Personal Journey Timeframes

Hi everyone! Long-time lurker, first-time poster here. I'm loving this site and how much I'm learning, so thank you all for imparting your glorious wisdom so readily!

I have a question, for anyone willing to satisfy my curiosity: how long did it take you to go from "I think I want to become an instructional designer/eLearning developer" to "I'm a full-time instructional designer/eLearning developer"?

This is, without a doubt, my calling. I'm not sure if I'm more passionate about learning or writing/creating, so a career where I can do both is what I was born to do! I'm smart and very creative, bursting with enthusiasm and drive, and utterly excited to get into this career. I'm devouring all the information I can, and looking for opportunities (whether low-paying or volunteer) to get some experience and build a portfolio. I'm trying to create a timeline of goals for myself, so I was curious about the experience of others.

Thank you in advance! :)

4 Replies
Bob S

Hi Stefanie,

Thanks for posting.  For my part, I sort of backed into ID and development.... 

I came from the sales/business side of the world and found I really loved training new sales folks on not just products/services, but on soft skills techniques.  Watching them succeed with what I had shared was just enough ego kick to get me "hooked" on training! 

From there, it became about delivering training (stand up), and when in a company experiencing meteoric growth found that we needed more content than we had, so tried my hand at designing out of necessity. This was the next kick... realizing my efforts could be multiplied beyond just the folks I could touch face to face. Once again "hooked", this time on ID.

Lots of trial and error, reinvesting in my own education through school and seminars, and of course the school of hard knocks, and I finally considered myself an ID a few years later.  But it seems there was more....

What's better than empowering others?  Empowering others to empower others of course!  This last ego kick was the biggie as I started hiring, training and mentoring other IDs and developers.   Being able to impart the training skills WITH the business sense helped make them successful too. 

So lots of years, lots of roles, lots of companies later, I still love of watching the light bulbs go off and helping folks and businesses succeed..... and yes, it does an ego good to think you've had a tiny part in that success. :)

Enjoy the journey, it's a great one!

David Manning

Hi Stefanie, 

I'm presently a training program manager, but due to our small training team size (me and contractors), I tend to spend much time performing instructional design and development. Here's my journey: 

1 month post-school: No instructional  design
Like many, my first job post-school was in a non-training role (technical support). I noticed there were gaps in support materials and started building content on my own time.

12 months post-school: Part-time instructional design/training
After creating a bunch of resources, the training manager took me under her wing. My role was split between my old job, running coaching sessions, and doing some course development. Looking back on those courses, they were terrible!

18 months post-school: Full-time instructional design 
Six months later the training manager hired me full-time as an instructional designer. This was my first time receiving formal training in instructional design, which consisted of several multi-day corporate ID/training/facilitation workshops and reading Mager's "Preparing Instructional Objectives" (a simple and fun read, which I highly recommend for all instructional designers). 

Unfortunately my courses, while effective from a behaviourist approach, were paint-by-numbers in design. My courses received good feedback, but I was burnt out. I also lost my manager/mentor due to company restructuring. It was time for a change. 

42 months (3.5 years) post-school: Full-time project management
Project Management seemed like an interesting discipline that would help me in any future domain. Because our training team was so small, there were no opportunities to do PM work in training, so I became an HR project analyst. In this role I had opportunities to work on training initiatives secondarily, so I was able to knock off the rust occasionally.

5.5 years post-school: Instructional design consultant / PM
After a couple of years as a project analyst, I felt ready to return to instructional design. I had some life changes (family passed away) which prompted me to take control of my destiny. I also began working on a masters of education. Since then my designs have improved significantly. 

My PM experience dovetailed with instructional design when my former employer brought me on as a consultant to help ensure that courses were built effectively. 

7.5 years post-school: Training Program Manager
The person who hired me as a contractor moved to another Firm, where they desperately needed a training program manager. I took this role three years ago, and have led consultants, coached and mentored direct reports, and am directly responsible for building, managing and implementing our annual training program. I'm a few months away from finishing my masters of education, and am looking forward to conquering challenges and taking advantage of opportunities.  

Everyone's journey will be different. That said, the things that most helped me in my journey were: 

  • Finding a mentor to coach and advise me
  • Practicing instructional design on my own, voluntarily, within a different role
  • Attending professional training whenever possible (e.g. Articulate Roadshow), then applying as much as I could from the training in my designs
  • Furthering my own development through post-secondary education
  • Building trust relationships across organizations

Best of luck, 


Laurel Schulert

I have a Bachelor's in education, and taught at the high school and community college levels for six years. I decided to stop teaching full-time, since I wanted a better work-life balance (full time teaching averaged about 70 hours a week for me).

Last year I was hired into the Training & Development team in a corporate setting, and after about six months was re-titled as an Instructional Designer since that's the work I ended up doing more of. I have quickly fallen in love with this career, as I am able to use the skills and knowledge I gained as an educator but I have the better work-life balance I wanted when I left the classroom. I am now pursuing a Master's in Learning Design and Technology, and am not sure what exact direction my career will take when I graduate in two years. I am also interested in freelancing.

Zsolt Olah

Hi, Stefanie!

It's a two month old post, so by now you might be a "full instructional designer." If not yet, here's  couple things I would suggest:

1) Check out Anna's "Become a More Confident Instructional Designer" course. Not only she's great with transferring her skills but you become part of a community of practitioners.

2) ...which leads to the second point: connect with people! Find the thought leaders in L&D on LinkedIn and Twitter and see what they're seeing. Don't waste your time mastering something that might not be relevant in the near future.

Here's a list of people to start with:

3) Participate in the weekly challenges here. Not only it helps with your portfolio but also with design and development skills.

Good luck!