4 Ways to Gain Experience and Break Into Digital Learning
How can you get experience in digital learning if you don’t already work in the industry? These 4 strategies help you build experience to get the job.
Digital learning is a growing industry that attracts people from all different backgrounds. Some teachers dream of leaving the classroom for a career in curriculum development or learning design. Professionals in other industries may see it as an opportunity to do meaningful work or achieve a more comfortable work-life balance. But breaking into digital learning can be daunting.
So many job postings ask for years of experience and specialized degrees. You might feel like there’s an unbridgeable gap between where you are and a role in the digital learning industry. In reality, that gap is probably narrower than you think. You don’t have to be caught in a loop of not getting a job because you need experience and not gaining experience because you need a job. Put these four strategies to work for you, and start working toward your dream job in digital learning.
1. Find your Transferable Skills
You probably have more experience than you think. Digital learning needs professionals in roles like content or curriculum creation, video and multimedia production, editing, and project coordination and management. If you’ve worked in roles like these outside the digital learning industry, a switch to digital learning might be fairly straightforward. Even if you’re not coming from that kind of background, many of your skills will still transfer.
Take a look at some job postings for the kinds of digital learning roles you’d like to qualify for. Note the skills and experiences they’re seeking then think about what you’ve done in your work up to now that proves your ability in these areas.
You’ll probably notice that many of the skills you’ve built in other areas also make you a valuable digital learning teammate. Soft skills are especially transferable. And many employers realize that these so-called soft skills are much more difficult to teach. You can be trained on a new computer system or QA process. Training someone in innovation or creativity is a lot harder.
According to McKinsey, the top soft skills for 2021 include:
• Critical thinking
Many people lose track of their own skills. You can see someone else’s talents much more easily than you recognize your own. If you’re having trouble identifying your soft and transferable skills, talk to a trusted friend or talent coach. They might be able to help you see your experience with fresh eyes.
2. Earn a Credential in Digital Learning
After assessing your skills you might decide that you need some training in a specific set of skills. That doesn’t mean you have to go back to school unless you really want to. If you already have a degree you’re probably better off pursuing a certificate or other quicker-to-complete credential.
To figure out which credentials you need, go back to the job postings. Many job postings will mention if they’d like candidates to have a particular certification or credential. This can help you identify which ones are well-respected or seen as industry standards.
If you can’t find a mention of specific credentials, look for accredited programs or credentials granted by a trusted organization. You might reach out to credential holders to ask whether gaining the credential was worthwhile. You can also reach out to professional associations to find out which ones they recommend. Most importantly, make sure the curriculum includes the specific skills you need to build.
3. Start With Freelance or Contract Work
One of the best ways to learn is by doing. Of course, that brings us back to the problem of needing a job to get experience and needing experience to get a job. One way to stop this spin is by starting with freelance or contract work at first.
Committing to a new hire is a big investment for employers. They may be more willing to take a chance on a less-experienced applicant if it’s for a short-term contract or one-off project. Sometimes that contract role can turn into a full-time job offer later on. If it doesn’t, it can still help you build your experience while also getting a first-hand look at the day-to-day realities of the job. Or you might even decide you prefer contract work and want to continue to build your career that way.
4. Volunteer to Build Experience
This last tip might not be for everyone. You may not have the time or financial stability to volunteer. But it can be a great way to quickly learn something new. This could be a traditional volunteer arrangement for a cause you care about. Or you could volunteer to help out with something in the job you have now that is related to the role you want.
If you’re a teacher, volunteer to help with curriculum development, assessment writing, accessibility, or learning technology. Start creating graphics or videos for your classroom. Offer to help other teachers or your administration with their projects.
If you work in a corporate environment, find out if there are ways you can support employee learning in your organization. Get involved with any community outreach or education projects your organization has in the works. Stay alert for opportunities to expand your skills in the direction you want to go.
Employers Don’t Expect a Perfect Fit
Don’t forget that your mission, vision, and values are important too. As you work to gain experience in digital learning, remember that most job postings represent a wish list. Employers know that it’s unlikely, and maybe even impossible, to find someone with the exact mix of skills they’d like. A candidate who is confident, shares the organization’s philosophy of education, and is willing to learn is more likely to get hired, even if they have less experience. So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Teamed can help. We specialize in connecting digital learning professionals with the organizations that need their skills. Visit our job board.