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Tips on Academic to Corporate Instructional Design Crossover

Lately, I’ve been getting several requests from academic professionals for tips on how to cross over to the Learning and Development (L&D) arena.  My first reaction to these requests was “Really? Why would you want to do that?”, I find it interesting because I’ve always been attracted to academic environments.  After thinking a bit through it, there are at least three reasons why someone working in academia would like to leap onto L&D: 1) Salary, academic institutions have great “benefits” but, the pay is ridiculously low. 2) Environment, although instructional design is perfect for these institutions; many of them use instructional designers as technology chaperones for their faculty. 3) eLearning development, many colleges are still relying on ILT as their primary mode of delivery.  Instructional designers or IDs interested in developing multimedia eLearning would find themselves very limited in some academic settings.  So, what would it take for an academic learning professional to cross over to L&D?  This post discusses tips I’ve provided before on LinkedIn and a few specific ones for a successful job hunt in corporate L&D.

Crossover tips

1. Get a website

There’s hardly any excuse you could use today to justify not having a website. The website can become your always-ready resumé and a compilation of your creative samples. I’ve been a hiring manager before and only those candidates that showed me their work really caught my attention.  Check out or other popular website builders like GoDaddy and SquareSpace. For great tips on designing your online portfolio, follow Ashley Chiasson.

2. Learn and talk Adult Learning

Andragogy is the art and science of enabling learning in adults.  Become very familiar with it and its possible applications in corporate learning. Although the majority of corporate environments are still stuck in pedagogic practices i.e. courses and classes; you should be ready to discuss the differences in motivation between children and adults.  Read “The Adult Learner” by Knowles, Holton and Swanson (see below), it will change everything.

 3. Build targeted samples

In most cases, employers would not ask for a sample but, in some cases they might.  Samples in general give you a great edge but, an industry specific sample would surely put your resumé in the interview pile. Some people make the terrible mistake of not having samples to show claiming their work can’t be disclosed as it belongs to a previous employer. Once you find a company you are interested in, build a short creative demo specific to its industry.   For example; if I lost my job right now, I already have many interactions to share in my job hunt ;  )  The unintended result of my work has been having job opportunities come to me instead of the opposite.

If you don’t have the skills to do this yet, maybe it’s not the time to cross over.  To learn the skills you can join communities like Articulate’s Elearning Heroes or Adobe’s eLearning Community

4. Revamp your resumé

The 10-page curriculum vitae academic institutions love is not going get anywhere in the corporate world.  Condense your resumé to highlight your creative skills and professional background within two pages. Build a template you can easily modify to match the qualifications of each job you are applying to.  Whatever you do, don’t send a blanket resumé to several opportunities; this doesn’t work and it would add to your frustration when no one calls you back.  In terms of experience, you would want to avoid details of your work in academic settings. Instead, think of what you did in academia and how it matches the corporate job. For example, if the corporate job asks for skills in “Development of eLearning modules in xxx elearning authoring tool.”; then, accentuate your elearning development skills in general without reflecting whether it was for kids or not.

5. Become your own brand

Thinking of yourself as a brand will give you a continual edge over the competition.  What does that mean? It means everything you do should be targeted to benefit your brand.  Your brand is your name plus the work you do.  If you get potential employers to recognize you as a brand of awesome elearning or adult learning; then you won’t have to work as hard as everyone else.  The hard work is establishing and believing in yourself as a brand.  You can start by blogging about what you know and sharing it with others.   The website you built on tip #1 (wink wink ;  ) it’s a great place to start. However, you can also contribute on LinkedIn or Blogger to get you started.

Wrap Up

In summary, many academic learning professionals have asked me for advice on how to crossover to corporate L&D.  There are obvious differences between academic and corporate settings but in the end, both of them are still developing courses.  If your work is good enough it will get noticed but, to get noticed you have to have a website, build samples and most importantly, treat yourself as a brand.  I hope these tips can be put to practice and are helpful for those folks wanting to venture into corporate L&D.  Please comment and share with everyone that may benefit.


Posted in E-learning, L&D, Training and Development and tagged , , .

Alexander Salas

eLearning, technology, gamification, workplace learning, instructional design and creativity are my enduring passions in life. I breathe when I create. Leave a comment, let's connect on LinkedIn and share experiences. The rest of the time I manage an LMS, eLearning communities and speak at learning conferences #humblebrag


  1. Some great tips there. As an academic that transitioned to corporate L&D I will add that you should always emphasize any non academic experience if you already have it. In my experience, the corporate mindset usually thinks that academics might be bright but have no idea how the “real world” works.

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