An old friend came to stay with me this past week, someone I love dearly but hadn’t seen in about 5 years. He (Dave) lives on the west coast, I live on the east coast and therefore we don’t get to see each other often.
We had a wonderful time catching up and had lots of stories about where our lives had gone since we last hung out. Both of us had made some job changes, bought houses, and gotten married. But one topic kept recurring in almost every one of our conversations – community.
Dave and his wife met at a cohousing community. They moved a couple years ago but are struggling as they have not found their place in their new community. I left 2 previous higher education programs because of a lack of a supportive community (in one case, students were even downright cutthroat). I love my neighborhood because of the strong sense of community. You get the picture.
I also found myself talking about all the professional communities I rely on daily to learn new things, get inspiration, and find support. I guess this would be my personal learning network. Today I just want to pay homage to some of those communities.
Why I love this community: So, I have yet to decide if this is the best way to pick a new job, but I always rely so much more on the connection I feel with a potential manager during the interview than anything else. I think this probably means I don’t make as much money as I could, but who cares? All the money in the world wouldn’t be enough for me to work with a team I couldn’t stand.
Anyway, my current team at Engility is awesome. My group/division works on projects in international development and is full of passionate people that want to change the world. My team members are my life support on a regular basis and I think I do a good job helping them out as well.
I also have so many friends from previous jobs that are always willing to give me feedback, or just go to happy hour after a tough day. A former boss of mine is the one that convinced me to move to my current location (she also lives in the neighborhood). My current manager encouraged me to start blogging and is my biggest advocate. Some of my current and former colleagues are folks I count among my favorite people in the world.
You guys (and you know who you are) are better than money – thanks.
What this community offers that others don’t: personalized support and feedback
Why I love this community: For those that don’t know, I am currently working on a M.A. in instructional systems development at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. It’s mostly online, which I was unsure about at first because I felt a large part of grad school was making connections in your field. But I really had nothing to fear because UMBC is really great at encouraging those connections.
I am only about half way through the program but have already met a slew of wonderful professionals who challenge my thinking and expand my ideas of what is possible on a regular basis. There are so many stories of alumni in this program moving forward in their careers because of connections they made at UMBC. If you are considering a master’s or certificate program in ISD or instructional technology, I would highly recommend this university.
What this community offers that others don’t: a real push outside of my comfort zone in conjunction with a safe place to fail
ASTD (ATD) and ISPI
Why I love this community: To be honest, it took a long time for me to be convinced of the worth of professional communities. Then I realized that it was because I wasn’t really engaging with the community… duh.
The local chapters are a great place to meet folks in the field who work in your area. The national chapters offer blogs, publications, conferences and other forms of support.
So this year I vowed to get more involved and it has really paid off! I have attended some local meetings where I have made new connections in my area and learned some great information. I attended the ASTD/ATD conference in May and again, made some great connections and learned lots of great information. I even offered to serve on a panel at the conference and met some amazing folks through that opportunity. In fact, the ASTD staff member coordinating the panel asked us to write guest blog posts and mine should be up on the ASTD site some time in the coming week.
What this community offers that others don’t: a wealth of professional resources and tools for staying current in the field
Why I love this community: I’m not going to push Articulate Storyline or other products on anyone, but even if Articulate wasn’t a great tool (which it is!) I would still use it. I’m sure you can guess why – the community. They have this amazing site full of forums, blogs, and resources.
One of the best parts of this community is that each week David Anderson posts a weekly challenge where anyone can create and submit a piece of work to help build skills, share information, and build their portfolio. Through these challenges I have “met” some really talented eLearning designers/developers, learned lots of new tricks, and really improved my outputs in Storyline. These challenges have challenged me to try some new things in the software that I might not otherwise have an opportunity to try and made some of my processes more efficient.
Involvement in this community has also really increased my visibility. David and the other Articulate staff are amazing about sharing the work of community members through their site and on Twitter. For the freelancers in the field, they offer a lot of support when it comes to looking for new clients and they even post a weekly round up of job openings every Friday.
What this community offers that others don’t: specific support for and feedback on eLearning and Articulate Storyline and a regular opportunity to build my portfolio and increase my visibility
Note that all of these communities are awesome for the reason that all good communities are awesome – they offer laughter, insight, feedback, and support. Instructional designers and eLearning developers often produce proprietary products, but amazingly are some of the most open, sharing, supportive folks in any profession. I love what I do because it is creative and scientific, but mostly because I always feel like I am a part of something larger.
What communities have been important to you? Am I missing any that I should be sure to check out? Please share!