journalism, I often get a quizzical sideways look. “Wow, that’s quite a change!” they typically say. And on the surface, it is. But go a little deeper and you’ll realize that the core disciplines are actually rather similar.
Both journalism and instructional design are ultimately about communicating information in as efficient and straightforward a manner as possible. Both involve research and interviewing subject matter experts – although in journalism they’re called sources – and both require distillation of complex concepts into need-to-know facts. Once I realized how much what I’ve done can be applied to what I want to do, the idea of changing careers became a lot less daunting.
Beyond overlapping skill sets, the reason I’m moving into the workplace learning world boils down to a desire to use my communication expertise in a more engaging and supportive setting. The fact is, to be a good journalist and not simply a hack means being adversarial; a reporter who never opposes authority or angers people is no reporter at all. There’s a saying in journalism: If nobody is mad at you, you’re not doing your job. I admire those journalists who relish that daily conflict; we need them for our free society to thrive, but that aspect of the business was never something I particularly enjoyed.
Instructional design is a natural fit for me, then. I can tap into my natural writing, interviewing, and researching skills and apply them in a way that allows individuals and businesses alike to succeed and thrive. Rather than playing the role of scorned other, I get to be the helper – the bridge between where a learner is and where he or she needs to be.
But career changing is tough, regardless of how similar the disciplines may be. Particularly in this tight job market, whom you know is such a huge part of landing a job. That’s why, even before my first class at Roosevelt, I joined the foremost organization for local workplace learning professionals, the Chicagoland Chapter of the American Society for Training & Development (CCASTD). The folks I’ve met through CCASTD have been nothing but kind and supportive of my transition, and the network I’m building there will prove integral to my finding a job and ultimately achieving success in this field.
Moreover, because I’m a career-changer, I bring a fresh perspective and unusual work experience to CCASTD that the organization can benefit from. I spent a few years doing public relations and marketing, and the knowledge I gained from that experience led to my being elected to the CCASTD Board of Directors as Vice President of Marketing. So join a professional organization, whether it’s CCASTD or one of the other local groups catering to workplace learning professionals. Even if you’re new to the field, like me, you may not realize how valuable your particular skills are.
As I wrap up my first semester in the MATD program with two courses under my belt (400 Intro, 411 Instructional Methods and Delivery), I’m hoping to land an instructional design job or internship before too long. But until that initial opportunity arises, I’m offering my services to fellow students as a writing coach. Whether you need help crafting an essay or just want an expert set of eyes to proofread, feel free to drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rates vary.
And if you’re hiring for an instructional designer or other T&D position, consider the value of someone with excellent communication skills and a background in interviewing and research. I may not have an instructional design role on my resume, but I’ve basically been doing the job for a long time.