Ask not what the L&D community can do for you…

Inspiration_Ask_Not_What_L_And_D_Can_Do_For_You

Last week, I was flattered to receive a notification on LinkedIn that I had been mentioned in this post from Zsolt Olah.

The conversation in Zsolt’s post revolved around who to follow – both inside and outside of the L&D space – in order to become a better practitioner. Following the various people he mentioned in his post is an important step in anyone’s journey to being a more perfect presenter, trainer or instructional designer.

Sometimes, however, I wonder if: “Who should I be following” is the right question.  

Maybe another question that is at least as important is: “What can I be contributing to the field, regardless of my level of experience?”

It’s true, nobody will consider you a thought leader overnight (and please, please, please don’t write the words “thought leader” on your LinkedIn profile… it’s not a title that you can bestow upon yourself). However, I’ve found that I’ve learned some extremely valuable lessons from unlikely sources. I believe that everyone can contribute to the L&D community, regardless of whether you’re just beginning, or if you’ve been doing this for decades.

How can you contribute?

I remember listening to a keynote speech from Articulate’s Tom Kuhlman several years ago in which he was sharing the story of someone who wanted a job with his company. Tom asked the job seeker what he’d contributed to the community. The job seeker seemed puzzled, so Tom told the job seeker to find two questions that he could answer every day in the Elearning Heroes community, and then he’d be willing to have a conversation again.

Online forums may be the perfect place to begin making contributions. If you’re working with Storyline, the Elearning Heroes community includes a ton of people who’d love to see what kinds of projects you’re working on and there are a ton of people who have questions that you might have an answer to. Of course, if you’re looking for some good people to follow and whose wisdom you’d be able to soak up, be sure to check out David Anderson, Nicole Legault, Allison LaMotte and of course the aforementioned Tom Kuhlman.

If you have some thoughts or questions you might be able to offer up on the latest trends in the industry, Zsolt’s LinkedIn post also highlights several Twitter chats such as #lrnchat (Thursdays at 8:30pm Eastern), #tldchat (daily at 11am Eastern) and #guildchat (Fridays at 2pm Eastern). Through these chats you’ll not only run into people you should be following, but you can interact with them, build on their thoughts, or go toe to toe in challenging some things you may not agree with.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to contribute your thoughts and questions on LinkedIn as well. Yes, through groups like the ATD discussion group (don’t forget about your local ATD chapter LinkedIn groups as well) and a variety of other groups. Be careful here however, I’ve found LinkedIn groups to primarily be places where people drop their own self-promoting posts without a ton of interaction.

Watching your LinkedIn home page and the comments some of your connections make is another way to interact. Last week, I noticed my friend Rachel Barnum happened to comment on a question that one of her connections was asking about two different college programs.

LinkedIn_Comments

A thoughtful response to a sincere question is a powerful way to contribute to the field.

Finally, of course, there’s blogging. It’s something I took up in 2012. In 2013 I decided that I’d post 3x per week, every week. In 2014 I dialed that back to twice per week and have been doing it ever since. It’s been a way for me to reflect on a host of L&D thoughts swirling around in my mind and it’s been a way for me to give back to anyone crazy enough to spend time reading what I’ve written.

Following a variety of people in the L&D field (and beyond) is an important step to improving your L&D chops. Offering your own insights, talents and ideas is a bit more challenging, it may make you feel vulnerable at times, but if you want to up your game, I can think of no better way.

 

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