10 Oct Finding your niche in L&D
By Chuck Gamble
Learning and Develop Manager
When people ask me what line of work I’m in, I always answer by saying I am and L&D professional, but that is such a broad way of putting thing because there are so many different aspects of L&D.
It’s important to find your niche and grow it.
Are you a corporate trainer? If so, do you work with operations or sales? If you work with sales, do you focus on course development or sales enablement? If you work in operations, do you focus on new hire training, career development coaching, or executive training? Do you work out of one office, or are you on the road training employees at various locations?
Are you an instructional designer? If so, do you work on the academic side or corporate side? Are you designing e-Learning videos or large-scale course curriculums for instructors?
There are several different roles that L&D professionals fill in both the academic and corporate worlds, and each requires different skills.
Taking an inventory of your skills, interests and which requirements you meet can determine what type of role you would perform best in, and that’s the best way to find your niche.
TimelyText has employed and placed hundreds of instructional designers, technical writers and corporate communication professionals in North Carolina since 2003. Whether you’re looking for an expert to join your team for just a few months or someone to stick around permanently, we’ve got the perfect fit. Submit a contact form or reach us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how we can help.
My personal niche? Creating short-to-medium length e-Learning videos. I enjoy and excel with video because I know how to take a set of materials and lay it out for learners to follow online, following a formula of screen-capturing, demonstrating processes, and showing positive results (plus the possible negative results, too!), and then following up with a quiz for learners for retention.
Others enjoy taking a professor’s materials and developing an entire semester’s worth of content to place online. If that’s your desire, go for it. It’s a niche in high demand right now thanks to the growth of online education from preschool through university courses and beyond.
Others enjoy working with sales teams to help them succeed, including one-on-one or group training. That hands-on direction also allows instructional designers to provide the technology those teams need, while also empowering them to use it effectively. The same goes for marketing materials they’ll find useful in reaching customers. That’s the definition of sales enablement.
One of the newest fields in L&D is LXP design, which stands for Learning Experience Platforms. They are the future in online learning, and they’ll eventually take over for the standard LMS.
LXPs provide gamifications, simulations, and a host of more technical learning possibilities that an LMS simply can’t compete with. Companies are already hiring designers and developers to create this type of learning content, and demand is only going to increase.
If you want to find your niche in L&D is, there are a few simple steps — and it’s an exercise worthy of putting down on paper:
Identify your interests or passions
There is absolutely no point in pursuing something you are not interested in or passionate about; you’ll eventually give up or you won’t succeed. That project that brings a smile to your face every time you discuss it? Chase that feeling right into your niche.
Identify problems you can solve
Every employer has some kind of issue in L&D — not to mention their other departments. First, identify the the problems. Then, think about the possible solutions and which ones you’re most excited to pursue. If you can come up with an answer there, you’re well on your way to figuring out exactly where you belong.
Now that you’ve completed those two steps, you must ask what kind of needs there are for your solutions. Perhaps, the leaders at your organization aren’t even aware of the problems, or they simply don’t know anyone who can address them.
Solve the problem
Once it’s been established that a problem exists and needs to be addressed, do it. If you can take immediate action, get to work and show the solution. Do not be a humblebrag about it. Take pride in what you accomplished and let your bosses know what you’ve done. Not only do you have a feather in your cap, but you’ve established credibility as the go-to person on your niche.
If the solution requires planning or approval, get to work on a well-researched project plan that covers every variable. Write, in full detail, how the problem is affecting business. Find out which tools you’ll need, what timeline should be established and who should be involved. Consider potential roadblocks and their work-arounds, then show the benefit of the project.
Chances are, you’ll get your shot to complete the project. At the very least, your passion for the subject will be evident to your manager and they’ll certainly be impressed with your approach.
Once you have completed each of the previous steps, it’s time to evaluate. Is this the niche you truly want to pursue? Will it be something you’re excited to work on (almost) every day? Does it make sense for your personal and financial obligations?
If it’s a ‘Yes’, go for it! If not, then you’ve picked up some valuable experience that you can apply to your next pursuit.
Some people are lucky to find their niche in their first job, while others are lucky to have decades of experience before landing in the perfect spot. Maybe your early-career niche isn’t the same one you’re drawn toward later on, given everything — good and bad — life throws our way.
No matter where you’re at, though, self-reflection is always the first and final step.
Take a moment to consider:
– Have you found your personal niche in your career?
– If so, how did you do it?
– If not, are you ready to start?
We encourage your comments, suggestions and questions both here and via our Linkedin post. Maybe it’ll be your thoughts that help provide a spark for an L&D colleague currently looking to find their passion!
Chuck Gamble is a a learning and development manager at Safe-Guard Products International, and he has more than 20 years of experience in the instructional design and training world. You can follow him on Linkedin here, where he shares L&D insights and other slightly less serious observations.
Would you like to share your expert perspective on instructional design, technical writing or corporate communications? Contact us here!