This is the last installment of my series on instructional design careers. Links to the rest of the series are at the end of this post. Previously, I’ve talked about the skills instructional designers need and about ideas for finding a job. In this post I want to talk about figuring out if instructional design is a good “fit” as a career. This is less about the skills and more about the desire; it’s about figuring out if someone would be happy working as an instructional designer.
Working Behind the Scenes
In one of my former jobs, I interviewed a lot of candidates for instructional designer openings. A fair number of these candidates were teachers who wanted to change careers, and we always asked those candidates how they would feel not having direct interaction with students. That’s one of the important considerations for teachers and trainers who are used to being up in front of a room full of people. If you’re thinking about a career in instructional design, ask yourself: will I be happy working “behind the scenes” instead of directly with students? If the answer is no, then maybe this isn’t the right fit for you. Of course, there are positions that combine instructional design with student interaction; Wendy Wickham does everything.
Working with SMEs
Working “behind the scenes” doesn’t mean you don’t work with people though. Building relationships with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) is an important part of what we do as well. Knowing how to work with content experts and guide them through the course development process is crucial. Every organization has different expectations for how IDs and SMEs work together, but this is often a close collaborative relationship. If you hate having someone else act as the expert, you probably won’t enjoy being an ID; our job is to be experts on designing the learning, (usually) not experts in the content.
Learning & Using Technology
I won’t belabor the point about technology skills again here since I’ve posted about it previously. However, if you really dislike learning new technology, instructional design probably isn’t a good career fit. Of course, I think everyone in every job needs to learn how to learn at least some technology, but that’s a larger conversation on lifelong learning and literacy.
One of my favorite parts of being an instructional designer is that I am always learning something new. That seems to be a common characteristic of instructional designers; we see the opportunity to continuously learn as a benefit of the job.
Helping Others Learn
To feel fulfilled in a career as an instructional designer, I think you have to enjoy helping people learn. I personally prefer working in the education field because I feel like I am making a difference. Even software training can make people’s lives better in a small way though. The best instructional designers I’ve worked with have been excited by figuring out ways to create great learning experiences. Technology gets us motivated because of the opportunities for learning it creates; design methods and research are tools that make us more effective. Everything revolves around helping people learn. More than anything else, I think that desire to help others learn is what drives the best instructional designers.
If you’re someone considering a career in instructional design, I hope this series has given you some insight on what we do, how we do it, and why we like it.
Other Posts in this Series
- What Does an Instructional Designer Do?
- Getting Into Instructional Design
- Instructional Design Skills
- Technology Skills
- Professional Organizations and Career Options
- Is Instructional Design the Right Career? (current post)
Update: Read all my posts about Instructional Design Careers here.