Professional Organizations for Instructional Designers

All of the opportunities I’ve received have come through networking. My first library internship at UC Riverside came through a classmate in my library masters program, giving me my first professional experience. A mentor at that internship got me another library internship at Arizona State, which helped me land a staff job there (paid! Thank God). Thanks to a tuition waiver and a new mentor at Arizona State, I pursued a second masters in Instructional Design. In my last semester of that program I landed a tenure-track faculty librarian position specializing in Instructional Design at Cal State Fullerton. (I guess I should also add I have been super lucky to be able to save enough money to work so much for free! Internships, man.)

I was the liaison librarian to the campus instructional design program when the program’s director invited me to teach part-time for her. Now, I’m a full-time lecturer for the Instructional Design & Technology program at Cal State Fullerton (and did I tell you that our online programs in our college are ranked 4th in the nation?)!

All of that is to illustrate my belief in the importance and the power of networking. While I have interned quite a bit for free, I want to caution you to be wary of giving away your labor for nothing. Sparing internships and volunteer opportunities can be a boost to your career, but they’re only one way to network.

Join professional organizations. Attend conferences. Participate in social media groups. Cultivate a robust presence on LinkedIn. Put your dream out there: tell people what you are seeking, ask if they can help you, and accept the help offered!

Organizations to Check Out

  • The Learning Guild
    Formerly known as the “eLearning Guild,” the Learning Guild puts on my favorite conference, DevLearn, each year in Las Vegas, as well as several others like Learning Solutions on the east coast. They also produce a number of reports and white papers throughout the year. The free-level membership offers several perks, including access to said reports and white papers.
  • ATD
    ATD, or the Association for Talent Development, is the mack daddy of ID organizations. It’s also super expensive. They put on a massive conference every year as well as numerous smaller events. They offer a number of courses to get certified in ID topics. ATD also publishes lots of wonderful ID-relevant books. These books’ writers return to the conference each year to give incredible presentations
  • ATD – Local Chapters
    ATD offers local chapters – check if your area has one. The local chapters put on professional development events as well. These chapters are more affordable than the conferences and are a wonderful way to network in your local city as well as take advantage of learning opportunities.
  • AECT
    The Learning Guild and ATD both tend to tilt towards corporate organizations, just like the instructional design field does as a whole (it’s where the money is!). If you are interested in K-12 or higher education, I recommend checking out AECT. It’s cheaper to attend their conference (though still not cheap!) and it’s also a wonderful opportunity to present yourself. AECT is geared towards educators, not towards corporate Learning & Development, so you’re more likely to find kindred spirits with similar budgets.

What other recommendations do you have for professional organizations? Post them in the comments, below!

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