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Learning to Fail

Wouldn’t it be great if we failure was woven into how we learn? Failure comes with uncertainty, risk, judgement, shame, and having to be vulnerable. I rarely see failure rewarded in the systems of formal education and it becomes commonplace to not talk about it in our professional careers. A few years back remember seeing a failure CV from a professor that sparked some discussion, but really rejection, failure, or missed opportunities are not common things we brag about or post online. But that was only shared after someone has reached a certain level or stature at work. We often sweep our flaws under the rug in our professional lives, to quickly celebrate the success or wins in our careers.

One space and place I can say is a challenge and filled with failure is the dreaded JOB SEARCH. For anyone seeking employment or looking to make a career change, this a key place where failure shows up. The job search, application, and interview process can be just that — A PROCESS. I can attest to this unrewarding experience during my own job search back in 2019. There were no shortage of applications, rejections, and unacknowledged pieces when I started figuring out what I wanted to do outside of academia. In looking back to 2019 as a year, I spent most of my time figuring it out. In examining my own job search experience (the applying, interviewing, etc.), I am able to actually look at the data I tracked in a spreadsheet of my 5 months job hunting. Here are just a few of the data high and low points for my own career pivot:

  • Jobs applied for (tracked): 163
  • Targeted Industries: 12*
  • Targeted Locations: 6
  • Rejected via online application system: 106
  • Never heard from employer: 35
  • Recruiter/Hiring Manager Phone Conversations: 12
  • Internal employee referrals: 7
  • Offered part-time gig work/contracts: 3
  • Interviewed on-site with employer: 6
  • Offered full-time employment with salary + benefits: 4
  • Declined job offers: 3
  • Accepted job: 1
    • *Note: Most roles I was looking at were in industries were outside of academia/higher ed

Just as a book is not published without edits, rewrites, revisions, and new drafts — our own professional pivots and career moves are not as pretty or clean as they seem. This list does not include other screenings assessments, virtual team interviews, emails for support/inquiry, and even more effort is I made. Some of this took time and practice to hone what I as looking for and in what industry might I best find the “actions/verbs” within the job position.

All this to say is, you are bound to fail in some when when you are trying to figure out what you want to do next. It doesn’t mean you are a failure, but it does mean you are willing to take risks, be nimble, make decisions, and dust yourself off when things don’t go your way. Much of this comes from being open to accepting these failures, and learning how you can grow at your next attempt. This also connects to the idea of how interpret your interpret things in your life. A couple weeks ago, a few coaches and I were talking fixed vs. growth mindset, to see how we to support clients with how they approach their own interests, goals, and abilities. own thinking towards goals, abilities, etc. Rebecca Campbell mentioned Snyder’s Hope Theory, which is connected to pathways and agency thinking, may be a way to look at mindset growth. Rebecca also shared a helpful way to examine mindset (based on Dweck’s work) that might help you shift how we think about failure:

  1. Strategies: the methods, science, art, tools, techniques, etc. to execute
  2. Time: the non-spatial continuum of events, intervals, schedule, etc.
  3. Effort: the physical, mental, or emotional energy to do the thing
  4. Practice: the work, habits, customs, or performance that is repeated

It took me a number of STRATEGIES to tinker, experiment, test, and identify WHAT I was really looking for in my own career change. Editing resumes, applying on LinkedIn/Indeed, and reaching out to professional peers working at the organization I knew or wanted to get to know. It also takes so much TIME to research, review, have conversations, and reflect on what you want to be doing. For me, this discovery and exploration process took me about 4 months before started the actual job hunt. I was conducting informational interviews, by asking questions about pivots and learning more about career changes, to understanding what might be available, what to ask, and to determine what will challenge me in a new role and in a different industry. The time and EFFORT required to identify not only the what but HOW to get connected with a recruiter/hiring manager, and understand enough about the organization, role, and industry you are transitioning into before you even have your first interview screening. In searching the types of roles (e.g. Market Research Analyst, Training Manager, Instructional Designer, Learning Experience Designer, etc.), industries (e.g. healthcare, tourism, legal, technology, retail, etc.), and locations (Denver, Seattle, Dallas, and Remote) the space and time to were needed to figure out how to PRACTICE tailoring job application materials, pitching to managers/recruiters, and developing a digital portfolio to explain how my experiences/talents translate outside of higher ed. Finally, all of these STEPs can be rinsed and repeated as I took a deep look at my own professional identity to identify what I value and where my talents can “go to work.” I don’t think we are just our jobs, and they should not define you — but I do recognize that our work does make up some of our identity. I also learned that stepping outside a formal role (I quit my job) and not being employed full-time required me to define who I was, what I was interested in, and the things I wanted to do in my career.

You’re Not Just Defined by Your Job

I wanted to share my own job search and career pivot not to say “look what I did, and you can too!” but to state — it was not a simple process and it will be seeped in failure. It does take patience and resilience to figure it out — and not everyone is able to make these employment pivots without some reserves (literally, financial savings, time, emotional energy, etc.) and support (from a partner, family, professional network, etc.). It gets even scarier in a pandemic when the world of work is changing and industries are seeing dramatic shifts in how/where/when we work. The risk is worth it if the final outcome is to land a new job. But, let it be known that the energy and effort should not be diminished. Job searching, either for finding employment or to determine a new career path, will require you to fail often, and learn these failures. Everyone’s grit look different, and all experiences are personal when you look at context, experience, and the reality of the current job market.

What have you learned in your most recent job and/or job search? How have you learned from failure lately?

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Coaching Through It

“What is your past experience with coaching?”

This was one of mine – swim team! I loved being part of this water-logged crew, and being able to compete at meets, improve my strokes, and see my progress each week. It takes focus and determination, but I couldn’t have done it with out many swim coaches who have circled in and out of my life. Coaches were there to offer feedback, correct a stroke, cheer me on, and challenge me to be my best — even if I didn’t want to jump into the pool at 5 am. Coaches pushed me outside my comfort zone and helped me learn that small changes and strategies help me improve.

This question excited me, and I have been thinking about it ever since I started my Higher Ed Coach Training journey with Katie Linder on June 20, 2020. I knew from this opening ice breaker — I was going to fall in love with coaching — as a practice and process. Coaching skills directly relate to my own passion: talent. What it is? How we cultivate and grow it? How can we apply it to things we love and do? It’s amazing experience to help my coaching helps my clients realize their full potential, and how I get to be a collabortor in the process for their own career development.

What I didn’t realize at the time, is how coach training would also provide me with a beacon of hope in a year of many unknowns and constant change. I was interested in starting something new, not just to seek certification from ICF, but to get into deep, meaningful work with coaching clients. In the last six months of training, I have not only added to my own coaching practice and grown my clientele, but I am also empowered by the community of coaches I continue to learn from/with in this community. As these three courses wrap, I am grateful for what I have learned and how I have applied it to help my coaching clients realize their opportunities and overcome challenges. Additionally, I am honored to be part of such purposeful partnerships with those who have explored coaching with me so far. My gratitude for my clients courage and raw honest as they open up and dive deep in each coaching session to support their own life/work transitions and goals.

I lovingly named this blog post “Coaching Through It” for two reasons:

  1. Aren’t we all just trying to figure it out? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be coached through all the things? This former “pollywog” swimmer could use one.
  2. This is also the name of a NEW podcast, Coaching Through It, I co-host with my good friend & fellow coach-in-training, Julie Larsen.

The creation of the podcast is twofold — we use it as a way to process what we are learning in coach training and share how we might use these in our own coaching practice with our clients. As Julie and I have been friends for over a decade now, season 1 episodes are candid conversations about all the things in life/work/home in relation to the coach training we are in. The goal of this podcast is to pull back to share what coaching is really about. Coaching is NOT mentoring, advising, sponsorship, consulting, or editing your resume/cover letter. It is doing some of the deep and hard work to unpack what is preventing us from moving forward.

Episode 1: What Is Coaching?

We hope this podcast is one of many (check out: Coach to Coach & Called to Coach, etc.) out there to explain and debunk coaching — so we hope you enjoy this slice of our coaching practice, what we’re learning, and how it applies to how we coach our clients.

In Coaching Through It [Trailer], your podcast hosts and newly minted coaches, Julie Larsen and Laura Pasquini, bring their ideas and insights in audio format to an audience to share about their coaching practice. In each episode we introduce what coaching is — specifically coach training, powerful questions, coaching tools or techniques, working with clients, & applying how coaching fits into our work & personal lives.

Join us and listen to our conversations on… Coaching Through It [subscribe! or find it wherever you catch your podcasts] & connect to the pod on Twitter at @CoachingThruIt.

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Between the Chapters: A Podcast Book Club for the 25 @YearsEd of #EdTech

It all started with a Twitter DM on June 10, 2020. Contrary to popular belief, this social media platform does have the power to unite and bring folks together. Clint Lalonde reached out to inquire to a group of us to ask if we’d like to narrate the 25 Years of Ed Tech book written by Martin Weller and published by Athabasca University Press. With a Google doc and an interested community, multiple messages on this group thread helped to weave what would be an audiobook version for this text. As I saw a number of volunteers to voice each chapter, I chimed in to ask how we could bring other voices who weren’t in this thread to discuss the book itself (typo of Martin’s name included):

I’m grateful for Martin’s willingness to be such an open educator with how this book is published AND his encouragement for the audiobook + book club podcast. Additionally, I was thrilled to play in the audio sandbox with Clint, who is stellar in his radio-style production, wrangling of audio chapters, and ideas for enhancing the behind the pod project (e.g. “how to” guidelines narration, keeping me on task/schedule, finding guests to chat with about each chapter, etc.). My sincere gratitude goes out to all of the people and processes required to execute this pandemic podcast project. I am learning so much from y’all during every conversation. Whether it’s our recorded chat or the post-production editing, I can honestly say that working on these episodes really brightens my work week. I am honoured to spend some time with some brilliant, funny, and thoughtful members of the ed tech community. I am learning so much and love digging into what is and is not in each chapter. Some people bake bread, I make podcasts (and, okay, bake bread) in lock down.

Thanks to many of you who have and who will continue to contribute to the 25 Years of Ed Tech podcast serves as a serialized audio version of the book 25 Years of Ed Tech. The @YearsEd podcast is our gift that keeps on giving, as there will be 2 episodes released each week from November 2020 through May 2021. Every Monday you will hear a new chapter of the book that follows the written text — read along! Then on Thursday, you will find bonus episodes in the same podcast feed I host, called “Between the Chapters.” These “book club” episodes allow us to bring other folx on to discuss the chapter topic, ideas, the year, and what was happening around these issues for teaching, learning, and technology at the time. 

Follow @YearsEd & Subscribe/Listen: https://25years.opened.ca/

X-Ray Specs Montage

Attributions

It has been a delight to catch up with the “Between the Chapters” guests — some of which I’ve grown up with in ed tech and learning design — and others I am just getting to dialog with for the first time. As of now, I have just over half of these bonus episodes recorded and/or scheduled — and more are to come. I have been talking with Clint for how to bring additional voices into this audio project — so I am open to suggestions and hearing from you, if you want to offer some audio reflections. Finally, a BIG THANKS goes out to everyone who has contributed to this audio adventure overall: book chapter narrators, guests for the book club discussions, X-ray Specs remixed art creators, your blogged reflections, promotional publications, tweeting out episodes, and those of you digitally cheering us on!

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On Being an Outsider

Over a year ago I quit my job. I left higher education and my non-tenure faculty position. As an early career academic, I loved research, teaching and digital learning design, but the things I was doing in my actual position was leaving me feeling bored and burned out. I was not interested in fitting into a typical academic role or career, and I never really cared much for the elitist hierarchy at a university/college campus. Titles, degrees, and status seemed less interesting… and rather petty to me. As I said before, I’m more interested in the verbs and not the nouns for my professional path.

During the last few months of 2019, I was fortunate to partner with few great companies adjacent to higher ed as a faculty coach, research consultant, and learning design architect. Although it was interesting work, I soon realized I really missed being part of a team who were contributing to a shared vision and goals. In looking back, part of my job search was really to find the space and place for me to work outside academia, challenge what I know, and apply my experiences as I explore the unknown in a new field. This time spent researching professional roles require me to identify my strengths (literally, below is a screening for a healthcare L&D role) and figure out where I could use these superpowers for the next organization I worked at.

It was time to look outside the industry of postsecondary education (yes, it IS an industry as well) to see what was out there, and identify what new career opportunity I could match my purpose or my WHY:

To connect people and community, so that I can support life-long learning and career development.

Job hunts and employment applications take a while — regardless of who you are and when you are applying. I quit my job knowing I would need to dedicate some serious time (like a job) to this process instead of being distracted by what I was doing (e.g. online teaching, grading, writing, research, etc.) I kept an open mind and I was persistent as I explored a of employment opportunities from the top training organizations, and other companies I knew would present a number of job options for me now and in the future. In connecting to friends/peers, I made sure to find contacts within the companies to get feedback on my CV which brought my 18 pages down to 1. And, I also began to target roles that seemed more interesting beyond a title or rank, by reaching out to recruiters, head hunters, and hiring managers on LinkedIn to learn more about where my own talents best fit. Between November and December, I had a series of phone/Zoom interviews and on-site interview cycles for a variety of roles: marketing researcher, training manager, instructional designer, and organizational development consultant. These jobs were situated in personal law, finance, insurance, airlines, retail, hotels, and more. [Note: 2019 Laura did not move forward by choice or HR decision for jobs at American Airlines, Hilton, etc. In hindsight, that was probably a good thing.] All of this sounds quick, but the decision to leave and search was probably in incubation for 6-9 months prior to me accepting a new job. Additionally, this quick synopsis does not include the conversations, informational interviews, employment/org research, and reflection I put into before I went on the job market by choice.

Last December, I celebrated a milestone birthday by packing up to have a 18-day adventure to explore New Zealand. All of this was planned prior to this career crisis/job search, so I had the time and space to go off on one my last EPIC travels. Our departure to NZ had a layer in LAX where I received a call to offer me the job I wanted, and that I am currently in. For those of you who know me, I do like to take leaps (literally), but from the stellar interview experience, meeting the team I’d be working with, and getting to know the cool things I would get to be a part of — I was really excited for my new job! I’m a Sr. Instructional Designer on a global learning experience design (LXD) team, which means I am a program manager who supports learning/training design for technicians and associates in customer service at the “Smile” company. Our team trains associates on troubleshooting to support customers with their devices (e.g. Kindles, Fire tablets, Echo-family), digital products (e.g. Amazon Music, Appstore, Twitch, Games & Software Downloads), and, of course, Alexa.

This original blog post was going to describe more “about my job” — what I do and how I work with my LXD team — however, that isn’t really possible as it has been evolving over the past 9 months, and I suspect it will continue to change. I have focused on a few specific areas, but really, I support the focus and needs for how we are designing learning to improve customer service. Period. We’ve had to be agile to meet all that 2020 has tossed us and be flexible enough to adapt both on our team and within the larger organization. As they say, it is always Day 1. I believe it, as I am still learning and figuring out how to do what I do better — while jumping in to do all the things — those verbs — that I really enjoy:

  • Create training curriculum & think deeply about learning design
  • Offer and get peer review for projects
  • Ask questions to get to root problems and deep dive into issues
  • Identifying gaps or needs for our own standard of practice
  • Develop mechanisms improving our LXD
  • Support professional/career development to engage our larger team
  • Wrangle a program team for an internal conference
  • Supporting training delivery in various worldwide sites– in virtual instructor-led sessions
  • Produce a new LXD podcast to understand how learning design happens in the org
  • Localization (beyond translation) across a number of geographic regions for learners
  • Implement changes needed for accessibility and universal design for learning & training
  • Identify ways for inclusion & equity in remote teams and virtual collaboration
  • Consult with product teams, program managers, UX designers, content creators & more!
  • Tinker/Test new devices & digital products to enhance the customer service experience
  • Pilot new platforms & LX experiences with research and learning delivery experiments
  • Project management — seriously, I love a good sprint & checking off a “to do” list
  • Always be learning: SO MANY ways to add to my skill stack to “learn and be curious”

There is probably more — but that’s my quick list. You might hear me say on the regular that “I’m not really sure what I’m doing…” or “I don’t know…” — which is often true. I’ve learned that failure is probably a great teachable experience, and probably going to happen. It’s not the flaws, but what we have learned, especially if what you are working on is only 70% finished before you launch it. Everything I do is not always my favorite, but I am being challenged to think beyond what is required in my job. And, I’m grateful to be surrounded by some brilliant and thoughtful professionals who I am constantly learning from and with — seriously, everyone has a variety of education, professional, and work experience in LXD. So, I can always find someone who can compliment my own skills and knowledge when I need to complete a project or reach a goal.

That being said, this past year I have felt like an “outsider” from academia and higher education. I was not sure how or if I could contribute to (or influence?) my community of online learning, open, students support, and ed tech peers. This disconnect was more in my head, or at least it was until now. I was trying to sort out how my past professional identity and experiences connects to what I am doing now. Beyond the defined roles or rank in formal education (e.g. K-12 & Higher Ed), I was “othering” the contributions learning professionals who fall outside the formal education system. Learning design between higher ed and other industries does not have to be two rival gangs. The expertise and experiences are less binary and more complimentary than you might think.

“They grew up on the outside of society. They weren’t looking for a fight. They were looking to belong.” – The Outsiders

Really, there is so much we can learn when these LXD communities come together. Although my learning design is outside a postsecondary institution, there is so much more knowledge and applied skills we need to swap, share, and compare. I know that 2020 has brought all the weirds, and I’ve personally felt very remote from y’all, but I’m slowing coming out of my solitude/isolation incubation time. I hope to share more about what I am working on in my job and the other projects that I have been tending to this year, as it is relevant for my community in higher ed, ed tech, student affairs/advising, and online learning.

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On Being Remote…

I’ve been thinking about being remote for a while. Not in the way you think. This blog post is not advice on “how to” work remotely or thrive from the home office. It’s a reckoning about what I have been thinking about over the last 9 months. The feeling of being remote is real. It starts with feeling so very far away from the things we know and love. Distant from close family, friends, and peers. Away from the concept of schedules and calendars. Time is moving along at a pace — and standing still. Sometimes months feel like years. Sometimes a day feels like a week. It feels like we have live a few lives and aged a bit in 2020.

Home has become a multipurpose space where we go to school, sit in “the office,” and find leisure time — if we can. Learning, working, and living are a blend and exist in a blur making things feel like we are living on a loop, often in the same location. With no boundaries comes uncertainty and awareness of the limitations in perpetual life cycle. And although the plant/fur/real kids help us remember to take a break, I often wonder if they are thinking, “Don’t you have somewhere to go?”

I used to be productive in my WFH office, but motivation fights with grief and bouts of guilt often pull my focus regularly. The shoulds got mixed with the coulds, with little being accomplished personally or professionally. How can I find some headspace when there is social inequity, increasing racial unrest, and health disparities wrapped in an economic divide? How small are my concerns and work, when there are larger issues looming?

Whether its Zoom rooms, virtual Teams, Twitter threads, or Instagram tales — there seems to be more technology to bring us our of isolation, yet there’s widening gap to easily disconnect. The infusion of the being wired for our waking life has us “always on” and it is emotionally and physically exhausting. Although these devices and platforms have the potential to bring us together, they seem to be pulling us further apart in thoughts, ideologies, and a common sense humanity. Always together, but often alone.

We morn the loss of our social selves. The festivals, concerts, celebrations, events, meetings, and reunions that once gathered us — are no more. Travel is a faint, distant memory only replaced by voice mails, FaceTime calls, and group text messages for/by those we love and miss. With this pivot to online the personal is on a choppy WiFi connection, and our professional identities are in a Zoom waiting room, asking, “Is this really what I want to be doing with my life?”

Transitions through turmoil and trauma persist. The always evolving issues wash over the relentless news cycles and challenge what actual community and civic responsibility means. The awakening of our fragile social structures were no fault of the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, or other issues of today — but rather a slow reveal of what is needed to confront, breakdown, and rebuild. Other already felt this, the rest of us are just realizing. Returning to what was is no longer possible, nor should we want to go there. It’s time to invent what will be .

History is told by those who tell it. The power of the narrative now, is that it can be drafted and retold in a collaborative, open shared doc — by many, and not just a select few. What are the stories we should be sharing and amplifying today? How will we write ourselves into a future that actually improves how we live, work, and learn? From our educational institutions to corporate entities, we can no longer rest on our laurels to sit silently when our practices and positions have not called into question the policies and system injustices of an inexcusable status quo. This is not a time to be remote anymore. This remoteness comes from a point of privilege, and silence shows your complacency on issues that need to be addressed.

I’m sorry for being so remote. I’m back. The revolution won’t be blogged, but I hope to poke holes at things I am learning/unlearning, ways we can take action for impact, and how it is critical to be less remote and more of an ally for the change we need in the world. Let’s go on this foggy journey out of remoteness together…