Welcome to another edition of “Reader Questions”! Here’s a questions from Terry that he left on the 50+ Jobs for Former Teachers link roundup. Do you have a question? Leave a comment on this post or contact me!
I’ve been following your blog now for a few months and I have a question regarding the skill set needed for say an Instructional Designer position. I have been watching LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Indeed job sites for job openings and many of those jobs under IDS say things like Captivate, Wimba, iSpring, LAMS among a host of other Learning Management Systems are necessary to perform designated job duties. How does one become proficient in these software systems that are prohibitively expensive?
Having conducted a few informational interviews with trainers and designers, they all say get the ATD (formerly ASTD) certification (also very expensive). Does one really have to spend money on either training or certification to become a skilled Instructional Designer? I spent a bit on my Masters and don’t want to set myself back any further. As a long-time EFL teacher ready to bring the family back home, any advice on building a portfolio or updating the résumé would be helpful as well.
Thanks for your time Sarah and I hope that my question helps others looking for similar answers!
– Terry in USA
Thanks so much for stopping by with a comment! Like all things career, the answer to your awesome question is complicated and takes a little gambling. Here’s how I see it:
1. Yes, Hiring Managers Like Degrees
An advanced degree will almost always help you get an interview and then possibly get the job. A degree or certification not only indicates knowledge and experience, but it also indicates commitment. That allows hiring managers feel safe knowing you’re a professional. (Keep in mind, though, that an advanced teaching degree such as a Master’s in Arts in Teaching counts as an advanced degree! My husband once got the interview for an ISD job based on his Master’s in Arts in Teaching degree and by doing a few of the things listed below.)
2. But That’s Not All They Like
…However, an advanced degree is not the only way to establish knowledge, experience, and commitment! It’s just the easiest, and that’s why it’s so expensive (It can be done good, fast, or or cheap, but you only get to pick two, right?).
I deeply believe that anyone can put together a self-education path using free and low-cost resources online that will establish them as a professional in a given field. (See also: The Personal MBA at http://personalmba.com/manifesto/).
For the example of ISD, you’re absolutely correct that the technologies are prohibitively expensive. But there are a few workarounds to get *some* experience on your resume: each of the platforms offers a free trial, so you could download one per month over the summer with a book from the library and throw yourself into creating sample lessons and learning experiences (a spec portfolio). For bonus points, you could also time the trial for when you have an interview so that you could custom create a learning experience for the company you interview with.
You could also get in touch with a nearby library or college library and see what technology they offer (for free) on their onsite computers (AKA the local library where I live has a digital media lab with a 3D printer and other crazy things I don’t even know about). So… it’s definitely not easy, but it’s doable if you wanted to hack it.
3. You Can Cherry Pick Your Job Applications
You may not qualify for a job at a company that prefers the creme de la creme experts with advanced degrees, but that’s fine because you don’t need a job there, you just need a job to get your foot in the door.
When you’re taking the self-educated path, I would focus on smaller businesses like start-ups that want the skills but can’t pay big bucks for the education and experience. They’ll be more likely to 1) not care that your degree is in something related but not specific, or 2) that you created your portfolio on spec (they just want to see your work). They’re also less likely to do the impersonal form application, which is a real pain and unlikely to lead to a job (the majority of people still find jobs through good old fashioned personal acquaintances).
4. Everyone Loves a Hard Worker
Self-education and hard work may not be as sexy to some hiring managers as an advanced degree, but it is darn attractive to most realistic ones!
Think about it in terms of what people want to see in a job candidate. A genuine, hard-working person who is committed to ISD and can explain how his teaching career lead him to realize that he was meant to be an ISD (with a great self-made portfolio) would definitely hold sway.
Finally, I have it on good authority from a director of HR friend that a self-educated candidate who put the time into building the portfolio and could demonstrate the necessary skills for a job in his interview/portfolio/sample work would be an attractive candidate for a job.
I hope this helps, Terry! The #1 thing is to be persistent once you know what you want. I know the process is difficult and frustrating, but “the world will get out of the way for a man on a mission!”