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Grief is Good?

I’ve been thinking a great deal about loss. This past year there has been so much loss in the world and in my own life. The loss of:

  • Human lives – literally, so many lives have been lost globally
  • Visiting loved ones – meeting family & friends in-person
  • Places of work – the spaces where/when/how we compartmentalize our jobs
  • Gathering of people – the art of gathering has vanished & often prohibited
  • Defined personal/professional roles – these do not look, feel, or behave the same way
  • A Sense of Self – Who am I? How to regulate & deal with life changes/challenges

Grief is our internal experience to loss – sadness, anger, confusion, bitterness, the sometimes desperate longing for what was or what had been. These feelings, emotions, and thoughts are all a part of our grief response. They are all possible, appropriate, and valid human reactions. ~ “Good Grief Charlie Brown!” Posted by Iris Song, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist, UWCC

Good Grief!

There is hope on the horizon with vaccine distribution and head towards heard immunity; however, much has been changed from the lives we once knew. Before we move forward, I wanted to talk about this challenge time we’ve all experienced collective loss, in one way or another. In reading Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief by David Kessler, and a recent conversation with Patrice on an #InVinoFab podcast episode, talked more about grief and reflected on what this has meant this past year.

Kessler shares how he and others have dealt with the 6th stage of grief – meaning – via his own experience of loss, lessons from others as a grief professional, and through powerful tools and practices. He mentioned Richard Tedeschi’s Growth After Trauma, where negative experiences can bring personal strength and new possibilities after including:

  1. Your relationships grow stronger
  2. You discover new purposes in life
  3. From the trauma you find strength
  4. Spirituality is deepened
  5. Renewed appreciation on life

There has been so much more than the pandemic that requires our grief — racial/social unrest, mass shootings, and mental health, to name a few. Unlike mourning, that often takes a public form (e.g. a post, image, blog, video, etc), grief is an internal processing of all the feelings. How, when, how long, and why you grieve is personal. There is no set time, pathway, or process to work through any grief you might be feeling. And it IS okay not to be OK, as you grieve even the small loses from this past year. It’s okay to feel ALL THE FEELS — in whatever way you want to so you can find meaning for you. Be sure to hold space for yourself and those around you for grief.

How are you holding space for grief? How can you support others are dealing with grief?

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What is Learning Experience Design (LXD)?

Recently, I had to do share what Learning Experience Design (LXD) is to internal stakeholders in our organization for an upcoming event I’m wrangling (shout out to the LXDCon planning team!). I have been working in this field for a while, so once you’re embedded you forget that others might not have a clue of how you work or what you do.

Thanks to the fundamentals of LXD from LXD.org + a couple of books on my shelf, I defined the basics of what I do in my world of work, in brief.

I decided to go back to my explainer roots, to script and animate what LXD professionals do — here is a modified version without the conference trailer pitch:

Transcript

Learning Experience Design, or otherwise known as LXD, is an interdisciplinary field of expertise. LXD creates methods and modes to acquire skills and knowledge based on desired learning goals and human-centered practices. Think of the experience at the center with humans, learning, design, and goals impacting how this is process is applied.

As LXD incorporates various disciplines, folks in this arena might originate from user experience, training, neuroscience, teaching, cognitive psychology, or an instructional design. These backgrounds are often combined in these domains and cross-pollinate which results in focusing on the learner and the learner outcomes.

As an intersectional domain of practice, LXD often starts with a question or problem to solve through a learning solution. Professionals in LXD help research and understand the needs of the learner and the desired learning outcome to design the ideas and concepts for a particular learning experience. Much of this process is iterative as LXD folks design, develop, test, launch, evaluate, and then rinse and repeat this learning cycle to meet their goals and the business outcomes.

As a Senior Instructional Designer in my organization, I am part of an LXD community that shares practices, training technologies, and innovative approaches for learning experience design. We use a wiki, a podcast, and an annual event, called LXDCon as the hub to stay peculiar about the methods, tools, and approaches for learning design. 

How do you define learning experience design?

What does LXD mean for the work you do?

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What’s on the Horizon? Call for Exemplars/Projects for the 2021 Report

Over the past few months, EDUCAUSE has been working with a panel of peers/experts to organize the 2021 Horizon Report. With all that has been going on this past year, I’m impressed with the work that has been accomplished. Here’s an update for what has come up and the open call for contributions/examples from the higher ed community.

On the Wing of the Horizon

Here are the six technologies and practices for teaching and learning in higher ed that have been identified:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Growth of micro-credentialing for educators and students
  • Learning analytics
  • Open educational resources (OER)
  • Proliferation of blended/hybrid modes/teaching models
  • Shift from remote teaching to quality online learning

For the 2021 Horizon Report EDUCAUSE is seeking contributions from the broader community for projects that illustrate these technologies and practices in action, similar to those shared in the 2020 Horizon Report. This work can be in almost any form: pilot programs, new production, research projects, faculty/instructor undertakings, emerging technology trials, or evaluation/assessment initiatives. The goal is to highlight how these 6 key areas are impacting your work and share what is going on at your institution. If you or your institution is working with any of these 6 technologies or practices in teaching and learning, you should share your information and projects/initiatives to be included in this upcoming report. The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2021 and the direct URL for the submission form is:  https://forms.gle/XQYYRtMyenSTGSXB7

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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?

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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?