Dr. Greg Williams, the Director of University of Maryland’s online graduate program in Instructional Systems Development, recently led a Learning Views webinar on the importance of professional portfolios. Dr. Williams leveraged his 25+ years experiences as a professor, instructional designer, eLearning developer, training, and consultant to guide the audience through the fundamentals and more sophisticated approached to constructing portfolios.
We invite you to review the Learning Views webinar recording in addition to accessing Dr. Williams’ detailed notes below. To contact him for more portfolio tips or to inquire about the online graduate program offerings, we encourage you to visit Dr. Williams' website.
What is a Portfolio? A portfolio is a collection of work samples that document and demonstrate your professional knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies in a tangible way.
Most people think about portfolios that are used to demonstrate their abilities to employers and potential employers. There is no one right approach when it comes to what should be included in a career portfolio. A portfolio is tangible evidence of knowledge that you have, a skill that you possess, or a demonstration of a personal competency.
The purpose of a portfolio is to provide employers and clients with documented evidence that you possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are required to perform successfully
Why Is a Portfolio Important? In our profession, your portfolio may be the most important factor as to whether or not you get hired. Simply put, if you do not have a portfolio, there is a very good chance that you will not get hired. Even if you interview well, without a portfolio you probably won’t get the job.
A basic portfolio can include items such as your resume, employee evaluations, letters of reference, and a list of career accomplishments.
In addition to the basic contents, additional items should be added for learning professionals. This list is not inclusive, but serves as one example:
We are fortunate that we work in a field that has some well-defined professional standards. The Association for Talent Development (ATD) has done a good job of researching, defining, and establishing the skills and competencies for learning and development professions. For a complete list, please visit the ATD website. For your portfolio, you need to select work samples that demonstrate these competencies.
We can’t assume that everyone who views your work samples will know what they are or understand them. Given that, we need to provide people with a simple introductory cover sheet for each work sample. I strongly suggest that you use the Competency, Context, Action, Results (CCAR) format that I created:
Competency: Identify the competency
Context: Describe situation
Action: Describe what you did & why
Results: Describe outcomes; use measurable results if possible
Competency: Designing Learning
Context: Sales revenue down after hiring new sales reps
Action: Created company’s first online sales training course
Results: Sales revenue rose 24.7% during the quarter after the course was implemented
There are a number of ways to display, distribute, or showcase your portfolio. In the past, people displayed their portfolios using a website that either they created or paid someone to create for them. Today there are many good free website tools (e.g. Weebly, Wix) you can use to create your own website without having any advanced technical skills. Beware of spending too much time on designing the website.
Another popular way to share your portfolio is using simple file sharing program such as Google Drive, DropBox or Box. You may be better off spending time on developing and polishing your work samples rather than developing a website. However you choose to distribute or display your portfolio, remember that you are in control. You can decide who sees what, whether or not they can view or download files, etc.
Here are the biggest mistakes to avoid regarding portfolios and related career issues:
Not Having a Portfolio – The biggest mistake people make is to not have a portfolio at all. In general, creating a portfolio is not hard, but it does take time.
Not Having an Updated Portfolio – Many people say they have a portfolio. However, when you ask them if it is ready to submit to an employer for a job, they often say no. If your portfolio is not ready to be viewed by an employer, it’s the same as not having one.
Outdated Knowledge, Skills, Experience – Some work samples age very well. Others do not. For example, a good design document never really is outdated. However, a multimedia production create in an obsolete program like Authorware or Macromedia Robo Demo screams “I’m stuck in the 1990s”. Review your sample pieces for shelf life and applicability to today’s needs.
Sharing Propriety Info – Some people work for organizations that have policies prohibiting sharing work samples or company information with anyone outside of the company. If this applies to your work samples, don’t share those!
Irrelevant Info – While it might be interesting that you have a great video of yourself playing the ukulele, employers won’t care. Worse, they will hold it against you. Only use work samples that are relevant to a job requirements.
Not Having a Cover Sheet for each Work Sample – Make sure people know what they are viewing when they look at your work samples by developing a cover page for each work sample.
To move forward, consider taking these following action steps: