Instructional Design Portfolio – One Central Location

For portfolio, keep it simple. Give people one spot to go check you out.

Have you ever been hammered by a business that tells you to connect with them on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other forms of social media? I have worked for a few companies that do this.

The truth is only a few people will connect to a business on Facebook. Some may connect on LinkedIn, and others may only connect on Twitter. Many of us may not connect at all on social media, but we will use the company website.

So in this story, what is it that brings all the social media together? Why is the business bothering with all that stuff? Social marketing is really just a push and reminder, to keep the business in your mind so you will come to the business when you are ready to purchase.

If you are not yet ready to start a blog, your one spot could be your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn allows you to make your profile public. You could simply add some projects to your profile, and expand your profile summary to include new keywords and descriptions of your future work path. I added my brand as my job title, connected several projects, and I created a special section in my LinkedIn profile to capture and highlight my volunteer work, regardless of which employer I work for today.

Although it is popular today for recruiters and job hunters, it is important to remember not everyone uses LinkedIn. Many of us create our own blog or website to give ourselves a central place to show our talents to other people. I do too.

I publish portfolio pieces in different platforms because it gives me flexibility in the tools I use and the target audience. Rather than tell people go here today; go here tomorrow, I bring all my  portfolio publishing together in my blog. Then I advertise that blog through my social media.

On my personal business card I have three things: my blog, my brand and my email address. That is it. I experimented with adding everything else, but it just cluttered the card and the message. Giving people one place to go and check you out is an easy thing for them and for you.

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Do you have an Instructional Design Portfolio?

Job hunting is never easy for an experienced instructional designer. Our work is often proprietary,  confidential, restricted, and hidden from public view.  What we deliver frequently belongs to our employers.

On the flip side, potential employers expect us to be constantly adding tools, networking, and building a strong portfolio of work samples. Instructional designers help people learn. So we should be constantly learning and showing our value.

Today, a public portfolio of instructional design work is expected by most employers. Many job applications will ask for your public-facing website. College programs help their students build portfolios before they graduate with their instructional design certificate. Contract work is on the rise. As a contractor, one must maintain one’s own business, and a portfolio is how you sell yourself.   

Build your portfolio while you are employed. Don’t wait. Invest in yourself.

I’m speaking from my own experience. Over a four-year period, I spent one year hunting for jobs and building portfolio while unemployed. It wasn’t easy. Experts like Tom Kuhlmann back me up. In 2012, I heard him make this point to over 100 instructional designers in a workshop. Tom is passionate on this topic. Do it while you have a job.  

Not enough time? Think of portfolio work as a series of small projects, a 10-hour project in two weeks or a 30-hour project within a month. Then look at your weekly workload. In a 50-hour week, can you set aside 10% of your time (5 hours) to work on your portfolio and learn something new? If you have a boss and an organization that expects you to learn, you may be able to work with them to align your portfolio work with your development goals.  

Still not convinced? There are positive benefits.

By building a portfolio, you will be able to test out your ideas, alter them and refine your portfolio to highlight what you do best. You can learn new skills or new tools, and you may discover a new path to follow. You can try fresh ideas on the public with little risk, because you are offering something to the world for free. You can see where you stand with your peers, and work on your gaps or weaknesses. You can set up your personal computing devices with your favorite tools and do projects you would not normally do at work.

Plus, your current employer benefits from your learning whether you make them aware of it or not. Learning new skills and tools makes you a better employee, and more desirable within your organization.

A portfolio can make you feel more confident about your future. Opportunity knocks at unexpected times. Jobs and organizations change rapidly. With a portfolio, you will be ready to open the door to your next job tomorrow, next year, or when HR calls the meeting for another layoff.

A portfolio can help you see yourself in a new light. We often see ourselves and our work in the context of the organization and team. If the team and organization reward us, we feel satisfied and competent. If they do not, we feel discouraged and unmotivated. Through your portfolio, you may find another way to belong, bump up your self-esteem, and achieve self-actualization (quoting Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).

Along the journey, you will find surprises. I was surprised when my first SlideShare post attracted 300 people on Halloween night. When I tried my YouTube pie-making video, I learned about the challenges of being on camera. It was fun, the pie was good, and my family and friends enjoyed it. When I shared my instructional design work with peer groups, I realized I knew more than I thought I did. I am absolutely amazed that over 15,000 people have viewed one small 2014 project Leadership Sources of Power on SlideShare.net with very little self-promotion.

The best part about building a portfolio is that it belongs to you. You invest in yourself. Investing in yourself is the path to build earning potential and a strong financial future no matter what happens with the economy. You are a good investment in uncertain times.

Where to start? I know. It is like a blank piece of paper staring at you. Do you create a webinar, video, an e-learning course, podcast, blog, or build a game or lab? What content do you use? Which tool do you use? Where do you share it?

Over the next month, I’m going to write about getting started with your portfolio:

  1. Research: Look for portfolio examples and ideas that appeal to you.  
  2. Produce: Plan and create your own project.
  3. Share: Publish and share your work; solicit and respond to feedback.

Each one of us is unique and different. We are all traveling different directions. So I won’t tell you exactly what to do. Instead, I will share my experiences to help you brainstorm, and get started with your own ideas. That way you can form your own path and direction.

Next week, I will write more on the topic of Research, that is, how to seek portfolio examples and ideas that appeal to you.  

A Research Paper for the Portfolio

Employers want proof. So you say you are a writer? What have you published?

Most of my professional writing cannot be published on my website. My work is often sold directly by my employers or restricted to inside publication.

If you have that problem too, take a closer look at opportunities to write elsewhere. For example, I write research papers often for college courses.

Today I posted this research paper on the ADDIE and Kirkpatrick training models for my portfolio:

A Training Models study

I wrote this paper for a short cram course entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” based on the popular work of Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Yes, I will “Sharpen the Saw” often. I am a life-long learner.

What do you do to prove what you’ve done? How can you capture and show someone your greatest achievements?

Creating a Portfolio

Employers want proof. It is not all applications and interviews. When you finally have someone’s attention, job hunting is about what you have done.

Handing someone an entire book won’t work either. You have to scrub it, strip it down and make it digestible. Think short and sweet. A few minutes will be all the time you have to make your point.

Good news! Creating a portfolio does not mean spending a lot of money. I have created everything here with tools I already own or by using free evaluation software. YouTube, WordPress and SlideShare host my content for free. What you will spend is time. It’s worth it.

Today I’m celebrating as I post this portfolio piece. On to the next one!

A technical writing project describing online banking software through flow charts, test scripts and detailed instructions.

What do you do to prove what you’ve done? How can you capture and show someone your greatest achievements?