As part 2 of my “How to Market Yourself in Educational Technology” post, I’ll explain some tips and ideas for those in ed tech that will soon be making the transition into the professional sphere. You’ll likely encounter a broad range of companies and groups that may end up being future partners or employers, and these six thoughts may help you make more informed decisions. This is, after all, your career.
The short list
There are certainly enough ideas to make an extended list beyond the scope of this post, but hopefully this will help get people moving in the right direction. If you haven’t read part 1, I suggest you read that article first. Leave comments and suggestions at the bottom of the post or email me!
Attend a ConferenceWhether or not you are in academics, it will be worth your time to attend an education conference. Many technology-focused conferences showcase new trends and advancements, so go to one if you’d like to be on the leading edge of the tech front. Remember my post about Mozilla’s Open Badge Project? I first heard about Open Badges at the DML2012 conference last month, and sure enough the College of Education at UH is looking into piloting a badging system soon.
Appeal to Public and Private EmployersIf you have experience with educational technology, you can easily appeal to both public and private employers by maintaining a professional, yet academic presence in the work you display. Instructional designers and education-focused technology professionals are desired by both educational institutions (K-12/Higher-Ed) and technology companies, so it’s best to keep your options open. Larger tech companies like Zynga and Mozilla usually have a learning group of some kind, so don’t be surprised that the skills you’ve picked up in education systems attracts attention from players in tech world.
Don’t be scared to take Freelance WorkIf you’ve set up your social networks to showcase your work, you’ll likely be approached by people or groups that want your skills on a project basis. Be open to this kind of work as it may open doors for you down the road, allowing others to see the positive professional partnerships you can build. Be realistic about the time commitment involved with a project and get details about what the end-goal of the project is. In the next few weeks I’ll be working up a series of how-to videos on using Prezi in the classroom for an online training group called Fractus Learning, which will be one of my first freelance projects. I’m hoping that the videos will be a success, which will likely bring more opportunities my way.
Understand what an NDA isIf a potential employer asks you to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), you should be proud. If you’ve gotten the point where a group is interested enough to show you their prized product or method, they are serious about working with you. You’re much less likely to encounter this when speaking with educational institutions, but this is common with technology companies. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to think when told I would need to sign an NDA for the first time when speaking with an employer. After consulting with some friends who are veterans of the tech industry, I realized that there’s nothing to be hesitant about with NDAs. When asked, offer to sign in person (if possible) or via an electronic signature. Don’t hesitate.
Don’t commit to any One Product or MethodThe fields of both education and technology are dynamic, and the combination of the two into what we call educational technology is no exception. Sure, it’s great to become an expert at using a specific tool or applying a certain method to developing a project, but keep in mind that technology changes rapidly. It’s a better idea to seek out and use new technology tools regularly, developing your own rubric for evaluating the usefulness of each. How does one note-taking tool compare to another? How about different Content Management Systems (CMS)? Be ready when a new tool offers a significant advantage over those you use right now. You’ll thank yourself later for not getting locked into any one thing.
Look at Job Titles and Descriptions that You may not assume You are right for (and apply!)If you limit yourself to a small group of job titles that you are *sure* you qualify for, you may be missing some great opportunities. In addition to traditional instructional design, you may be a great fit for a position in marketing, communications, or quality assurance/user experience. There’s more overlap between the positions than may appear in the job descriptions and you may as well throw your hat into the ring. As an example, I’ve applied for and been contacted about job positions that had listed a specifically requirement I did not have. Once you get yourself in front of an employer, you’ll have the opportunity to understand the kind of person that the employer is seeking. If the position doesn’t work out, you’ve at least had the chance to show your professional side and that may lead to a different position with the same group. Remember: No application = No chance of an interview.
How do these things apply to you?
As I mentioned in the first post, not all these hints will help everyone directly. They may, however, give you an idea of the experiences professionals have when entering the field of educational technology. While my experience is limited to a degree, I’m aware of much more about the business side of educational technology now than I did three short months ago. I encourage anyone who’s curious about educational technology and instructional design to comment below.