My husband also ties his tongues in knots when people ask him what I do. Leave it to my mother-in-law, on our way to my grad school commencement (Penn State, baby!), to nail it perfectly. She asked, on the ride out to Malvern, "So what is it you do again?" I gave her the list below to explain it better.
She read it, looked at me, and said, "So basically, you create the tools companies use to train their employees." Yes! I actually sent myself a text message at that very moment so that I wouldn't forget her words.
I love my job. I love getting to be creative every day. I love helping people learn things. My undergrad at Elizabethtown College (Pennsylvania) was in English Education, which means I was supposed to be a high school English teacher. After doing my student teaching, however, I decided I didn't want to deal with all that paperwork, so I went the corporate training route.
Here's what I gave her to read (and what I have posted on my wall at work):
I am an instructional designer...
- I help people learn new things.
- I solve problems in training, or find people who can.
- I use lots of different tools in my job; some are “things” like computers and videos, other tools are ideas, like knowing something about how people learn and principles of design.
- I know a lot about these tools, but I now I have to use them competently and creatively for the task at hand before they will work.
- I resist doing things only because “we’ve always done it that way,” but I’m also careful not to fall for fads or gimmicks.
- I always try to take the point of view of the person who is going to be using the stuff I make while I’m making it; that’s really hard, so I get people to try out my stuff as soon as I can to see what I am doing wrong.
- I’m not afraid to say, “Yes, that’s a better way to do it.”