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  • July 12, 2022 3:26 PM | Jason Berry (Administrator)

    Post by ATDChi Member Marc Mattson

    Let me set the table for you:

    John and Joan are sitting down to dinner, as couples are often do, and John asks Joan, “So how was your day?”

    Joan says, “I was almost run off the road by a chinchilla!”

    “A chinchilla, you say?” John replies, incredulous.

    “A chinchilla!” Joan exclaims. “There I was, driving along down First Street, and a chinchilla jumps out in front of me! I suspect he didn’t care much for my red Ford Pinto. Anyway, I swerved to avoid hitting him and ran into the drainage ditch! When I swerved back out again I saw in my rearview mirror the chinchilla raising a fist at me!”

    “Wow. Who knew there were chinchillas in Chicago?”

    So now I know you’re wondering: “what does a story about a raging chinchilla have to do about anything?” Well, the raging chinchilla isn’t the point, nor is the story about it. What matters is the fact that Joan told John about it, even though earlier in the day Joan had attended a seminar about storytelling and told the facilitator that she wasn’t any good at it. The facilitator responded, “that’s because I haven’t yet told you about the Hero’s Journey structure of stories.”

    And, after he did, Joan went home even more convinced that she couldn’t tell stories.

    Except, then she proceeded to tell her husband a story about a raging chinchilla.

    So there are three points I want to make about what I just related:

    1.       I hooked you into this article by telling you a silly story. (Or maybe I completely alienated you and you’re not even reading anymore, in which case why am I still typing?) And while it was most definitely silly, perhaps you can relate to some part of it: Who among us hasn’t once swerved our car to avoid a crossing animal? And while the story itself, in this case, is completely irrelevant to my ultimate point, at the very least you’re now primed to listen and figure out where I’m going with this…

    2.       A lot of people will say that storytelling is hard because, well, “I’m just not a good storyteller.” And it may be true that you’re not a skilled storyteller, but despite what you may think about your own storytelling abilities, I know for a fact that you can tell stories because you do tell stories. All of you. Every day. So skilled or not, you can translate your natural ability to something more practical and instructive.

    3.       Indeed, the real problem is that when we think of the term “storytelling,” we almost automatically start to think in terms of epics such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and it tends to intimidate us when someone tries to tell us how to use storytelling in a learning capacity. But here’s the thing: we’re not creating an epic, we’re just trying to get an audience to relate to a situation we can help them solve. So if you’ve ever encountered a storytelling seminar or workshop or anything that’s not a screenwriting course that mentions the hero’s journey, rising and falling action, and other complicated structural elements, forget everything you learned in it.

    4.       Chinchillas are native to South America, so Joan almost certainly nearly smushed a rat. It stands to reason—it is Chicago after all!

    5.       I don’t know how to count.

    Storytelling—for business purposes, at least—is not some kind of magical art. It does not require deep knowledge and understanding of rising action, crises development, climaxes, and falling action. It requires you only to tap into and hone a skill you already have.

    The stories we might tell in a learning function are really no different than those that are told in a sales function, or, yes, even in an epic like Star Wars: **I’m telling you about the solution to a problem.**

    Here' the thing: the resolution of our story is already given because we already know the solution—it’s ultimately the message we’re trying to convey. So really what you need to do is define the problem that’s being solved and add any required players who are critical to the outcome.

    For example, let’s say you’re creating a learning module on Collaboration. You figure one way to illustrate the need for collaboration is to indicate what happens when people fail to collaborate. So you develop a scenario that contrasts how one company’s failure to collaborate leads to the success of another company that collaborated effectively. Here’s how you develop that story:

    You start at the end

    Again, to a great extent, the resolutions of our stories are already determined by the solutions we’re trying to sell. In this case, you’re selling the power of collaboration via an instructive tale of its failure. So write out a simple statement that provides the Aesop moral of your story, crafting it in very generic language that you’ll refine as the details of the story unfold:

    “Company A’s divisions did not collaborate very well, so the product it released was outsold by the superior product that was developed by the fully collaborative Company B.”

    Add the Problem and Solution

    In general, the problem and solutions statements are pretty straightforward. In this case, because it’s a contrast of competing issues, the solution statement is really a contrast to the problem:

    Problem: “Company A failed to collaborate and as a result the product it created failed.”

    Solution: “Company B collaborated effectively and as a result its product succeeded.”

    Add the players

    Next, think about who is having the problem, and who is critical to the solution, and jot down their details. These are the ‘characters.’

    Character 1: “Sony, the leader in portable music players and creator of the Walkman and the Compact Disc, created one of the first digital music players in the market: the Walkman MP3.”

    Character 2: “Apple, traditionally a maker of business and home computers, created the iPod as a competitor to Sony’s player.”

    (You remember the, iPod, right? They’re like iPhones but were made by hand out of stone and animal skin.)

    Refine the solution

    Now that you’ve determined the characters, you can go back and refine the solution to create a clearer picture of who’s involved and what they accomplished:

    “Sony’s divisions did not collaborate very well, so the product it released was outsold by the iPod, which was developed through the smooth collaboration between Apple’s design, engineering, and software divisions.”

    Add the why

    Now you need to add the details to indicate how Sony failed to arrive at a solution, and why Apple succeeded:

    The failure: “Sony’s divisions were siloed and entrenched. Each had protective teams that worked at cross purposes.”

    The success: “Apple’s divisions had no proprietary ideas and were given a clear vision to create the best product possible.”

    Now the story is starting to take shape.


    Then at the end of it all, you basically just mash together those statements into a complete story.

    “Sony dominated portable music technology in the 80’s and 90’s. It not only invented the portable cassette player—the Walkman—it invented Compact Disc technology. But it failed to adequately capitalize on emerging digital music in the late 90’s, not because it didn’t see the future of the technology—it did, in fact, beat most competitors to market with a digital music player—but because of this:

    The company’s divisions were too entrenched and siloed.

    Sony Music—the content division—feared piracy so much that it wouldn’t collaborate with the engineering group to develop a system to load protected MP3 files. Thus, the engineering group decided to create a proprietary music file. However, they didn’t work with the software group to create a means of easily transferring the music.

    In short, none of Sony’s divisions collaborated to make a good product, and the Walkman MP3 player was released to a lukewarm response.

    Contrast this with Apple, who’s divisions were always encouraged to collaborate freely, and were given a vision of what the final product should be. The engineering, design, and software divisions ultimately collaborated to design not only a product that was easy to use, but an entire ecosystem in which to use it.

    We now know Sony basically for a gaming console and some Spiderman movies, while Apple…”

    In the end

    Now, of course, you can probably detect that additional details have been added to the final story that weren’t in the original problem and solution statements. That’s natural. Simply mashing up those statements as they are isn’t necessarily going to make for a fully detailed story. For any story to have impact, it needs to be tested and edited and tested again. That’s why you get others to read it and provide opinions and additional ideas.

    Nonetheless, it only takes a few simple steps for you to translate the natural tendency toward storytelling into telling stories that have purpose and impact. No story ever just comes out big and complete; but the small, iterative steps presented here will help you develop the framework that you can build upon.

    You got this. Do it for the chinchillas.


    ATDChi Footnotes

    Are you a member with something to share about developing your Career in L&D? Send an email to

    ATD offers many courses from micro learning to Master Programs. You can check them out at Learn & Develop

    • And, don’t forget(!) to use our CHIP code when registering: CH5009.

    If you’d like to volunteer with ATDChi, head on over to Volunteer.

  • June 13, 2022 1:10 PM | Anonymous

    Post written by Brian Reinbold, Director of Mentorship for ATDChi

    Sir Edmund Hillary is credited as being the first man to climb to the summit of Mount Everest.  It is in his honor that a formation near the summit is named.  The "Hillary Step" is a forty foot face of sheer rock only a few hundred vertical feet below the peak of the world's tallest mountain.

    At over 29,000 feet Everest has over 3000 vertical feet in what mountaineers refer to as "the death zone".  Lack of oxygen above this altitude causes rapid breathing and heartbeat. Sleep becomes more difficult and digestion is shut down.  Disorientation and Edema can occur sometimes even among the most seasoned mountaineers.

    Unexpected storms at this altitude can result in radio blackout, causing climbers to lose contact with their base camp.  It has been described as agonizing to watch from afar, and know that your colleagues are struggling toward the goal, yet to be completely unable to assist.  No rescue is expected here.  The air is too thin for a helicopter to fly, and fellow climbers are nearly always too exhausted to do anything but put one foot ahead of the other in the effort to return alive themselves.

    Simply placing one foot above the other can take all the effort these climbers can muster after days of climbing and weeks of preparation.  So how is it possible to climb a forty foot face of sheer rock, when oxygen deprived, exhausted and battling forty degrees below zero wind chills?


    Ladders taken ahead by Sherpas, the natives to the region who have served as guides since Tenzig Norgay summited Everest with Sir Edmund  in 1953, and before.   Aluminum ladders lashed together allowing climbers to place one foot above the other and struggle on toward the goal.

    After the Hillary step is an hour’s climb on a snow capped ridge, often in blinding sunlight. It gently slopes to the summit.  The summit that is the top of the world. 

    The view from Everest is said to be indescribable, and the accomplishment of summiting the world's tallest mountain can never be taken away from those who have achieved it.

    Every schoolchild knows the name Everest.  Most could tell you who Sir Edmund Hillary was.  They would even know the name Tenzig Norgay.  Few would have heard of the Hillary step.  Fewer still are aware of the system of ladders that make it possible for hundreds of climbers to achieve the summit, to stand at the top of the world by Transcending the Hillary step. 

    And yet, the ladders are there. The work of those who have gone ahead, who have prepared the way.   Every climber knows of them.

    I hope you find your "ladders".

  • April 27, 2022 12:00 PM | Jason Berry (Administrator)

    Post by Elise Gelwicks, founder and CEO of Eleview Consulting and sponsor of ATDChi's Monthly Coffee & Connections Networking Series

    Having a great mentor is like getting the answer key for an upcoming exam. You gain access to a wealth of information that sets you up for success. Many organizations offer a formalized mentorship program for their employees to create this opportunity for people to learn from one another. However, it’s infrequent that these programs lead to meaningful relationship-building within a company.

    The primary reason many structured mentorship programs flop is a lack of structure. The good news is that we can easily overcome this. Read on to learn the three key elements of creating structure.

    Clear Structure Makes All the Difference

    Successful mentorship programs have one thing in common: they make it easy for mentor pairs to build strong relationships. By creating a roadmap for people to follow, there’s no heavy-lifting or guesswork involved for the mentee or mentor. They know exactly when to meet and what to talk about. The most important elements of this structure include:

    • Set cadence for mentorship meetings
    • Impactful discussion prompts
    • Accountability elements

    At a minimum, mentors and mentees should meet every quarter. This allows for a feeling of momentum in the relationship without it becoming too much of a time commitment (of course, people can choose to meet more frequently if they desire). If too much time passes between meetings, the pair won’t be able to provide as much value because they aren’t up to date on the happenings of each other’s lives.

    Pro Tip: Choose a recurring date, such as the first week of every quarter, where mentors and mentees are expected to connect. Encourage the mentee to send calendar invites at the start of the year for each quarterly touch base. This ensures meetings don’t get missed.

    The talent development team should send prompts to guide each quarterly conversation. This reduces the risk of surface level talk and encourages vulnerable, productive discussion. We typically recommend each quarter has a specific theme, such as work-life balance or skill development.

    The third element of a structured mentorship program is accountability. Boost accountability and encourage engagement by asking mentor pairs to send a brief summary of their key takeaways from their meetings. This could be through a simple survey sent out by the talent development team quarterly or bi-annually.  

    The Problem With Organic Trust

    The reality is that mentor relationships are only effective when there’s inherent trust. Trust is built over time, and there are some people who just won’t have a natural rapport. These assigned mentorship relationships, where the pair can’t seem to hit it off, likely won’t work out. That’s OK.

    Touching base with each participant in the program will give you the opportunity to determine which individuals should be paired up with someone else. If you normalize the scenario of reassigning someone a new mentor or mentee, people are more likely to speak up if they aren’t getting value from their partner.


    About Elise

    Elise Gelwicks is the founder and CEO of Eleview Consulting, a professional development firm specializing in teaching communication and networking skills at companies. Learn more at or reach out to Elise directly at


    ATDChi Footnotes

    Are you a member with something to share about developing your Career in L&D? Send an email to

    ATD offers many courses from micro learning to Master Programs. You can check them out at Learn & Develop

    • And, don’t forget(!) to use our CHIP code when registering: CH5009.

    If you’d like to volunteer with ATDChi, head on over to Volunteer.

  • January 10, 2022 8:00 AM | Scott Rencher (Administrator)

    Post written by ATDChi member Gina Arinyanontakoon, Talent Acquisition Director, The CARA Group. This article is part of a series of member written content on Career Development in Talent Development.  

    I recently met a consultant who shared a very profound statement with me. She said someone once told her, “I can meet you in the middle, but we can’t stay here.” In a world of constant change and turbulence, that statement made me realize that no matter what the change is, whether it is on a professional or personal level, we all need to work together to drive towards a future that makes sense and works for that situation. 

    “We all know as learning professionals that adoption of new skills/behaviors does not happen overnight and that training programs incorporating change management will ultimately achieve long lasting results.”

    As we enter 2022, we continue to hear about the growing skills gap and shortage of labor occurring in the workforce. Looking at this from the perspective of professional development, now is a great time to focus on reskilling and upskilling the core (hard or functional skills needed to accomplish a job) and power (soft or people skills needed for interpersonal relationships) skills. Employers should take this time to offer opportunities for employees to strengthen or gain both core and power skills. On the other hand, employees should not only look at development opportunities being offered by their employers, but also take control of their own development.

    Employers should:

    • Understand the gap in core and power skills within their organization at all levels. 

    • Create a strategy that will address upskilling or, perhaps, reskilling their existing employees.

    • Design and implement a plan that will have immediate impact as well as address future gaps.

    • Continually evaluate and adjust the plan over time. Don’t let your strategy become stagnant. It needs to shift as technology and the way we do business continues to change.

    As an employee, you should:

    • Assess and determine what skills you would like to develop whether it is related to your current role (upskilling) or for a different role (reskilling).

    • Take advantage of what your employer has to offer. Have conversations with your manager/employer to ensure you are all on the same page with your goals. 

    • Not rely only on what your employer is providing. Research and look for your own development opportunities. Whether that is taking classes, attending conferences, taking on projects, etc. Not only will it help you enhance the skills needed for your current role, it may also offer you an opportunity to take on stretch assignments or move into a new career path.

    For example, as a learning professional, maybe you are looking to enhance your eLearning skills. Why not check out Tim Slade’s eLearning Designer Academy? He offers an 8-week guided program including cohorts, hands-on activities, and more. Or perhaps you are looking at complimentary skills such as change management; check out Prosci.  We all know as learning professionals that adoption of new skills/behaviors does not happen overnight and that training programs incorporating change management will ultimately achieve long lasting results. 

    From my personal perspective, I recently stepped into a new role, and I was not prepared to take on a direct report or to build out a new function. While my employer will provide me with tools, resources, and coaching, I also need to take charge of my own development path and look for ways to help me achieve these goals. So, we are meeting each other half-way to move forward down a path that will be mutually beneficial.

    Technology will continue to change and the way we work will too. So as employers and employees, why not work together to ensure we all continue to move forward from the middle?

    Source:  eLearning Academy

    Photo by Surface on Unsplash

    About Gina Arinyanontakoon

    Gina Arinyanontakoon is the Talent Acquisition Director for The CARA Group, Inc. She has been connecting learning and organizational change management consultants with engaging project work for Fortune 1000 customers for over 15 years. During her spare time, she likes to test out new recipes with her family/friends (always making sure to deviate slightly!). 

    About The CARA Group

    CARA is a consulting firm focused on change management, learning, and communications solutions that enable the workforce of the future. Our unparalleled commitment to the success of our clients and consultants makes CARA solutions unique.

    ATDChi Footnotes

    Are you a member with something to share about developing your Career in L&D? Send an email to

    ATD offers many courses from micro learning to Master Programs. You can check them out here: 

    If you’d like to volunteer with ATDChi, head on over here:
  • August 20, 2021 9:34 AM | Scott Rencher (Administrator)

    Post written by ATDChi member Lisa Erlich. This article is part of a series of member-written content on Career Development in Talent Development.

    Use Your Superpower to Break into Learning & Development

    At the start of my career, if someone had asked me where I saw myself in 5 years, I definitely had a plan – grand plans on being the Editor-in-Chief of a print magazine. Nearly 25 years later, my B.A. in Journalism with a Minor in French has only slightly factored into my career pivot into Learning & Development.

    So how did I find Learning & Development, much less get started? My superpower. My superpower is the ability to simultaneously see the bigger picture and connect the dots to deliver on what needs to be done. That takes three things: Flexibility, Curiosity and Empathy.

    THE POWER OF FLEXIBILITY: 1997. The internet was new. Print magazines were developing an online presence – this was where it was “at.” I took a job where I was able to write and produce online content and learn the business quickly.

    THE POWER OF CURIOSITY: 2004. I was new to Chicago – no job – and I got an offer at an affiliate marketing company. This wasn’t your typical, in-your-face pop-up advertising. This was eyebrow raising. In 2004, affiliate marketing generated about $1.5 billing in the U.S. According to Statista, affiliate marketing spending in the U.S. alone is expected to reach $8.2 billion by 2022. Bingo!

    THE POWER OF EMPATHY: 2010. I’m still with my affiliate marketing company. It’s no longer a start-up but in hyper-growth mode. I was on the client services team but could see we were in need for more focus on our teams. We needed a cohesive approach to onboarding, consistent job functional training, and better support for our people managers.

    Despite the fact that I didn’t have any formal training, I did my research, crafted a proposal, gained endorsement from the executive team, and got the go-ahead to design and deliver a Learning & Development strategy.

    With my focus on continually learning, I found great partners and worked closely with key stakeholders across the organization to build and scale our first people-focused development programming.

    So how do you translate all of this?

    Identify, and rely on, your superpower: Not sure what that is? Ask yourself: What are my strengths? What do I enjoy? Once you’ve identified them, put them to use – offer to be a peer coach, lead a team meeting, volunteer to share new information or a new process with your team.

    Keep your eyes open for “trends”: Have the pulse on what’s happening in your space, in your organization. Is there growth? Are there shifts? Are there new opportunities? That “trend” could be the next big thing. Ask yourself, what will your role be?

    Educate yourself along the way: Start to immerse yourself in the Learning & Development world.

    You’re here now, but continue to leverage to read articles, find conferences, and keep following the blog posts on and

    Network with local HR professionals or Learning & Development groups on LinkedIn, and follow #learninganddevelopment on LinkedIn.

    Check out Eventbrite for free industry webinars.

    Take online courses on your favorite e-learning platform.

    Don’t get me wrong, it's critical to have a short-term goal, but as quickly as things change these days, adaptability and identifying new opportunities are just as important. Chef José Andrés said recently on the Smartless podcast, “We have the tendency to plan too much. When you plan too much… what happens? Things usually never go as you plan them.”

    If you want to break into L&D, keep your eyes and ears open, leverage your strengths, and make your own opportunities happen.

    About Lisa Erlich

    Lisa Erlich has been an innovator and thought leader in the Learning & Development space for more than a decade. She lives in the suburbs north of Chicago with her husband, 2 boys and dog. Reach out to Lisa at

    ATDChi Footnotes

    Are you a member with something to share about developing your Career in L&D? Send an email to

    ATD offers many courses from micro learning to Master Programs. You can check them out here:

    Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

  • August 06, 2021 8:53 AM | Scott Rencher (Administrator)

    Post written by ATDChi member Marc Mattson. This article is part of a series of member-written content on Career Development in Talent Development.

    If Knowledge is Power, then Ignorance is Bliss... Ah, truisms! One thing you’ve got to love about them is that there’s always a counter-truism.

    Well, maybe not always. It’s a truism in instructional design circles that the “why” is the most important factor in creating effective learning. I think that’s indisputable. I mean, consider these simple questions:

    • “Why is this important to know?”
    • “Why is this topic relevant?”
    • “What is the purpose/use/context for this information?”

    (Okay, I know, that’s a “what,” but it’s a proxy for “why.”) These are basic, fundamental questions that drive learning design. They help us set the foundation, they help us determine relevance and set learner expectations. In short, they drive us to empathize with the learner.

    Or, more to the point, they help us keep learner ignorance in mind. They also help us, as learning designers, temper our expertise and keep what we know from getting in the way of what learners should know.

    Consider what I expect is a universal experience among learning designers... ID (Instructional Designer) asks SME (Subject Matter Expert) what topics are the most important for a learner:

    SME says, “all of them.”

    ID bangs head on desk. After applying cold compress, ID goes about asking targeted questions to narrow the focus of the lesson.


    In this scenario, the ID is the learner. Indeed, learning designers aren’t topic SMEs and probably shouldn’t be. Our expertise is determining the optimal approach to presenting a topic to learners. We partner with SMEs to turn their knowledge into a meaningful, impactful learning experience. At it’s core, our job is not to impart our expertise on learners, it’s to ask questions of the experts to determine what the necessary lessons are and then structure the resulting topics in such a way that learners both understand why they need to learn it and how they can best learn it.

    Our job, in a nutshell, is to act as proxies for the learner. And the best way to do that is to actually be a learner.

    And being a learner means being ignorant.

    Take, for instance, this scenario:

    A trainer walks onto a conference room stage, looks down his nose at a sea of eager learners hungering for an Introduction to Cloud Architecture, and says “My docker-compose.yaml includes a Traefik reverse proxy and API gateway.”

    “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?” I think, my eyes rolling into the back of my head. My feeble brain is so preoccupied with parsing his statement Iit can’t even muster the energy to close my O-shaped mouth or wipe the line of drool trailing down my chin.


    Now, there are a number of reasons the trainer may have opened his presentation this way. It could, on the one hand, just be an excuse to establish his credibility. On the other hand, it could have been a misjudged ‘shock-and-awe’ attempt to establish the benchmark that the audience will achieve by the end of the course. But, it could also have been a poorly designed course from the start that assumed a level of prior knowledge that the learners, in an introductory course, simply didn’t have.

    In all likelihood, it was all three.

    For what it’s worth, trainers can’t afford ignorance. In most cases, trainers are SMEs, which is why they are imparting the topic in the first place. Ignorance, then, would destroy their credibility, undermine the lesson, and, at best, anger the audience. Learners go to training because they’re expecting expertise, and the person presenting had better be an expert!

    On the other hand, learning designers aren’t SMEs and probably shouldn’t be. We shape a learning experience, and ideally will have a certain degree of ignorance of the topic at hand. In fact, I’d call ignorance a necessity in this case.

    For example, I work as a learning designer for a niche business software (for fun, let’s call it XPalidocious). In the nearly five years I’ve been designing eLearning courses for XPalidocious, I can still say that I’m not an expert in the product itself. Not even remotely. Now, there are two legitimate reasons for this:

    1) I have no business purpose for using XPalidocious.; It’s a specialized product that has no relation to my profession (other than it being the product I design learning for, of course), so there’s really no reason for me to retain the information. But more importantly,

    2) I purposely cultivate an ignorance of it!

    “Why?” you ask?

    “Precisely!” I say.

    I want to keep asking the right why questions:

    • “Why do you do that?”
    • “Why do you do it that way?”
    • “Why do I need to know this?”


    Again, cultivate empathy for the learner by putting yourself in their shoes (unless those shoes are a size too small, in which case, find a learner with bigger feet). They will take the course you design because they want to learn the topic, which means they don’t know the topic, which means they’ll be encountering information they’ve never seen before. The best way you can fill in their informational gaps is to exist in those gaps yourself!

    Trainers can’t afford those gaps. But they also can’t afford to ignore those gaps. So whether you’re a trainer or a learning designer, I say for the sake of your learners, “stay stupid my friends!”


    Marc Mattson is a senior Instructional Designer for SAP and an occasional novelist. He’s been instructional designing for oh, like 15 years now, in one form or another, but nonetheless tends to describe himself first as a writer. He sums up adult learning theory this way: “Adults don’t want to learn what they don’t want to learn, but if they have to, make it quick, make it relevant, and make it fun. And learn ‘em good.”

    LinkedIn URL:

    ATDChi Footnotes

    Are you a member and want to share your story about developing your Career in L&D? Send an email to

    ATD offers many courses from micro learning to Master Programs. Check them out here: - use our CHIP code when registering: CH5009

    If you’d like to volunteer with ATDChi, head on over here:

    Library Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

    Head in Hand Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash

  • July 22, 2021 8:00 AM | Scott Rencher (Administrator)

    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.

    Obtain Credentials

    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:

    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:

    ATDChi Footnotes

    1  ATD offers many courses, from microlearning to Master Programs. You can check them out here:, 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:

    Are you a member with something to share about developing your Career in L&D? Send an email to

    Photo credit:  Mikelya Fournier on Unsplash

  • June 17, 2021 1:46 PM | Scott Rencher (Administrator)

    Post written by ATDChi member Nick Smith, APTD. This article is part of a series of member written content on Career Development in Talent Development.

    I had just wrapped up an assignment and started a vacation on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean when I got the call. Recognizing one of our work extensions, I immediately thought one of my colleagues had died. Why else would work be calling me while I was on vacation in another country? So I was pleasantly surprised when the call was to congratulate me on being offered the role of Learning Specialist at my organization.

    I had applied for the job with excitement but not a lot of expectation. The occasional opportunities I had to review curriculum or create new resources were my favorite parts of my current role, and I had done a little bit of teaching and tutoring in previous jobs. But I had no formal background in education, and certainly not in adult learning – a passion without a practice.

    I requested 24 hours to think about the offer, then almost immediately called both my partner and my parents from overseas for advice. Since you’re reading this, I guess it’s obvious that I took the leap. And along with that leap came our old friend imposter syndrome, and the realization that I really needed to figure out what I was going to be doing.

    I know I’m not alone in this. Many of us identify as “accidental trainers,” launched into an L&D career we love through a somewhat circuitous path. What I learned is that the field can absolutely embrace you, if you embrace the field.

    First, a brag of gratitude: my team was a huge help in familiarizing me with the terminology and processes I’d need to know. If you have a team that loves learning and sharing knowledge like mine does, count yourself lucky. But in order to feel like a real contributor, I knew I had to take an active role in my own professional development.

    I immediately set a goal of completing at least one class, certificate, or certification in the field each year, and told my supervisor in order to keep myself accountable. It’s a goal I’ve kept since 2016, and watching those completions add up has been a fun way to track my accomplishments. First, I invested in a membership with ATD, and later ATDChi, so I could have access to the resources, trainers, and tools provided through the website. Through ATD, I completed an on-demand course on adult learning and two certificate programs, one in Instructional Design and the other in Articulate Storyline.

    This process culminated in 2020, when I used the extra time I was trapped in my house to study for and achieve the Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD) certification

    But ATD isn’t (and probably shouldn’t be!) the only source of development opportunities. Over the last few years, I’ve participated in a number of talent development conferences, either in-person or virtually. And within my own organization, I completed a management development certificate, and have served as both a staff mentor and mentee. I’ve taken a number of professional development courses offered by internal staff, and have even facilitated a few myself.

    This year, I’m trying a different tactic. Instead of formal learning opportunities, I’m looking at ways to grow my communication and networking skills, such as participating in a webinar panel about preparing for the APTD and volunteering for our local ATDChi chapter – for example, by writing this very post!

    To be clear, I’ve had a lot of support in achieving these goals, including time off and financial assistance from my organization. But, even if you don’t have those supports, I want to underscore how important it is to prioritize your professional development in whatever way makes sense for your time and budget. Maybe that means carving out one hour per week (or month!) to catch up on the latest trends and think-pieces. Or maybe it means registering for one class or conference per year, and doing so enough in advance that your calendar isn’t already full.

    Because I made professional development a priority, I’m no longer grappling with the imposter syndrome I felt when I first stepped into this role.

    Whether you’re new to the profession or have been a talent development professional for decades, our jobs are always changing – and certainly I think we’ve all picked up some new skills in the last year, whether we wanted to or not. Take advantage of that momentum, set yourself up a goal for professional development this year, and hold yourself accountable.

    Nick Smith, APTD is a Learning Specialist for Rotary International, where he designs leadership development curriculum for over 1,000 volunteer leaders and works with a global team of more than 200 trainers. In his spare time, he writes fiction, walks a three-legged dog, and tries new bourbons. Help him get better at networking by finding him on LinkedIn:

  • June 10, 2021 11:46 AM | Scott Rencher (Administrator)

    Post written by Scott Rencher based on an interview with ATDChi member Nathaniel Miller. This article is part of a series on Career Development in Talent Development.

    Nathaniel, like many Instructional Designers (ID), fell into his career unexpectedly. He was an ESL educator in South Korea and Japan for about 10 years before moving back to the US in 2019.

    When he returned to the States, he landed a position in International Education Administration. However, four months in, he lost his job due to significant restructuring. While recovering from this setback, he worked for his father’s construction company, doing construction and project management while searching for his next job.

    #1 Advice, Your Network

    “One of the things that I think was really helpful to me in the whole search was reaching out to people in my network.” One his former colleagues from the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education suggested Nathaniel should apply to U of I for an Instructional Design Specialist position. He said, “If you can manage the heavy lesson planning, course load, and hybrid online courses you did in South Korea, you can certainly do this job. Your familiarity with adult learning principles and the corporate training environment will come in handy with a lot of the work you will be doing. You will just have to tweak your resume to illustrate that you have the necessary skills.”

    His former colleague’s counsel validated his experiences and encouraged him to take the next step and apply for the job. With this guidance, Nathaniel began the application process.

    Connect with Your Experiences

    In preparation, Nathaniel looked at what the U of I specifically wanted for the job and how his previous experiences could help him fulfill that role. At first glance, the role seemed overly technical because there was a couple software tools he had not previously used in his teaching roles in South Korea or Japan. However, upon closer examination, most of his work experience, was indeed applicable. The job required someone who was familiar with lesson planning, online course design, project management, and familiar with learning technologies. The more he thought about it, Nathaniel found, “I fit the job better than I had initially thought.”

    Nathaniel also leveraged his teaching experience as an advantage. He understood a day-in-the-life of a teacher, what they needed when they got the material, and how to apply it in the classroom. While he acknowledges that not all ID professionals need to have a teaching background, he wanted to leverage every ounce of experience to demonstrate that he was the best candidate for the job.

    What Was Once Unfamiliar Became Familiar

    While researching the job role, he split things into two categories: what was familiar and what was unfamiliar to him. With the familiar group, he connected his relevant experience and he used LinkedIn Learning and other online tools to brush up on the latest adult learning concepts. With the unfamiliar, he did additional homework so that he could speak to those concepts with the appropriate language.

    For example, one unfamiliar tool was a software called Storyline 360. To get a general idea of how it worked, he watched online tutorials and downloaded a trial version of the software to get a crash course in the technology. While he was not fluent in the software, he could at least relate it back to technologies he did know very well, like MS PowerPoint. During the interview, when asked about whether he had any experience with Storyline, he was honest about the limits of his exposure and said, “I’ve learned a variety of educational software and even how to speak two languages over the last 10 years, so I am certain I can learn new software like Storyline 360.”

    Nathaniel landed the job and has been in the role for a year now. He has found that he loves being an Instructional Designer and really enjoys the people with whom he gets to work.

    Pulling it all Together

    His advice to job seekers looking to get into L&D:

    Tap into and use your network, especially to help land the first interview.

    Do not be afraid of the job specs and the interview questions. Map your experience back to the job requirements. Even if you have not done the ‘exact’ job or task, think about how your experience relates.

    Research what is familiar and unfamiliar. Sharpen what you are good at and get some level of exposure to the things that are not familiar to you. Do not waste your time trying to talk about things you do not know! Focus on what you do know and how it makes you an excellent candidate.

    Author’s note

    Thank you, Nathaniel, for your time and wisdom. Career journeys can be long and circuitous. Along the way, we pick up odd skills and experiences that may be useful to us down the road. The trick is figuring out which ones relate and applying them to new situations and opportunities.

    When it comes to leveraging your network, as it was in Nathaniel’s case, our 1st degree connections are not typically going to offer or land us the job. The power is really in the 2nd degree connections. They may either have an opportunity or they can connect you to someone in their network who can help you get a foot in the door. That is where growing and maintaining your network has the greatest power and reach.

    Each month we publish an article written by or about one our ATDChi members. This article is based on an interview conducted in May 2021 with Nathaniel Miller, Instructional Design Specialist from the University of Illinois System. You can connect with Nathaniel on LinkedIn at

    Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

  • May 27, 2021 10:42 AM | Scott Rencher (Administrator)

    Post written by ATDChi member Mauricio Palli. This article is part of a series of member written content on Career Development in Talent Development. 

    The pandemic has really impacted the L&D landscape. I have seen various articles and blogs recently where individuals are asking how one can break into this ever-changing field. I have seen professionals from traditional school teachers to entrepreneurs ask in blogs, articles, and webinars.

    In my opinion there really is no set answer on how one can break into the L&D space. Everyone has their own experience. Most of the professionals in this field “fell into it” either by choice or by accident. However, I do feel that you can set yourself up for success by doing a few things that might not necessarily involve obtaining an advanced degree in the pedagogy.

    Photo by Luke Richardson on Unsplash

    Network with individuals who are working in the space. This is key because they can provide you with the real ins and outs of the space. You can continue to build these relationships and perhaps obtain a mentor in the process. 

    Next, I would say to start creating your own professional portfolio. Having a mix bag of instructor lead training along with computer-based training is essential. Don’t forget to also include any examples of collateral to support these trainings i.e.: job aides, icebreakers, teach-back activities, learning journals, etc. 

    Educate yourself! Learn more about what are the leading trends in the business while also subscribing to professional YouTube pages in the field to gain more insight. Here are a few I follow:

    Finally, explore the ATD Micro Courses or professional certifications such as an APTD certification or any facilitation skills, training design & delivery, & adult learning certifications from a reputable organization.

    In the end, one will really need to discover what path within L&D to take. The only way to do that is by conducing your research while keeping an open mind in where you might fit in the ever-evolving space.

    Mauricio Palli - Training Design & Delivery Senior Analyst at Aon - At Aon I design & develop instructional content & training materials for contact center colleagues while working with various clients to deliver best in class training.

    You can reach Mauricio at:

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