Post written by ATDChi member Annette Wisniewski. This article is part of a series of member-written content on Career Development in Talent Development.
“You don’t have any relevant experience.”
How do you get work in a new field when employers ask for previous experience? It can be daunting, but there are some strategies to support you in making the transition. I have used each of these strategies successfully at some point during my career.
Extrapolate from Your Current Experiences
Prior to working in L&D, I was a programmer/analyst. The same basic ADDIE principles apply to both L&D and programming. Both involve analyzing the need; designing, developing, and implementing the solution; and then evaluating the results.
What have you already done in your current field that translates to learning and development? Teach? Design training? Create a job aid? Develop a new process or procedure? Whatever it is, document it and be prepared to discuss both how it relates to, and differs from, L&D best practices.
When I wanted to return to the corporate world after being a stay-at-home mom, I realized that I needed to retool. So, I went back to school and earned both my master’s degree in instructional and performance technology and a certificate in workplace e-learning and performance support.
What L&D-related credentials can you earn now? Just make sure that the credentials are relevant to your desired career path and are well-respected before you invest in them1. ATD offers many courses from microlearning to Master Programs. You can check them out here: https://my.td.org/search/courses
Call an Old Friend
While working on my master’s degree, I called an old friend who had connections. She hired me to work with her as an instructional designer on a contract for a large company. She mentored me and helped me to succeed on my first project as an independent contractor.
Who do you know who might be able to open a door for you? Who is doing work that you want to be doing? Who could you ask to mentor you?
Ask for the Opportunity
After completing grad school, I still had no practical experience in creating e-learning. At a local industry conference, I ran into someone I had met at other local events. I asked her if she would be willing to take a chance on me. She was – at a reduced rate – as a trial to see if I could do the work. She soon brought me on board as a regular contractor. I worked with her for several years and we became great friends.
Don’t be afraid to ask for an opportunity to gain experience. Check out local networking events, such as local ATD chapter events; industry groups, such as ATD; and companies that are doing work you find interesting. Reach out and ASK for what you want.
Raise Your Hand
While at a local industry meeting, one of the members asked for volunteers to help her with a new low-profit startup that would support a not-for-profit venture. I raised my hand and found myself among an amazing group of talented, generous people. That led to multiple years of paid work and deep friendships with several members of that group.
What local ATD chapter events are near you? What ATD or other volunteer opportunities2 excite you? What do you have time and enthusiasm for? Raise your hand! And then follow through with exuberant dedication. Build a reputation for being a reliable, invaluable team player. You might even make new friends along the way.
Use Your Social Media Networks
When there was a reorganization that affected my then-current company, I knew I needed to find a new job. I started monitoring the usual job boards, but I also watched my network on LinkedIn. One of my contacts posted that his company was hiring for an enticing position. After submitting a blind resume and participating in three interviews, I was offered an amazing opportunity – only about 30 days after first applying.
Who are you currently connected with who might be able to offer you advice or a lead? Who can you add to your current network who might be willing to help?
Think outside the box when trying to break into a new field. For L&D, consider joining the local chapter and national ATD. But joining an organization is not enough; you have to participate. Try applying one or more of the other strategies, as well. I have found L&D people to be incredibly kind and generous with their talents. You just have to take the first steps to get out there. If you would like to discuss any of these further, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and let’s talk!
Annette Wisniewski is an Instructional Design Manager with the Capabilities team at Kraft Heinz. Follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/awisniewskicpt/
1 ATD offers many courses, from microlearning to Master Programs. You can check them out here: https://my.td.org/search/courses, and don’t forget to use our CHIP code when registering: CH5009.
2 If you’d like to volunteer with ATDChi, head on over here: https://atdchi.org/Volunteerhttps://atdchi.org/Volunteer.
Are you a member with something to share about developing your Career in L&D? Send an email to email@example.com.
Photo credit: Mikelya Fournier on Unsplash