Autodidacticism is self-directed learning. The advent of the internet and child technologies such as MOOCs has made self-directed learning easier, cheaper, and more beneficial than in the past. Consequently it has also become more common.
There is a signaling problem with this self-directed learning. The non-standard format of this kind of learning makes it hard for employers to compare potential hires. This article will discuss 5 solutions.
- Build a portfolio. If you really learned how to do things, it’s often better to show a potential employer those actual things rather than talk about how you took the class.
- Get a credential. Credentials include certificates of performance or participation, badges, certifications, or even a publicly viewable user account.
- Leverage recognized institutions. There are thousands of companies out there who can give you credentials, but any given employer isn’t going to recognize most of them. Due to the risk averse nature of most people including employers, they will devalue a credential from a certifying organization they are unfamiliar with. Try to use known institutions such as MIT or Harvard’s open course offerings, or use a well known supplier of alternative education such as Coursera or Udemy. In some cases it’s OK to use a smaller institution if you know your employer is aware of it. For example, Codecademy and Code School are pretty small but most people in the field of web development know them and like them.
- Prefer evidence-based credentials and comparative signaling credentials. Being able to say you scored 96% on a competency test is far more powerful than presenting a certificate of participation. That 96% figure becomes even more impressive when you can say only 1% of test takers have scored that high.
- Conduct additional research to build interview talking points. Some accrediting agencies will clearly tell you how others in the class did and sometimes that information is not clear but somehow available. If you took an online class consider emailing the teacher and asking about your class rank. Perhaps wider information is available on the web in a different but useful form. For example, maybe there is information that people who received a particular certification received higher than average pay. The point is to communicate, or signal, that this class you took or skill you gained has actual value.