Recently a number of employers and ex graduates have come to speak to my MA class about the work of a technical writer/instructional designer in industry and the employment opportunities that a prospective technical writer/instructional designer might hope to encounter.
It is always nice to step outside the academic sphere for, even a short, indulgent, look at the real world and possibilities for future employment. It is very uplifting to allow oneself to imagine a time when salary scales and dental plans will occupy our minds to a greater degree than assignment deadlines and dissertation hypotheses.
Overall, the prospects seem quite positive, with all guest speakers providing hopeful soundings re the breath of opportunities, the variety of roles within these opportunities and the support structures that exist for newcomers in the technical writing/ instructional design workforce.
Some employers are eager to draw attention to their graduate programmes, which enable the fledgling technical writer/instructional designer to learn on the job from workplace mentors. This particular avenue was popular with all of the MA students, as it reduces the fear factor inherent in occupying any new position, namely that too much will be expected of you from the outset and that your academic training will not translate into actionable, real world skills, useful to your employer.
Most speakers have emphasised the importance of having a well maintained LinkedIn presence. One speaker in particular stated that he frequently uses LinkedIn to input the requisite skills and experience for positions he hopes to fill, and recruits from candidates highlighted in the search results. He told the group that he preferred to use this method above recruitment agencies, which he likened to used car salesmen!
All employers were at pains to highlight the need for prospective employees to emphasise skills and qualifications that set them out from the crowd, that prove to recruiters that their skill-set and work ethic would bring added value to a workplace/team. Amongst the advice provided in this vein was to tailor skills to suit a prospective employer e.g. developing a proficiency in using learning and content management systems (LCMS) such as Moodle and Udemy to demonstrate to an employer that you would be joining their team with skills that are useful and possibly novel.
I must be honest, I am finding all this talk about job hunting and workforce expectations quite daunting. Since graduating from college, many moons ago, I have been lucky enough to occupy permanent, pensionable, ‘safe’ positions. I haven’t been an interviewee for quite a long time, in fact, most of the management positions I have held have involved my participation on the other side of the table, as one of a panel of interviewers. You might imagine that this experience would provide me with reassurance that, having seen the mistakes and missed opportunities of interview candidates from the prospective of the interviewer, I might not fall victim to the same, if and when I am an interviewee myself. However, whilst I have gained useful insights into the pitfalls of the interview process, I am fearful that, having gazed into the chasm, into which many interviewees have tumbled, my familiarity with their missteps might result in my aping their demise. In my mind, it is a little like the Don’t Press the Red Button sign, although you know that you shouldn’t, you are overcome with an impulse to do it all the same! Despite these fears, my hope is that, armed with all my newly acquired skills, I will be emboldened to sell myself to an employer in a manner that convinces them that they cannot continue to operate without me!
Wish me luck.