Today Ali and JoDee welcome back Adam McLean. Adam joins them to talk about making the switch from teaching to instructional design, tips for setting up your resume or LinkedIn profile for these types of roles, and the best places to look for job opportunities in instructional design.
Links mentioned in this episode:
Online Learning Consortium: https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/
Inside Higher Ed: https://www.insidehighered.com/
Chronicle of Higher Education: https://www.chronicle.com/
Education Jobs for Flexible Practitioners Blog: http://edujobsinpgh.blogspot.com/
Connect with Adam:
Connect with Ali and JoDee:
Teacher Shift LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/teacher-shift
Ali’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alisimon/
JoDee’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodeescissors/
All teachers are natural innovators, entertainers and problem solvers. They dream of growing old into the profession, teaching their kids kids. But sometimes career goals shift or change, and that makes opportunities outside of the classroom seem intangible questioning who am I? If I'm not a teacher, I'm your host, Alexandra Simon.
And I'm your co-host, JoDee Scissors.
This is The Great Teacher Resignation.
We have a reoccurring guest today, Adam McLean. You may have caught him in episode seven with his wife Ashley, when they discussed how as educators, they prioritize their family. Today, he's with us to share specific career transition advice on how to become an instructional designer. Thanks for being on the show today, Adam.
Glad to be back.
Yeah, happy to have you again.
So we're really interested today in learning more about the field of instructional design. And I wanted to hear if you could share with the listeners who might not be familiar with this field. What is an instructional designer?
Well, simply put an instructional designer is someone who structures learning experiences. And this can look a whole lot of different ways, right? It can be somebody who does corporate trainings, it can be somebody who does curriculum development, it can be someone who does elearning. These all kind of fall under that umbrella of instructional designer.
Thinking about the classroom and the teacher. How can we bridge the gap of understanding between what a teacher does in the classroom and instructional design? How are they interrelated?
Well, they're intrinsically interrelated, I think. Instructional design often involves skills like assessing learning needs, lesson planning, sequencing, curriculum planning, ADA compliance, engagement strategies, learning theory, etc, etc. And there's also a lot of like soft skills that overlap as well, because instructional design involves a lot of interpersonal interactions with other team members, like subject matter experts, graphic designers, voice artists, marketing or business folks, end users, etc. And there's also other overlap in the role like data in the roles like data analysis, leading meetings, or professional development, perhaps even instructional coaching, depending on the specific ID role that you're in. And I also find that, you know, in instructional design work now, I'm often you know, multitasking a lot and having a lot of variety in my day, and using a really broad skill set to create effective learning experiences. And you know, this really feels comfortable to me, as a former classroom educator. I think sometimes, you know, the biggest kind of mind shift is just the vocabulary that's used in the fields. It's a little bit different. But you know, as I've gotten more and more into it, I start to make connections like, oh, storyboarding is another word for lesson planning, right? Or end user is another word for the learner or student, right?
That's awesome. And honestly, a perfect segue into what we wanted to ask you next. If a teacher's building their LinkedIn profile, what recommendations would you have? I think terminology is definitely helpful. Knowing the right terminology for ID. What other tips might you have for them if they're working on their LinkedIn profile in the hopes of landing an instructional design position?
Absolutely. And this is something that I struggled with a lot initially, I sent out my resume to a lot of different places, and it was like my teacher resume, right. So you know, I knew how to kind of write it for that. But I really didn't get too much interest at all. Anything outside of like a school with that resume until I talked to an instructional designer who had also made the transition. And the first thing he said to me is, you know, you need to lengthen out your job titles, right? Don't just write teacher or educator. Write educator, curriculum developer and instructional designer. Because even if that wasn't your formal title, those are all things you did, and they won't necessarily be recognized by resume scanners, right? Or employers or hiring committees if you don't call it out specifically. So that was a big tip that really helped me. And once I did that, I started I'm actually getting some callbacks for interviews. I think another thing that helped on my resume or profile was highlighting adult education and PD leadership that I've done before, you know, perhaps some training and instructional coaching that I did. Because even though you know, my primary job was to work with kids, you know, I also did teacher leadership kind of roles where I was leading, you know, a curriculum team or leading PD for my colleagues in my department or something. And that work with adults is something that happens in instructional design quite a bit. And, you know, I think the last thing that really helped me is having a section towards the top of my resume or profile of achievements, that even before I got into my education, and my work history, which often go towards the top of a resume, I actually put the achievements towards the top. And I phrased them in ways like I designed curricula for use with X number of adults and Y number of learners, or facilitated this many online courses. Things that just really highlighted at the top, what are the things that I can bring to the table of instructional design that they might not even get to if they get stuck at the top of my teacher resume, right? They just see, oh, this guy doesn't have any ID experience, move on. Right?
I'm glad that you're pinpointing all of those details, especially when it comes to adults. Because if you're moving from the classroom of children, or teens or you know, even young adults, what have you done with adults? How have you managed them? How have you managed a budget? And those were all things that I had done, I just couldn't... I had never thought to translate it. Because I had always done teacher resumes. And, and honestly, in education, when you're applying for jobs, there is a lot of nepotism. You know, you know someone that helps you get that job. And it's really that interview that helps you get the job anyways, like, we know what's going to be on a teacher resume. And so making that transition and those key words, and identifying when and how you've worked with adults is super important. And I remember you telling me when we first met about like thinking about your title, and I spoke with a teacher last week that called me and wanted help, and I gave her your seed of advice. Because it's critical. It's super critical. She has a master's in in math, and she has developed curriculum. And I'm like, Just because your current title doesn't say that you are still those things. And you still need to identify yourself as those. So thank you for passing that knowledge on in our first interview, because I've already shared it. What else do we want to know from Adam?
Well, we're interested in knowing where do you find jobs in this field? Like, do you have a specific job search engine that you'd like to use? Or is there a specific place that you'd recommend teachers or other job searchers use.
I do. And before I do that, I forgot to say one more thing about resume stuff. So I'll maybe I'll just say that quickly that one thing I did that I know made a big difference in getting my current job was I actually have enrolled in a certificate program and instructional design. I already have a master's degree in education. But I feel like I needed just a little bit extra to help me bridge the gap. So I've actually been for the past year doing this certificate program completely online through the University of Maine and had a really good experience. And I was told that, you know, that definitely helped in their hiring decision.
And that's something as summer approaches, teachers can now make the choice to put aside some voluntary PD that perhaps will not help them accelerate their career in the way that they want and focus on a summer task of getting that certificate, or even when the school year starts. If you know, that's going to be your last school year, draw back your responsibilities, like don't be the doughnuts and dad's planner. Instead, spend those hours you would do doing that project or perhaps attending an extracurricular and focus on a certificate to get you to where you need to be.
Absolutely. And the vast majority of people in my program are folks that are my age who have you know, similar experience to me who are making that transition from educator to instructional designer. So a lot of people are thinking along the same lines, I think,
Yeah, and I want to echo the value of having that on your resume, whether it's a certificate program, or whether it is a man master's program. Maybe you don't have your master's yet, or you do but you want to add. You're transitioning to a career that's very different from education. So I had a friend, it's not very different, but she wanted to go in the nonprofit world, and she wasn't getting any bites on her resume or LinkedIn profile. And she started her Master's in Public Administration. And as soon as she added that to her resume, that she couldn't stop getting the phone calls, I think that that's really key here is to identify maybe what you're missing. And these things that you've outlined at them are super helpful if you change your job title, if not change, but if you elevate it, and you add in these other points. I really liked when you talked about adding in, like the quantitative data of what you're doing for your achievement. So that's another thing that I recommend that someone outside of education told me to do, you know, say that you've done X, Y, or Z with numbers, or actually, I guess it'd be like 123, But you know, quantitative data of things that you've accomplished. Because in the outside world, those things are really important. And they want to see that. And then adding this like a certificate or a graduate degree, I love the idea of a certificate, I think that's great. And I might even look at doing a certificate myself soon.
It's been a great fit for me. And you know, there's so many people doing things like this, now that the program is mostly asynchronous. It's incredibly flexible, it really suits, you know, a working adult lifestyle. And the last thing I'll say about those keywords on the resume are that I learned from a very, you know, experienced instructional designer who I worked with years and years ago, in work study in college, actually, is that there are now these, like AI programs, these artificial intelligence programs that will scan resumes for certain keywords. So if you don't have certain keywords, just like you described your friend, right, adding that, you know, she was in a master's program, in a certain field. And if you don't have those keywords, the resume scanners will just, you know, sort your resume out and human eyes will never get on it. So, you know, she even at one point said you might want to send your resume, like a professional, you know, resume builder, who knows how the scanners work. You know, thankfully, I was able to kind of figure it out with the advice from other folks, you know, to get those keywords on there. But it was pretty astonishing how, you know, as soon as I changed my resume, there were those pretty immediate changes in the feedback that I was getting.
We know now, what an instructional designer is, we know how it's connected to your teacher skills, and how to work on refreshing your resume and curating it to be able to get past those little configurations. Where do we apply? Where do we go to find those jobs?
The recommendations that I got, initially, were for kind of more specific places like the Online Learning Consortium, or Inside Higher Ed, or the Chronicle of Higher Education. Because, you know, instructional designers are often you know, employed by universities, not always, but they can be. But actually, the places where I had the most success were LinkedIn, and Indeed.com. Like Indeed.com, you can set it up so you have like alerts for certain job descriptions, or certain types of jobs. And it would send me like a daily digest, you know, everyday. And the job that I have now that I'm really happy. And I actually found through Indeed. There's also a really interesting blog, that I'll send you a link to it, you might be aware of it already, but it's called Education Jobs for Flexible Practitioners. And I do some instructional coaching and that job that I have that role in, I found through this blog. And it's kind of like an amalgamation of different education jobs that might be interesting to somebody looking to transition out of a, you know, traditional school environment. So I'll send you that link, because there's some good instructional design jobs on there as well.
Thank you. That sounds great. We'll definitely share that with the listeners. So you've searched for jobs, you've applied for jobs, and now you land a job. What can you expect once you land a role in instructional design?
Well, I think it depends on your context, right? First of all, like, there are instructional designers who work in like corporate and HR training, or compliance training. There are instructional designers who work in a university who help you know, professors, create college courses. There are instructional designers who do what I do, which is more elearning and continuing education. But whatever role you land, I think that there's a certain phase in period where you're kind of getting used to a new culture and vocabulary. Right? Like there were a lot of times, people would say things to me like, Oh, can you write up an SOP for this? And I was thinking to myself, like, what's an SOP? And you know, of course, I just said, yes. Yeah, of course, I can do that. And then I would Google SOP. Right?
I had to google SOP the first time that someone told me that too. So.
Right. Right. Yeah. So it's standard operating procedure for anyone who's listening. But you know, things like that are like, you know, the deliverable we need from you is this, it's like, oh, that's the thing, that's the product, you need me to give you. Okay. You know, so just kind of like getting used to that vocabulary, I think, is something to expect. And also, like, as an ID, you know, you're not going to be working directly with children, probably. I think just getting used to like, an adult work culture is different, right? Like, of course, you were working with adults as a teacher, but I guess my experience, and I've heard a lot of guests on your podcast, that, you know, it can be very isolating right to work as a teacher. You like, you know, you come into your classroom, and you interact with kids all day, and then you leave for the day, and you might only see other adults in passing, right? So in an ID role, like in any, you know, corporate, you know, or higher ed role, you're mostly, you know, working with a smaller group of adults, and that, that dynamics, just different and it takes getting used to. But, you know, the one thing I will say is that a lot of the skills are the same, and they're like, highly, highly transferable, even in ways that I didn't even imagine that they would be. I hear you talk on your podcast, a lot about the teacher brain. And I feel like the teacher brain that I developed in public school has been really valuable in instructional design. People talk to me all the time about like, oh, you know, I know there's just so many tasks, you know, I really appreciate how you know, you can prioritize your time and multitask and, you know, make sure that everything happens when it needs to happen. And it's like, I didn't even realize I was doing that. Right? That's just what I do.
Well, Adam, I'm so grateful that you came on the show today again, and that you were telling our listeners about what a career in instructional design can look like, from start to finish, from how to get your resume set up, speaking with people in the profession, and then what it'll look like when they land that role in the ID world. Thank you so much for your time today and for being our guest again.
It was my pleasure, thank you
If you liked The Great Teacher Resignation, give us a five star rating and follow us on Instagram, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Audible. This episode was written and recorded by me Alexandra Simon, and my co-host JoDee Scissors. Produced by JoDee Scissors. Original Music: Emoji by Tubebackr. Special thanks to our sponsor, Paper Planes Ed.