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ATD Blog

Ask a Trainer: How Can I Upskill in Learning Tech?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Dear Tim,

A few years ago, I started a job at a small nonprofit. It isn’t a talent development job, per se, but it involves a lot of instructional design and training delivery, and those have quickly become my favorite parts of my job. I would like to move into a full-time talent development role and have recently started job hunting.

I’ve been getting interviews, and I can answer questions about how to conduct a needs analysis, how to work with SMEs, how to facilitate anything related to design or in-person delivery, really, because I have experience with all of those topics. However, I am completely thrown whenever I get a question about e-learning or any kind of learning technology that isn’t PowerPoint.

Here’s the thing: I’ve only ever done in-person training. I designed content for an e-learning course for one of our partners, but they had someone in-house who turned that content into a course. I feel like my lack of learning tech experience is holding me back. I wouldn’t mind taking a class on a particular platform or software, but all the job posts I see request experience with different platforms, and I don’t know where to start.

Do you have any suggestions for how I can upskill when it comes to learning tech?

You know, the interesting thing about our industry is that there are few people who have any kind of formal education or background in the things that we do, whether that be instructional design, e-learning development, or something else. In fact, most folks (myself included) fell into this industry completely by accident. Perhaps you were particularly good at your job and someone suggested you should train others on it; and before you knew it, you entered the world of learning and development.

Once you fall into the world of learning and development, the challenge is finding opportunities for upward mobility, given your lack of experience. And to be honest, a big part of it is finding someone who is willing to take a chance on you.

Here are a couple of tips I’d suggest.

Teach Yourself

One of the best ways to boost your skills is to teach yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to show you the ropes—just jump in and do it. If you’re looking to learn how to use an e-learning authoring tool, download a free trial and start playing with it.


You can also search for available formal and informal resources. For example, you could register for one of ATD’s Certificate Programs if you’re looking for some formal training. If that’s not an option for you, you can find a ton of free resources on YouTube or similar websites.

Ultimately, most employers care about what you can do for them right now rather than your experience. If you can teach yourself to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk,” it’ll be enough to get your foot in the door.

Find a Mentor or Coach

Another great way to develop your skills and grow your network is to find a mentor or a coach. Whether it’s someone within your organization or someone you admire within the industry, connect with these folks, express your goals, and ask for their help. You’ll be amazed at how much folks within our industry are willing to lend a hand.

As you build these relationships, it’ll give you an opportunity to learn and build your network. You may even discover that these folks will refer you to different job opportunities. They may even be willing to act as a reference.

Fake It

My final tip is to fake it. When you’re in an interview situation and start feeling insecure, it’ll show in your body language. Now, I should mention that I’m not suggesting that you should lie. Instead, I’m suggesting that you fake some confidence in yourself.

Interviewing for a job is a mind game full of tricks and pitfalls. While it might seem like your biggest hurdle is saying the right thing, the truth is, it’s really about how you leave them (the interviewer) feeling. And this is accomplished less by what you say and more about how you deliver your answers. To understand what I mean, watch this great TED Talk by Amy Cuddy. Trust me, it’ll help.


I hope these tips help inspire some confidence. Good luck!


Ask a Trainer will be taking a week off, but we’ll be back with a new post on December 10!

Do you have a learning question you’d like me to tackle? You can email them to [email protected] Also, visit the Ask a Trainer hub to check out all of your questions and my answers.

We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.

Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

Tim Slade is a speaker, author, award-winning
e-learning designer, and author of The eLearning
Designer’s Handbook.

1 Comment
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I recommend independent study before doing TD certificates, so you have some background knowledgGet a free 1-month trial of Camtasia, Captivate, and Articulate Storyline, do 1 at a time. They are the most requested on L&D job descriptions. Pick 3 topics: a software course, a leadership skill (how to have effective 1-on-1s ,eg), and an industry topic or company compliance area. These 3 topics will help you build out a portfolio. YouTube has a ton of instructional videos on these tools.
Those are great tips, Cat! Especially YouTube! There's a ton of free stuff out there. Thanks for commenting!
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