Instructional design is a weird profession.
It’s very much multi-faceted, and depending on where you’re working, the job can call for A LOT of different skills.
Course design (duh), subject matter expertise, graphic design, technical writing, programming, project management…
Just to name a few!
This is actually why a lot of us were attracted to the work in the first place. We get to do something different every day of the week, and we have the chance to be creative.
But while it can be fun to be a jack of all trades, and certainly helpful at times, when we take this TOO FAR I think it can slow us down.
You ever hear this one?
“I’m an instructional designer, and a developer-slash-graphic-designer… oh, and I’m also an expert in three different learning management systems.”
Sorry to be blunt, but if you’re describing you skillset like this, it’s more likely that you’re mediocre, or downright crappy at MOST of those things.
At the very least you’re not as good as you COULD be if you focused.
Like basically everything else in life, if you really want to excel and grow as a learning professional, you need to narrow your focus and choose ONE area, or two maximum, to really kick butt at.
If we pride ourselves on being able to ‘handle everything’ we spread ourselves too thin.
So take some time to figure out your central strong point, and then double down on it.
“So Anna, what skill should I focus on?”
Well to start with… if your back-of-napkin career plan has ‘instructional designer’ written at the top, then you should probably focus on…
Crazy, I know 😉
But seriously, I see too many people who call themselves instructional designers who are acting like they’ve “got that part down” and are now spending their downtime at the office teaching themselves css formatting or video editing or something.
Unless your employer is FORCING you to learn those things, that is just crazy.
And a waste of your energy.
Because you know what? You can always do a quick hunt around the interwebs to find a technical writer, or learning software expert who is FAR BETTER than you are to handle the specialized technical bits of building your course.
“But Anna, that video editing guy wants like $300! And he’s only going to spend
Cool. That sounds like a great deal to me.
It took him an hour. It would have taken you TEN. And he did a way better job than you would have anyways.
Those are all good things.
Now you’re free to focus on what you’re best at, provide value to the project in a more efficient way, and further develop your craft.
So the point is… if you want to be an Instructional Designer, I don’t care how ‘naturally talented’ you think you are at some of these peripheral things, or even how much you ENJOY doing them. I’m sticking to my ketchup filled squirt guns here.
Michael Jordan was probably one of THE most gifted all around athletes in the last 100 years.
Remember when he tried to play baseball?
I rest my case.
Focusing your efforts on a core skill is critical, but there are two VERY common mistakes I see people making when they do this in practice.
Making these mistakes is just as bad as not focusing at all, and they can be the source of years of frustration and hair pulling in your career.
So if you want to know what NOT to do… check out my FREE Case Study.