Lost your job? Put down that remote and listen here! Burrowing a groove in your couch is not getting you any closer to that dream job you want. Why not use your unemployed hours to build your resume?
I recently secured my dream job after three depressing months as a laid-off, former high school teacher. I was telling a friend how I made the transition to an Instructional Designer at the university level, and he said I should write an article about it– so here it is!
Last year, I learned of the position of Instructional Designer– basically someone who helps college professors integrate technology in their course designs– and I knew that it must be mine. As a teacher I have grown increasingly interested Web 2.0 tools as a way to enhance learning in the 21st Century. This interest has inspired me to explore blogging, not just for my class but as a way to document my own learning on topics of tech in education. It also led me to my current love affair with WordPress (both as a blogger and designer).
When I got laid off last August, I decided I wanted to use the time to learn WordPress (how to set one up, design it, and understand it deeply), and to get involved with organizations that were doing cool things with computers here in the Bay Area. I thought (rightly, it turns out) that if I stay active and keep exploring the road between me and an Instructional Designer position, it could only be a good thing.
I started volunteering with the Marin Computer Resource Center, a non-profit that takes donated old “e-waste” computers and rebuilds them into working machines, then gives them to people in need. They are awesome. They taught me how to take old computers apart, fix ’em back up, and install Linux on them. I got a free education in computer repair, saved some landfills, helped some people, and my awesome manager Benji offered to serve as a reference for me in my job hunt. Even without a job, I had an employer who was willing to rave about me. This paid off later…
I joined a number of Meetup.com meetups related to blogging, social media, and web design. These free or low-cost meetups helped me meet a lot of people with interesting experiences in the field I wanted to go into. It was great to get a sense of what the world of hardcore bloggers & designers looks like from the inside, and to learn more about current issues in the field.
This led me to an amazing resource in Oakland called TechLiminal, a technology salon where they host classes, evangelize WordPress and Drupal, and help community members take advantage of social media technology. One morning I went down there and introduced myself, and was surprised to find that I could come hang out and work, learn WordPress design, and sit in on classes. I told Anca, the owner, about my passion for blogging and my experience as a teacher, and she asked if I would like to guest-host the Blogger’s Support Group on Friday afternoons?
That experience led to an ongoing teaching position at TechLiminal, working with bloggers and serving as a writing coach and WordPress geek. It didn’t pay very much at all (it was donation-based, so I usually walked out with less than it cost to park!) but the experience was invaluable. We would raise questions and challenges that drove my learning forward, and they forced me to write constantly, which I did– about educational technology.
To keep up with the “Blogging Challenge” we set ourselves, I wrote a post or two per week, discussing various Web 2.0 technologies and how they might be used in the classroom. I learned more about how to publicize my blog and attract viewers using social bookmarking tools.
After a few weeks of this intensive writing schedule, I realized that I had a pretty decent collection of interesting articles here at TedCurran.net, so I got a free email address at this domain, ted[at]tedcurran.net, and started adding it to my resume.
Not too long later, I got an interview with a university, and my “boss-to-be” noticed my email address, put TedCurran.net into her web browser, and saw real, written evidence of my understanding of tech in education. A blog, when done right, is an ongoing document of your thinking, learning, and growth on a certain topic.
During the interview, she told me that she had read my blog and that she was impressed with the ambition it shows– that I actually stayed active and kept growing while I was out of work. I can only think how much more attractive this made me look as a candidate. I had pages and pages of written proof that I understand tech in ed, web design, and Web 2.0. In addition to the body of writing I had built up, I now had two new employers who were willing to provide a reference for me even in the time I was out of work. I firmly believe that this is what made me stand out from the rest of the crowd.
The Moral of the Story
There’s no better way to prove that you can do the work than actually doing it– pay or no pay. This downtime in your career can be a golden opportunity to regroup, figure out what direction you want to move in, and start working towards it. If you can’t find someone to pay you to do the work you love, start doing it for free and blogging about it!
- How to create a blog (heatherwilchesbrooks.com)
- World wide puddle (blogs.law.harvard.edu)
- Blog Job (theyoungjourno.wordpress.com)
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