One of the recurring questions I hear from those trying to start their instructional design careers is “How do you get experience in the field so you can get your first ID job?”
It feels like a catch-22 for many people trying to get that first ID job: you can’t get any experience until you get a job, and you can’t get a job without experience. For people with a masters degree or certificate, it’s less challenging, especially for those who built portfolios as part of their educational programs. But what about teachers, trainers, or technical writers who are learning on their own and want to demonstrate how their existing skills can transfer to ID? If you’re someone looking to transition from another field into instructional design, what do you create for your portfolio to prove your skills?
One common recommendation is look for volunteer work to get some experience before getting your first job. That’s general advice that would apply to pretty much any field, but it’s especially helpful if you’re looking for an authentic project to create. If you can find a nonprofit organization with a cause you care about it would be a win-win for everyone. You get some experience and a project for your portfolio; a nonprofit gets some free content to further their cause. Local historical societies, museums, or unemployment services offices may be interested in your volunteer work, as might an open source project looking to educate people about their application. Sites like OER Commons and e-learningforkids.org accept content, so you could create something and have it used by real people.
The LINGOs Global Giveback Competition has been another option I’ve often recommended in the past. The deadline for entries for 2010 has passed, but hopefully they will offer another competition again this year. Update: Global Giveback 2012 is currently open for participation.
If you have recently started as an instructional designer, especially if you switched from teaching/training/another field, how did you prove your skills? If you hire instructional designers, what kind of work from candidates has impressed you? Do you know of any organizations looking for volunteers?