Getting Laid Off – It’s Not Personal. It’s Strictly Business

Getting Laid Off – by Dr. Greg Williams, UMBC ISD Program Director

laid offIn the movie “The Godfather” (Part I), there is a line where Michael Corleone says to his younger brother “It’s not personal Sonny, it’s strictly business”.

In 2002, I was told by my employer that they had some bad news for me.  Due to the State of Maryland’s economic situation, the university had to make budget cuts. Unfortunately for me, my job was one of them.

Laid Off

I was shocked!  I said to myself “this happens in private business, not in the slow moving world of higher education”.  I thought “how could they lay me off?”  I had good evaluations, was a dedicated employee, did all they asked, and more.  Boy, was I wrong.  In other words, it’s not personal, it’s just business.

After the feeling of shock subsided, I had an uneasy feeling of panic.  What was going going to do? How long would I be unemployed?  Had I saved enough money? Who would hire me?

Preparation is Key

I felt very unprepared.  My resume and references were outdated.  Worse yet, I really had no professional portfolio to speak of.  Oh, I had accomplishments.  But many were undocumented and certainly in no shape to show a prospective employer.

To make a long story short, I survived.  I had a solid work history and an extensive network of professional contacts that proved to be my lifeline.

So what lessons did a I learn from getting laid off?

Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned (or re-learned) was that life isn’t fair.  If an organization can benefit by cutting their costs (e.g. laying you off), they will.  Accept that as fact and more on.  It’s not personal…just business. You should never feel completely secure in your job.  Fear can be a good motivator.  As a former boy scout I should have known to be better prepared.

So what can you do to prevent this, or at least cope with getting laid off?

  1. Accept the fact that anyone can get laid off at any time.
  2. Always be open to career opportunities.
  3. Stay on top of what the job market looks like for our field.  Know the changes and trends.
  4. Have your resume up to date.  There is nothing sadder than seeing a great job advertised only to find out you cannot meet the application deadline.
  5. Have your portfolio up to date and ready to share with people.
  6. Get feedback from professional colleagues on your portfolio.
  7. Have a LinkedIn account.  It’s the number one digital professional network.  Recruiters rely on it.
  8. Don’t forget in-person networking strategies.  In-person networking is not dead!
  9. Stay in touch with your professional references.
  10. Stay positive.  Good thing will happen, but sometimes things take time.

Don’t make the same mistakes as me.  It was painful learning experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember, it’s not personal, it’s strictly business.

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

How A Junk Mail Flyer Changed My Career

junk mailWho would have thought that receiving a junk mail flyer in my mailbox would have changed my career? How was I to know that this one particular flyer would have a significant impact on my professional life?

Dr. Greg Williams, Program Director for UMBC’s ISD Graduate Program, shares his story of how junk mail changed the trajectory of his career.

Junk Mail Offered a New Direction

In 1999, I was living in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. One day I received a flyer in the U.S. mail from an online university. They were recruiting potential faculty to teach online for them. I had wondered about teaching online, but never really did anything about before. From my research, reading and conversations with professional colleagues, it seemed like eLearning was poised to grow. And now, a supposed piece of junk mail confirmed it!

At the time of receiving this flyer, I was working at Towson University at the time in a staff position. I mentioned to a faculty member that I was thinking about going through the online university’s faculty training program. To my surprise he said that he knew someone who had gone through the same program and thought that it was excellent.

It All Started with a Junk Mail Flyer

I decided to enroll in the course. I thought it would be good for my career. I was right. Prior to this training course I had never taken an eLearning course myself, nor had I taught one. I had some limited experience with eLearning, but I never taught a complete online class.

This particular class required us to be available for 20 hours of class time, homework and studying each week. There were no exceptions for anyone. If you missed class time or were late on your assignments, you were removed form the class and had to start over again.

The course was modeled after the online university’s regular 5 week format. We experienced the same thing as students taking our courses. This helped to develop empathy, as well as to “walk a mile” in the students’ shoes.

It was a demanding and challenging experience. However, I learned a great deal. It was the foundation for developing my eLearning skills. Here is some of what I learned.

What I Learned About eLearning
1. It’s not “easy” being an online student. Online learning is not for everyone.
2. Online students need good time management skills, be motivated and disciplined.
3. eLearning is not about the technology. While online teachers use technology, a successful course is more about their ability to facilitate their learning.
4. Communication is very different. We know how simple email communication can easily get misunderstood. That misunderstanding can grow exponentially when it comes to eLearning.

Other Lessons Learned
1. Be open to change, it’s how we grow.
2. You never know where or when opportunities may pop up.
3. Use critical thinking and don’t believe everything you hear.
4. Take some calculated career risks.
5. Your career is dynamic, so you need to be dynamic too.

Because the flyer, my career would never be the same. It opened up a number of life-changing opportunities for me. Maybe you have some opportunities coming your way too. Would you recognize them? Be open-minded and give them a chance.

Lastly, take a quick glance at your junk mail before you throw it away.

Always in Learning Mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

You Don’t Need a Degree in Instructional Design to Get a Job

By: Dr. Greg Williams, Program Director, UMBC ISD Graduate Program

This blog article might get me fired!

ISD JobIn my position as the director of a graduate program in instructional design (OK there’s my full disclosure), I often get the question “Will this degree get me a job?” My answer is no. That response may be heresy for a college professor.

In reality, I am not sure that ANY degree guarantees you a job these days. If people truly think that a degree alone will get them a job, then they are wasting their time and their money.

Employers look at a number of things besides your education. That may include your work experience, your skills and competencies (as documented by a professional portfolio), how well you work in groups, how you solve problems, your creativity and much more. You should never overlook the importance of career tools and such as your resume, your references, your relationships within the professional community, how well they interview, etc. They too play a part in getting a job.

My academic colleagues may not like this, but everyone doesn’t need a college degree.

If people really wanted to they could get comparable knowledge on their own. They could do this by:

  • Reading and studying and practicing on their own
  • Taking appropriate professional development courses
  • Getting feedback and coaching from professional colleagues
  • Working with a mentor
  • And much more!

This might give them similar benefits that may compare to the content of a college degree. Are there exceptions to this? Of course there are! The truth is that most people don’t have the self-discipline to do this.

The older you get, your degree becomes less critical in getting a job.

As you gain experience, employers look more at your accomplishments and your body of professional work, far more than your degrees. There are some employers who use the degree as a screening tool to eliminate candidates from a large pile of applicants. However, in some workplace environments degrees are very important (higher education), while in others they are not (e.g. sales).

It is very possible that you may not need a degree at all. There are a number of people in our field (instructional design & eLearning) who are very accomplished and don’t have a degree. The difference is they have accomplishments and a body of work that showcases their skills.

As with many questions in life, the answer to this question often is “it depends”. Before you spend a lot of time and money on a degree, think about what you will put into it (time and money) compared to what you will get out of it (raise, new job, skills). In the end, you are in charge of your own career, so weigh the pros and cons carefully.

Speaking of careers, I wonder if I still have a job?

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISDNow

ISD Professionals: Four Reasons You Need a Portfolio

Are you prepared for when that opportunity comes into your path, offering a chance at a fantastic project that could elevate you to the next level in your ISD career?  If a potential client came calling tomorrow, would you have your best work ready to showcase? If not, read on.

portfolio

Why a Portfolio?

  1. To prove you have experience
  2. To sell yourself
  3. To showcase your talents and value
  4. To stand out from the competition

What to Present in a Portfolio?

Your best work. Period.

Here’s the caveat, though: you must honor the privacy of your clients. Before adding their projects into your portfolio, seek the written permission of their legal department. If you can’t obtain their permission, consider creating projects on your own to add to your portfolio.

What is the Best Portfolio Format?

Online and Paper versions both have advantages. Online allows for easy sharing, easy access, and easy correction in a cost effective manner. Paper-based portfolios have tangible, sensory value and are great for face-to-face interviews.

How to Organize a Portfolio

Leigh Anne Lankford, an Instructional Design Consultant, summed up her recommendations in her article, ISD Professionals – Building a Portfolio. She suggested these effective methods to organize a portfolio:

  • Place projects in chronological order.
  • Use the ADDIE Model to organize projects.
  • Organize projects according to the ASTD Competency Model.

Regardless of which organizational method you use to showcase your portfolio, the most important thing to keep in mind is to make it clean and clear of errors, and present only your best work. Seeking the advice and objectivity of someone unbiased can prove extremely helpful, as well. Encourage critical feedback from this person.

What to Include in Your Portfolio?

Think of a portfolio as a snapshot of your skills. It’s your chance to get in front of a prospective client and wow them with your ability. Place yourself in the shoes of the prospective client. What do they want to see? What would win over their confidence? What skill sets are critical to their project? Be sure your portfolio addresses these questions.

In her article, Lankford drafted a comprehensive list of items to consider:

  • One sample of High Level Design.
  • One Storyboard if you design for eLearning.
  • One Facilitator Guide sample.
  • One Participant Guide.
  • Content areas samples that showcase your expertise.
  • Evaluations you’ve created and their related feedback.
  • Recommendations and glowing reviews.

At UMBC, students admitted to the Master’s degree in Instructional Systems Development – Training Systems, are required to complete a professional portfolio. This requirement replaced the current comprehensive exam requirement in 2012.

Dr. Greg Williams, UMBC’s ISD Graduate Program Director, stated, “The purpose of this new requirement is to provide students an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in their coursework and the program. It also provides students, employers, clients, colleagues, etc. with tangible evidence of our graduates’ knowledge, skill, abilities and competencies. Portfolios can be a wonderful career tool that may assist graduates in getting jobs, promotions, new clients, and other professional opportunities.”

UMBC offers students a course called Portfolio Development & Talent Management

Did we miss something critical that you’ve included in your portfolio? Please share in the comments below.

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now
www.umbc.edu/isd

Put Your ISD Skills to Good Use by Volunteering

No matter where you are in your career with ISD, volunteering can be great way to give back to the community, gain more diverse hands-on experience and grow your portfolio.

The Magic of Volunteering

VolunteeringIn ISD From The Ground Up, our own Professor Chuck Hodell mused: “never underestimate the value of a little professional experience lent to a worthy cause. It is comparable to someone having little knowledge of how an automobile works sitting with their disabled car on the side of the road until a Good Samaritan comes along and performs a bit of magic in the engine and it starts right up.”

If you’re ready to perform a bit of your own magic, the following are some great ways to get started in volunteering:

Global Giveback

In partnership with the eLearning Guild, LINGOS’ Global Giveback enables the eLearning community to volunteer their talent, creativity and experience to a consortium of more than 75 humanitarian relief, development, conservation and health organizations.

In the first four years Global Giveback was held, volunteer instructional designers and eLearning developers have created more than 100 eLearning courses to support these global development non-profit organizations. To learn more and to get started, sign up for the Global Giveback Group on LinkedIn.

Last Mile Learning

Volunteers who sign up for the Global Giveback Group on LinkedIn also have access to LINGOS’ newest initiative, Last Mile Learning. Last Mile Learning’s mission is to provide “world-class learning opportunities at no cost to anyone working to improve lives in the developing world.”

Through Last Mile Learning, volunteers are provided with a library of free contextualized professional development courses while development and relief professionals can register to the Last Mile Learning open portal and access courses designed to improve their skills.

e-Learning for Kids

Are you interested in designing courseware and educational games for underserved children?  e-Learning for Kids is a global, nonprofit foundation dedicated to “fun and free learning on the Internet for children ages 5-12.”

As of 2012, e-Learning for Kids courses have been used by 4.5 million children in more than 190 countries in both the developing and developed world. Watch the video below to learn more about volunteering for e-Learning for Kids.

Idealist:

Idealist is a great way to search for specific causes that interest you, to network with experienced colleagues, and to create content for your portfolio that speaks to who you are and what you want to do.

You can even tailor your search to your specific needs as a volunteer, including the amount of time you are able to commit, the duration of the job, and the times of day you are available. You don’t need to have an Idealist account to search, so feel free to explore. You never know… the perfect opportunity could be just a few clicks away!

Have you ever volunteered your ISD skills? Tell us about it.

Always in Learning Mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

5 Job Search Tips for ISD Professionals

Looking for some job search tips to help you land the ideal position?

Job searching is dizzying and can feel an awful lot like spinning in a circle and then taking that first wobbly step. With so many different ways to connect, it’s no wonder people feel flustered and confused as to how to best proceed. To be efficient, there are several job search tips that can help focus your game plan and help you avoid losing lots of valuable time.

job search tipsWe ran across an article written by Sanjay Sathe, founder and CEO of RiseSmart, that sums up some helpful job search tips and can help job seekers traverse the often unsettling terrain with more confidence and efficiency. To summarize his major points, he suggests to be specific, well-targeted, concise, interactive, and online.

Job Search Tip #1: Be Focused and Specific

When searching job postings, it’s easy to get lost. One way to stay on top of your search is to create a list of keywords that are specific to your area of ISD expertise and skill set. Scan postings using these keywords.

Job Search Tip #2: Use a Well-Targeted Resume

A well-written resume goes without saying, but yet, it is the one area on which people tend to fall short. A resume is a first impression. Misspell a word, forget to use punctuation, neglect to format consistently or list stuff irrelevant to the ISD position and it’s sure to hit the ‘not interested’ pile. To help make your resume stand out, ensure that it’s fully proofed and be sure to use industry and field keywords.

Job Search Tip #3: Draft a Personal Statement

Inevitably, you’re going to be asked the question, ‘so tell me a little about yourself.’ This  question warrants a thoughtful response, one that will catapult you to the top of the list, one that tells the interviewer(s) you are serious and you are the perfect candidate. Devise a concise paragraph statement to use whenever this question is asked. Have it include your strengths, unique skills, and assets you will bring to the team.

Job Search Tip #4: Become Social Media Savvy

Most every company has an online presence now. Be part of their conversation. Get involved. Read their posts. Become their fan. Follow them. Interact with them. This could very well be the front and center ticket you’ve been searching for.

Job Search Tip #5: Create an Online Portfolio

An easy and influential way to show off your ability to present information in a clear, concise, organized manner is through creating a personal website that houses everything professionally important about you. Include your resume, bio, portfolio items and contact information.

Always in learning mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

P.S. What other job search tips would you place in this list?

The Future of the ISD Industry – an interview with Dr. J. Marvin Cook

Video

Dr. Greg Williams, Director of UMBC’s Instructional Systems Development (ISD) program recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. J. Marvin Cook, the program’s founder, for a video series. Dr. Cook, a noted author, professor, consultant and entrepreneur, discussed a range of topics, including the UMBC graduate program in Instructional Systems Development, ISD competencies, and the future of ISD as an industry. When talking about the future, he reminded viewers how important it is to never forget the needs of an organization. He also talked about how the industry has a bright future ahead.

isd

Dr. J. Marvin Cook, UMBC’s ISD Graduate Program Founder

ISD Professionals Should Never Forget the Needs of the Organization
Regardless of the economic conditions, businesses still have the desire to improve performance. Instructional developers can help them achieve this. Now, more than ever, instructional designers must continue to focus on the need of the organization—not just using a particular medium (say, the the latest and greatest software). Often, when asked about the future of learning (or future of anything, really), it’s easy to jump to an obvious answer: technology. While technology has clearly changed how we learn, Dr. Cook reminds us that maintaining focus on needs is still critically important.

ISD – A Bright Look Ahead for Instructional Developers 

As the economy continues to pick up, companies will continue to generate jobs, Dr. Cook pointed out. As a result, new employees will need training, creating more opportunities for those in ISD roles.

The video below includes Dr. Cook’s thoughts on the future of ISD:

View the entire video series here.

Always in Learning Mode,
Your friends at ISD Now

3 Job Searching Tips for Instructional Technologists from the eLearning Coach

We wanted to share some job searching tips from Connie Malamed, blogger at the eLearning Coach, and a close friend of ISD Now.

elearning coachShe recently shared her podcast on “Finding a Job in Instructional Technology,” with us. In the podcast, Connie interviews Joe Fournier, Director of Instructional Design and Technology, who has hired several individuals within the field.

Joe shares 3 helpful key job searching tips for finding a job in instructional technology:

  • A Thirst for Learning: A good instructional designer often possesses a thirst for learning
  • Portfolio Power: Joe encourages instructional designers provide portfolios (particularly in an online format).
  • Bye-Bye Boilerplate: Hiring managers are looking to hire instructional designers who fit with the team and close any existing gaps. Outstanding interviewees can have a conversation with you, not regurgitate boilerplate talking points about themselves.

To hear the full podcast with job searching tips for instructional designers, click below.

https://isdnow.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/elc001.mp3

Click here to listen to the podcast “Finding a Job in Instructional Technology” in a new window.

Subscribe to Connie’s podcasts in iTunes.

Always in Learning Mode,
Your friends at ISD Now
P.S. Are you looking for a job in instructional technology? Join the UMBC ISD Career and job list-serve!