Instructional Designers Wanted: Transferrable Skills To Master

Instructional Designers Wanted: Transferrable Skills To Master
Summary: If you are looking to make the leap to Instructional Design don’t discount these soft skills.

They Are Called Soft Skills For A Reason

Instructional Designers (IDs) come from a variety of educational and experiential backgrounds. The diversity of everyone’s collective experience is what makes every course unique and enriches the entire profession. While there are specific skills that definitely come in handy, there are many other transferrable or “soft” skills that IDs use. These transferrable skills can be learned and refined by anyone in any professional capacity. If you are looking to make the leap to Instructional Design don’t discount these soft skills.

1. Communication

Good communication is critical. Oftentimes you must explain to the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and other stakeholders how you conceptualize the ways in which you can create an eLearning course. This means that you will have to think of ways to communicate this information without using advanced technical knowledge that could confuse others. Even more confusing than the technical language is educational jargon like success criteria and formative/summative assessment. These concepts will also need to be translated in a way that is accessible to everyone, and thus the ability to communicate, and communicate clearly, is imperative. Luckily for you, good communication skills evolve over time and with practice, which is why you can transfer this skill into any ID role.

2. Teamwork

Instructional Design work is very collaborative. While you may actually build the course on your own, this does not negate the need for teamwork. Being a contributing member of a team isn’t something exclusive to one job—it’s for everyone, everywhere. Whether you are meeting with project sponsors, brainstorming with colleagues, or participating in a community of practice, you need to work well with others. As an ID, your ability to be a positive team member will include offering others support, providing leadership when necessary, and problem-solving. These aspects all happen outside of the physical environment for eLearning course development. So, if you are tempted to think you don’t have what it takes to be an ID ask yourself if you work well with others because sometimes, that’s half the job!

3. Creativity

The best part about this soft skill is that it’s subjective. Everyone has creativity skills: okay, maybe you get stuck in a rut once in a while but that doesn’t mean your creative abilities disappear. While you don’t need to be a graphic designer to be an ID, you must exercise your creative muscles. One of the top characteristics of a creative person is curiosity, and I have yet to meet someone who isn’t curious. When designing eLearning courses, depending on the software available to you, of course, the sky’s the limit. There is no cap to creativity. No two screens need to, or should, look the same. Creativity is a skill that is fostered and built and you might be surprised to learn that inspiration can hit at any moment. When you are marketing yourself for an ID role, a portfolio can be useful as a way to showcase your creative talents. No matter what, just because you may not be able to "draw" or "paint", don’t sell yourself short in the creativity department.

4. Work Ethic

You might be wondering why this soft skill is on the list. Brace yourself—being an ID is hard work. Yes, it is rewarding but it is also a lot of juggling projects, meeting deadlines, and fulfilling expectations. In order to do all these things (and more) you need to possess a strong work ethic. This includes excellent time management, being overly organized, and demonstrating a commitment to a job well done. Someone with a good work ethic is reliable, productive, and cooperative. Developing a strong work ethic takes opportunity and practice. Due to the demanding nature of Instructional Design, you will have the perfect opportunity to practice. All in all, you can have every soft skill mentioned here, but if you lack a good work ethic, it’s really all for naught. As an ID, not only do you represent your clients but you are also representing the entire field, so be sure to put your best foot forward.


If you have ever wondered what skills you need to be an ID—that you don’t need specialized training for—look no further. Mastering these soft skills is a good way to make you stand apart from the competition. If you can articulate how you can use these transferrable skills as an Instructional Designer, you are well on your way to success. These soft skills are often overlooked because they happen in the background and are not directly correlated to course design, but that doesn’t mean they are insignificant. They are called soft skills are a reason. They all contribute to how you work and it can be difficult to describe one’s interpersonal attributes. Now that you know how to transfer the core skills you are ready to land your first gig as an Instructional Designer. I know you’ll rock it!