How do you cope with evolving changes in the industry? What is the best strategy to stay ahead of the trends? These questions are important for instructional designers (IDs) to consider now that the instructional design role has changed over the years and their skillset continues to evolve. IDs are now asked to take a strategic role that involves working collaboratively with stakeholders to design and implement effective learning solutions. A mentor is the answer—they help accelerate the learning process and share invaluable experiences and resources.
Why Should I Prioritize a Mentoring Relationship?Mentoring is a professional development approach that can contribute to career growth and satisfaction for both the mentor and mentee. A mentor can offer guidance and advice based on their own experiences, which can help you make more informed decisions. They can also introduce you to new people and help expand your network. Mentoring is not a one-way street. Mentors can also learn from their mentees, gaining new perspectives and insights, particularly across generations. Think you’d like to be a mentor? Being a mentor is extremely rewarding. It can help you grow as a person and shape the next generation of leaders in talent development. Mentoring others can help you gain new perspectives on your life or career.
Mentors vs. CoachesMentors are usually not coaches. A mentor typically focuses on long-term career development and personal growth, while a coach often focuses on achieving goals or improving skills. Before seeking out a mentor, you should ensure you have a growth opportunity to address and have the capacity to commit the necessary time and attention with a mentor. You should be highly motivated to receive support and act based on the mentor’s feedback.
How Do You Determine What Key Areas to Focus on in an ID Mentorship?A successful mentoring relationship should identify key areas worth targeting to accelerate your career growth. First, identify the role changes you are interested in pursuing. Several topic areas are trending these days. For example, you may want to learn about any of these trending and important skills:
- Technology-enabled learning. This can include simulations, gamification, virtual and augmented reality, and social learning platforms.
- The integration of data analytics—understanding learner behavior, identifying learning gaps, and improving the effectiveness of learning programs.
- The ability to collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs), with a focus on selecting appropriate instructional strategies and materials.
- Designing learning experiences that support continuous learning and development. This includes creating microlearning modules, providing access to just-in-time resources, and incorporating opportunities for feedback and reflection.
Second, know that it’s normal to feel the pressure to upskill in multiple areas! Consider using ATD’s Talent Development Capability Model™ self-assessment tool to narrow your list and help you decide what to focus on first. Fourteen knowledge and skill statements make up the instructional design capability, and a mentor can help talk you through your assessment results, career goals, and potential growth areas to prioritize.
How Can You Find a Mentor?Identify a mentor who can help you address the role change or area of growth you are pursuing. Finding a good mentor with the experience and expertise you need is a process—it takes time to find the right fit.
Consider researching individuals who are strong in the field. Start by checking out ATD International, Learning Guild, or local ATD chapter events. Personally, I find attending an in-person event that provides networking with talent development professionals opens many doors and opportunities. Talk with the people you meet and ask them for suggestions for potential mentors.
Many years ago, I wanted to volunteer and support my local ATD chapter. Sarah Hurst, former ATD Houston chapter president, provided the support and encouragement I needed to get started and succeed. She was there for me as I became a committee member, director, board member, chapter president, and finally national advisor for chapters. I am so grateful for her support and others who encouraged me in my volunteer journey.
Where Else Can You Find Mentors?Research social media platforms like LinkedIn and connect with instructional design professionals or join a LinkedIn user group. Facebook has an instructional design users’ group where you will find a community of like-minded peers for support. Additionally, industry-specific organizations such as L&D Cares will help match mentors to mentees. The no-cost L&D Cares mentoring program has HR and L&D industry veterans that provide 1:1 mentoring services for new-to-career and mid-to-late-career talent development professionals.
How to Ask Someone to Be Your MentorOnce you identify a potential mentor, reach out to them and ask them if they would be willing to mentor you. Be specific about what you seek in a mentor and what you hope to gain from the relationship. Be open to receiving feedback, guidance, and suggestions from the mentor. Establish expectations with your mentor about how often you will meet and how you will communicate with each other. Act on the advice and insights your mentor provides. Your mentor can offer valuable guidance and support, but it’s up to you to act and apply their insights to your personal or professional life.
Lastly, remember to thank your mentor for their time and expertise. Thank them for their guidance and let them know how their advice has helped you. If you need a mentor or want to become one, I hope the journey is as valuable to you as it has been to me!