Personal Learning Network – Part 3

KickingAndScreamingFullerDuring this final post I will reflect on the development and use of my personal learning network. Below is a reflection on my process and findings.

My first list of network components outlined blogs, social networks, aggregators, websites, curation tools, podcasts, and a few other non-internet related resources. I’ve had the benefit of using all of these tools to help answer my project question, ‘What types of career advancement opportunities are available to me once I complete my Masters of Education degree?’ Here are the additional network components I’ve added to my network:

These are the job search websites I’ve used to research positions that require and M.Ed.:

  • Workopolis
  • UofT Job Board

I’ve begun to follow a few more people/organizations on Twitter:

  • @InstrDesignJobs – Info on instructional design jobs
  • @WEAadulted – Workers’ Educational Association
  • @CALCadult – The official Twitter page of TDSB’s City Adult Learning Centre
  • @kellygarber – Kelley Garber, professional instructional designer

I’ve also began research companies that hire individuals with M.Ed.’s, here are a few:

  • BMO Financial Group (Learning Designer)
  • University of Toronto (Director, Student Engagement)
  • Home Depot (Instructional Designer)
  • RBC (Product Manager)
  • Industrial Alliance (Lean Manager)

I’ve also contacted several individuals on LinkedIn with an M.Ed. I won’t post their names on this blog but here are their job titles:

  • Engagement Manager
  • Director, Talent Development
  • Vice President of Organizational Capability
  • Instructional Designer

To be honest, I was very excited about this assignment. It gave me an excuse to search far and wide for answers to certain career questions I’ve been thinking about for sometime. The assignment gave me an opportunity to put some structure and constraints around that search. I find that putting these limitations on yourself does help to get things done and avoid procrastination. Going through the process of defining a question, objectives, and a network gave a framework within to conduct my search.

Doing this type of career exploration in the past has been very haphazard – long bouts of inactivity followed by an intense and deep dive into a specific area (i.e. resumes, portfolio’s, graduate schools). Creating a personal learning network made that process a regular habit and made me accountable to produce results on an on-going basis. That accountability and reporting (through the blog) served as an excellent reflection tool to capture and synthesize my learning.

I have learned a lot through this process but the one thing I’d change is my dependence on Internet resources. These resources provide a lot of useful information but don’t provide much information on how to make sense of it all. For example, I can easily search for ‘Types of Masters of Adult Education Jobs’ and receive many hits with detailed explanations. Yet, for a person with my skills, background, and experiences it’s hard to know what would best suit me. That’s why I feel that off-line resources (i.e. real people and businesses/organizations) should have factored more into my search. These types of resources help provide context and personal experiences that may mimic my own. I plan to continue this assignment after the course is over and plan to include more informational interviews and coffee chats.

To review, my learning objectives were:

  • Identify 5 specific career advancement opportunities available to me upon graduation.
  • Define 5 reasons why I would be well suited to these opportunities (relevant skills, experience, interests) and 3 reasons why these opportunities would be meaningful to me (career advancement, stimulating).
  • Develop a plan to pursue the career advancement opportunities best suited to me.

I have certainly identified more than 5 possible opportunities available to me upon graduation and have been able to identify a few reasons why I would be well suited. I plan to elaborate on these opportunities during my in class presentation. What I haven’t yet answered is why those positions would be meaningful to me. Again, back to the information without personal context argument – I will need to do more research into the people and organizations that these opportunities come from. As for my plan to pursue these opportunities, I’m planning doing the following:

  1. Update my resume, cover letters, and LinkedIn profile to better position myself
  2. Complete my online portfolio of work
  3. Create standalone PDF of work to send to potential employers and networkers
  4. Learn more about these positions/opportunities through chats and informational interviews
  5. Apply! By applying to job postings I can get a better sense if I’m well suited and it will give me practice on the job search front.

Lastly, here are 3 findings that have come from my personal learning network:

  1. There is no single career path for an individual with a Masters of Education. Career opportunities span many different industries and type of work. It can be leveraged in a career in these ways:
  • Careers that require it (i.e. Instructor, Instructional Designer)
  • Careers that value it (i.e. Director of Student Services)
  • Use it to be better at what you do (I.e. Vice President of Organizational Capability)
  1. I’ve realized I’m well suited to more positions that I previously thought. I’ve worked in a very niche field for a long time and had difficulty imaging those skills were transferable. Through his process I’ve learned this is simply not true and that I bring experience and a unique set of skills to the areas I’ve looked into. I find this exciting and makes me very optimistic.
  2. ‘What do you want to do?’ is still a difficult question to answer. This question is at the crux of my PLN and I still feel I haven’t answered it. Through this process I believe that there is no single right answer but rather a series of better answers. This process has opened up new doors and shut a few windows for me. It’s helped me narrow my search and given me pathways to think about.

Finding Strengths. Not Weakness.

An important part of my PLN is to engage others to help me discover my career aspirations and personal skills.  I’ve done assessments in the past but have not always found them helpful or action oriented. That’s why I was interested in trying the Clifton Strengths Finder.  The assessment is based on 50 years of Dr. Donald O. Clifton’s work on Strengths-Based Psychology. The assessment was referred to me by a colleague who is training to become a personal coach. I bought the book and took the online assessment.

Here’s how it wentStrengths Finder 2.0. The assessment takes approx. 30 minutes with roughly 120 questions that seek to determine your preferences between two personal tendencies. For instance, would you agree that you look to the past to understand the future of do you go with the flow? Only 20 seconds is allocated for each questions which means a gut reaction is necessary. After the assessment is over your strengths are tabulated.

Here’s a summary of my top 5:

Restorative – People who are especially talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.

Adaptability – People who are especially talented in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.

Responsibility – People who are especially talented in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty

Intellection – People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.

Strategic – People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

I love that I got ‘restorative’ and ‘strategic’, sounds like something I can brag about. Now I usually take these assessment with a grain of salt as many are similar to reading your horoscope (written in broad strokes that can be applicable to anyone). But what I find helpful about the Strengths Finder is the amount of detail and description available for each strength. They also list many different ways of capitalizing on your strengths and ways of working with others who posses it.

I plan to pour through my results more closely.  I’d love use these results to better the way that I work and to find me continued career satisfaction.


Personal Learning Network – Part 1

One of the major assignments I’m currently working on as part of my Masters program at O.I.S.E. is a ‘Personal Learning Network’ project for the course Internet, Adult Education and Community Development. The objective of the assignment is to develop my cyber-literacy skills to be able to direct my own professional development and to be an independent learner. I’ll document my learning in this blog.

 My personal learning plan project will attempt to answer the following question:
What types of career advancement opportunities are available to me once I complete my Masters of Education degree?

‘What might I do with my M.Ed?’ is a question I’ve contemplated since before I was accepted into the O.I.S.E. program. For me, career advancement was one of the main reasons for completing a masters. Statistics show that graduates with master’s degrees are more likely to be employed than those with only a bachelor’s degree (the same study showed that a graduate with a master’s degree earned about 25 per cent more than those who had only a bachelor’s). A master degree in Adult Education seemed like a natural progression since I currently work at the Rotman School of Management with adult learners. An M.Ed would make me eligible for more senior managerial roles in the organization. But is that what I really want to do? My diverse background in design, business, and education suggest a different path more inline with my preference for creativity and hands-on application of knowledge. A.Mistry 2015Pursuing a PhD or working at a not-for-profit as many of my M.Ed peers have done could be an interesting new direction for my career but is incongruent with my career path so far. It would benefit me greatly to explore future possibilities even though staying in my current position is an option. As the end of my program inches closer I would like to devote my time and energy to answering this question in a meaningful and actionable way.

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify 5 specific career advancement opportunities available to me upon graduation.
  • Define 5 reasons why I would be well suited to these opportunities (relevant skills, experience, interests) and 3 reasons why these opportunities would be meaningful to me (career advancement, stimulating).
  • Develop a plan to pursue the career advancement opportunities best suited to me.

Research Plan:

  • Research profiles of M.Ed. graduates on LinkedIn (contact and follow up when appropriate)
  • Research common career paths for M.Ed. graduates
  • Research businesses and organizations that hire M.Ed. graduates
  • Join and participate in online adult education networks
    Contact OISE and U of T career services
  • Complete personal and career assessment profiles to determine strengths and preferences
  • Update research plan as needed