Experimenting with Identities @ Work

The worst question you could ask a child or really anyone is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This assumes that we will end at a final destination or that there is only one possible outcome for work. In our professional lives, I think we are always “becoming” — that is, we continue to evolve who we are, what we are doing, and where we want to go in our career. Lately, I have been thinking more about the transitions folks make in their working lives, and how this changing of careers also challenges our own identity. Our professional identities do not just evolve over night. Changing a career path is more than just finding a new job in a different industry or stepping into a new role in your organization. It is the process of reinventing is more unconventional and the transition process takes time to sort out how to “be” in a new world of work.

“… changing careers means redefining our working identity – how we see ourselves in our professional roles, what we convey about ourselves to others, and ultimately, how we live our working lives. Career transitions follow a first-act-and then-think sequence because who we are and what we do are so tightly connected. The tight connection is the result of years of action; to change it, we must resort to the same methods.”

Hermania Ibarra, Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career

I think running small experiments and testing new possibilities helps us think more about our professional identity and the work we might want to actually do. Exploring career options and trying out future possible selves helps us bridge the work experience we’ve done in the past with who we might want to become in the future. These small experiments might be learning a new skill (e.g. coding in Ruby Rails, video editing, starting a podcast, etc.) or interacting with professionals in the future world of work you want to join (e.g. LinkedIn Groups, virtual meetups, conferences, etc.) Trying something new might be scary, but dipping your toe into the waters of new ways of working in practice (not theory) and meeting peers in your future occupational space might just help to ease your career transition.

“Our insight into ourselves is constrained by our roster of previous experiences. We learn who we are in practice, not theory.”

How To by Slate, “How To Start Over at 60” BONUS: “How to Find a New Career before It’s Too Late” with Jessi Hempel. P.S. It’s never too late.

Ibarra (2004, p. 18) offers ways to “practice” this idea of experimentation to promote successful career changes, when reworking a professional identity:

  1. Crafting Experiments: Trying out new activities and professional roles on a small scale before making a major commitment to a different path
  2. Shifting Connections: developing contact who can open doors to new worlds; finding role models and new peer groups to guide and benchmark our progress
  3. Making Sense: finding or creating catalysts and triggers for change and using them as occasions to rework our story

These seem like small steps — but it not always that simple. Some of the work/career experimentation process is going to not be fun. You might have to sit with not knowing, ambiguity, and not being that great at the new thing. Being a beginner in a new space is going take some time and work, and sitting in the murky middle of a life/career transition will not always be easy. That being said, small tests and trials can help you figure out how you want to evolve your own professional identity and find a new working self you want to be. The flip side to this process, if figuring out what you have to let go for who you want to become. Your future work self will have to let go of the career path to draft a new narrative of where you might go professionally.

During my year of “figuring it out” before I leaped, I spent a lot of time asking questions, learning from others, and connecting to peers to understand the skills and practice in their profession and the challenges they faced in their own career pivots. In talking to others who have experimented with their work identity and redirected their own career paths, like Kristin Powers, Season 2: Career Changers, and interviews from women on the #InVinoFab podcast, I’ve gained so much from these conversations to support my career transition. Here are my lessons learned that might support your own professional journey and exploration if you are considering a career transition:

  1. Find organizations that will help you to learn, grow, and thrive.
  2. Align your career with your personal and professional values.
  3. Build your community and expand your connections to support.
  4. Be open to new opportunities, identify fit, and know this journey may not always direct.
  5. Consider how your collaborations and creative ideas can shape your body of work.
  6. Assess, know, and play to your strengths to find ways to kindle your passions in work.
  7. Reflect on the “things” (the verbs) you enjoy doing daily: activities, tasks, and projects.
  8. Always be learning and be a curious learner throughout your working life.

I have also learning the value of “casting out lines” or trying on different possibles selves — specifically by reflecting on my own working identity with these powerful questions:

  • What activities and challenges will engage you most at work?
  • What professional groups do you want to belong to to support your career growth?
  • What working relationships are you building to support your career transition?
  • What events, work experiences, and past stories of your professional life can you link and transfer into the working identity you want to develop?

How are you experimenting with your work identity these days? How are you testing ideas to bridge who you are now with where you want to be in your career?

EdTech, Podcast, Reflections

#25YearsOfEdTech: Call for Audio Reflections

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So, I’ve been helping with a fun audio project to fill the gaps in my social schedule during the pandemic. #25YearsOfEdTech has been a fun way to connect, learn, and share with a community of brilliant professionals — so here’s our reflection as we get meta to podcast about the podcast.

We are about halfway through this audio book club project now that chapter 12 is out. In this bonus episode of “Between the Chapters” Martin, Clint, and I take a pause to get meta — it’s a podcast about the podcast. We share about our audio labour of love, specifically as we discover what it means to augment text to audio and how to share an aural history of ed tech through these episodic personal/professional reflections.

X-Ray Specs by @visualthinkery is licenced under CC-BY-SA & Remix by Laura Pasquini.

Questions for the @YearsEd community:

  • What location should the TV/film version of this book be shot?
  • Who should play Martin Weller in the film/TV adaptation of the podcast?
  • Anyone want to help with the graphic novel version?

Want to add your voice to a “Between the Chapters” episode for the 25 Years of Ed Tech book?

  1. READ a chapter (or the whole book) to find a topic/year/idea that interests you. You can also get meta to audio reflect on one of the “Between the Chapters” episode too!
  2. REFLECT & SHARE YOUR AUDIO THOUGHTS via Vocaroo or your own recording device you can send us via a URL (e.g. blog post, website, Dropbox link, etc.)
  3. SEND us the link to your recording so we can add your voice to the podcast! You can do this via the website contact form or DM @YearsEd or me on Twitter.

A few reflection questions for your audio response:

  1. How are you involved with this ______ topic/chapter?
  2. What were your reflections back to a particular year in the book?
  3. Share your experience with this particular technology, practice, or ed tech topic. 
  4. What ideas and concepts most interested you from a specific chapter?
  5. What is missing from a specific chapter or the book that we should talk about now? 
  6. What questions do you have for the author, Martin Weller? 
  7. Do you have questions or challenges you want to pose to the @YearsEd community?

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?


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.


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


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!