Being thrown back into the job hunting market has made me acutely aware of the fact that nobody understands what I do. Methinks it’s time for an intro to my world and what it is I actually do. I do not design software. I do not fix computers. I do not produce marketing materials. And I am not restricted to only working in the industry of my last job (healthcare).
I am an instructional designer. What exactly does that mean? I get a lot of blank stares and misinterpretations about my profession. First question posed to me: So, you are like an architect/interior designer? Half the time it’s architect, the other half it’s interior designer. Not so much.
I then expand and say something to the effect of, “I design instruction or training on the computer..,” thinking that will clear things up. All they hear is computer, and then the questions begin.
Person 1: So you design software?
Person 1: So, you fix computers?
Me: Not really.
Person 1: Well, I’ve been having the darnedest time with my computer.
Person 1: So is that some kind of marketing thing?
Rinse and repeat.
I try the computer route because I think it will make it easier to understand. Apparently, I’m wrong. Invariably, what I end up boiling it down to is something like, “I make training.” Yes, I feel like a caveman. But, that seems to be the only thing people really comprehend. I’m not saying people are idiots; it’s just that the light bulb doesn’t flicker until the words “make training” enter the picture.
So, why is that? Is our profession that obscure that we can’t even describe it? Maybe I’m not being eloquent enough. I dunno. Ha! I do know that I knew nothing of instructional design before I stumbled into a class in my “I wanna be a teacher” phase of graduate school. I’m thankful I took that class because I found my passion and love my profession (apparently, I just can’t explain it). I would put a hefty wager on the bet that most people have never heard of instructional design. Actually, I know they haven’t. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be compared to an architect or an interior designer!
I think in my next couple of posts I am going to try to get to the essence of what I do and perhaps a little of who I am. What does it mean to be an instructional designer? Should we even use that term? Maybe I’m a multimedia developer or an e-learning architect. But, where does that lead us? Those titles are as ambiguous as instructional designer. Let’s face it, instructional designer doesn’t provide the immediate understanding of words like doctor, teacher, and firefighter. Maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe I’m trying to dumb it down, but I don’t think so. I find it ironic that in a profession whose goal is to design and build solid, concise instructional materials, we can’t even come up with an understandable and recognizable name. What do you think? How do you describe what you do? Do we need a new title or just a better description of the one we have?