what`s in a career portfolio? - Instructional Systems Development

APRIL 2016
ISSUE 1604
at work
Greg Williams
Career Development
VOL. 33 • ISSUE 1604 • APRIL 2016
Greg Williams
Greg Williams, EdD, is the director of the Instructional
Systems Development graduate program for the University
of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). He has more than
30 years of experience as a teacher, instructional designer,
e-learning developer, trainer, university professor, and
consultant. Find more information at www.gregwilliams.net.
WHAT IS A CAREER PORTFOLIO?.............................................................. 1
WHAT’S IN A CAREER PORTFOLIO?.......................................................... 1
SELECTING ITEMS FOR YOUR PORTFOLIO..............................................2
ORGANIZING YOUR PORTFOLIO...............................................................5
CAREER PORTFOLIO TOOLS....................................................................... 8
SHARING YOUR PORTFOLIO.....................................................................12
USING YOUR PORTFOLIO........................................................................... 13
Community Manager, Career Development
Sue Kaiden
Editor, TD at Work
Patty Gaul
REFERENCES & RESOURCES.......................................................................16
Managing Editor
Teresa Preston
Production Design
Formatting Work Samples for Your Portfolio.................................... 17
Iris Sanchez
Required Skills vs. My Experience....................................................... 18
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rofessionals in a wide range of fields
have been using portfolios for years.
These include artists, graphic designers,
website developers, architects, marketing and
communication professionals, and K-12 teachers.
Think about it. How could an architect really
demonstrate what she does by only telling
someone what her work looked like? By using
actual samples of their work, architects can give
clients a much better idea of their competencies,
the quality of their work, and the value they may
add for an employer.
The learning and development (L&D) arena
is no different. We are increasingly pressed to
demonstrate what value we add to an organization.
Career portfolios are becoming the passport for
entry into the world of employment, or to advance
in one’s career. Because organizations are under
pressure to hire the best employees possible,
they are increasingly requiring applicants to show
evidence of their expertise.
But for learning and development professionals
who have never had a career portfolio, or who have
used only a paper portfolio, many questions arise:
• What should be in a portfolio?
• What tools can I use to document
my expertise?
• How can I be sure I’m making the best use
of my portfolio?
• How do I translate my paper portfolio to an
electronic format?
This TD at Work will explain what a portfolio
is, how to design and develop one, how to use a
portfolio in the job search, and how to use today’s
technology tools to assist in the process.
A professional portfolio is a career development
tool that can communicate and demonstrate
an applicant’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and
competencies with documented evidence
of performance.
A portfolio can be used in several different
ways—a core one being to get a job. Not only
does a career portfolio communicate your
competencies, but it also provides tangible proof
of your abilities in real-life situations. Think about
a typical interview situation. Candidates are asked
to tell what they know and what they can do.
Wouldn’t it be better for candidates to provide
samples of their work? This makes it easier for an
employer to assess the applicants’ abilities.
You have undoubtedly heard that training is
the first thing to be cut when budgets get tight.
Portfolios provide an opportunity for learning
and development professionals to demonstrate
their worth to the organization using documented
evidence of performance.
Just as with a resume, there is no one right
way to create a career portfolio. There are no
standard specifications, but there are strategies
and approaches that separate good portfolios
from bad ones, which we’ll learn in this issue of
TD at Work. A person who has a well-designed
and developed portfolio will stand out when
competing for jobs. In a competitive job market,
if all other things are about equal, candidates
without a portfolio will likely lose out to those
who have one.
While portfolios are popular in many different
professional fields, this TD at Work is specifically
intended for professionals in the learning and
development arena.
There are basic elements that should be included
in every portfolio, such as a bio. But portfolios
are also a reflection of an individual; therefore,
portfolios should be tailored to the individual
career goals of each person.
Creating a Career Portfolio | 1
Basic Portfolio Components
In addition to the work samples showcasing
a worker’s competencies, a portfolio includes
background information about the individual.
A basic career portfolio for learning and
development professionals may include:
• a brief biography
• a resume, highlighting competencies
and achievements
• a list of references, with names, titles,
and contact information
• a client list with project descriptions
• employee evaluations or other measures
of your performance
• a writing sample
• five to six examples of your work.
Additional Portfolio Components
The following items are examples of additional
materials that may be included in a training
professional’s portfolio. The list is not meant to
be inclusive.
• course design plans or evaluations
• evidence of training delivery (such as videos)
• evidence of projects you have led
or managed
• training needs analysis
• multimedia productions or e-learning
As already mentioned, it’s valuable to have five to
six samples of your work in your portfolio. If you
have some experience in the field, ideally you will
have more than five or six to choose from. To get
started, gather as many good work samples as you
can find to create a “master portfolio inventory”
from which to choose the appropriate items. As
with a resume, it is a good idea to customize your
portfolio for different jobs. Think of your portfolio
2 | Creating a Career Portfolio
as an outfit of clothing. We all have a closet that
contains our clothes. If we want to work out or
exercise, we select an outfit and gear for that
specific task. If you are going to go to an interview,
you select an appropriate outfit for that purpose.
Think of your master portfolio inventory as the
closet from which to choose the appropriate
work samples.
For example, you may want to have one
portfolio that emphasizes management of the
learning function, while another may be geared
for a senior instructional design position. That
doesn’t mean you have to create entirely new and
different portfolios. You can simply choose work
samples from your master portfolio inventory as
appropriate. Just as you have clothing that can be
worn to a number of events, you will have work
samples that can be used for several different
customized portfolios. See the sidebar, Questions
to Ask When Selecting Portfolio Items, to guide
you on which work samples to include.
In addition to biographical information, one
item in your inventory that you can use in all of
your portfolios is a writing sample. Regardless
of the position’s focus, all employers will be
interested in your writing skills. Two types of
writing samples work particularly well. One is a
sample that describes your philosophy of learning
or training. This type of sample not only shows
potential employers how you write but also gives
them some insight into your personal philosophy.
Another sample could be something you’ve actually
used in the workplace. (As I’ll explain in further
detail later, make sure that the sample does not
contain confidential material and that you have
permission to share it.) If you are applying to work
in an organization that uses proposals to solicit
contracts, it would be appropriate to submit a
proposal that you have drafted.
In terms of selecting work samples, you should
choose work that is relevant to your professional
goals as well as the jobs to which you are applying.
qq Who is going to see my portfolio? Are they training professionals, or are they managers who have limited exposure to
the training field?
qq What learning and development needs does the organization have?
qq What problems and challenges does the organization have?
qq Which items represent my best work?
qq Which work samples have shown positive, measurable, and impactful results?
qq What work samples demonstrate my professional competencies?
qq Do my work samples match up with items mentioned in the job description?
qq How will potential employers or clients evaluate my portfolio?
qq Does my portfolio match my resume?
And choose your best work. No one is an expert
at everything. If you are not a great multimedia
developer, don’t dwell on that. Focus on what you
can do well.
Avoid the temptation to say you have extensive
instructional design experience when you don’t.
You can explain to the employer that you have not
had an opportunity to work in that particular area,
or that you have not had enough time to develop
that particular skill. But let people know that you
have at least basic competencies that are required
for the job (only if that is true, of course).
Let’s say that you are applying for jobs that
emphasize skills and competencies in instructional
design. Choose items from your working portfolio
that emphasize those competencies. If you are
applying for a training manager position, on the
other hand, select work products that emphasize
your management capabilities rather than your
instructional design skills. You don’t need to have a
completely different portfolio for every single job,
but you also don’t want to have a generic portfolio
that you use for every situation.
It’s also important to have a well-balanced
portfolio. Unless you are applying for a job as a
Flash developer, your portfolio should not be filled
only with examples of Flash productions that you
have created.
Many people will not read your work samples
all the way through. You should take this into
account when you format and organize your work
samples. It is appropriate to include excerpts of
longer work samples, and you can use graphics
and text formatting to help viewers read your
work samples more easily. As always, the use of
graphics and bullets, bolding, and italics will make
your documents more inviting to read or view.
Finally, make sure you let employers know
that you have more work samples than those you
included in your portfolio. If a potential employer
discusses a particular requirement at the
interview that’s not covered in the work samples
you selected, let the interviewer know that you
have experience in that area and would be happy
to send a work sample that relates to that need.
Providing additional work samples is a good way
Creating a Career Portfolio | 3
for you to have a reason to follow up and stay on
the radar screen as a viable candidate.
It is important to note a few things. Your work
samples should be aligned with your resume and
cover letter. For example, your resume should
mention accomplishments that are included
in your portfolio, and these accomplishments
should be corroborated by work samples in your
portfolio. Make sure to use the same key words
on both your resume and your portfolio work
samples and be sure those key words are the ones
included in most job announcements.
Career Goals
Without well-developed career goals, moving
forward with a portfolio is a waste of time
and effort—yours and, in the end, a potential
employer’s as well. Your career goals help you
determine what to put in your portfolio. If
your immediate career goal is to get a job as an
instructional designer, it is pointless to have
work samples that demonstrate your accounting
expertise. Well-thought-out goals help guide
your actions efficiently, but it takes time, effort,
and some serious soul searching to develop goals.
Most people find it easier to gloss over goals and
dive right into their work samples. But time spent
on developing your career goals will keep you
focused on what you want to be doing both in the
short term and long term. A beneficial resource
that can help you with your search is the June
2015 TD at Work, “Keeping Your Career on Track.”
In terms of short- and long-term goals, a
helpful way of thinking is to work backward from
your ultimate job. For example, if you want to
become a chief learning officer or a senior project
manager, what job (and skills) do you need prior to
Is there a right time to apply for jobs? Do you have the right qualifications and experience? Are you ever ready? How do
you know?
My job at the University of Maryland requires me to teach and advise adult graduate students. A lot of advising revolves
around career issues.
One of my advisees with pain was Sean. He was enrolled in the master’s program in instructional systems development.
Sean was a special education teacher who had spent 20 years working in a K-12 public school system. He was about 40 years
old and wanted to make a career transition from working with high school kids to working with adults in a teaching and
learning capacity.
Sean came to me, explaining that he wanted to apply for an instructional design job he saw advertised. But he wasn’t sure
if he was qualified because he had completed “only” about half of his master’s degree program. I assured him that he already
had a lot going for him. He was an accomplished teacher and trainer, as well as a great thinker and problem solver. I saw a
close enough alignment between the job ad and his skills and experience, and I encouraged Sean to apply. I told him he really
had nothing to lose except the time it would take to get his application materials together.
I saw Sean a month or so later, and he was excited to report that he got the job. He told me that he was surprised because
he knew that people applied who had more experience and who also already had their master’s degree in instructional
systems design.
After congratulating him, I asked him why he thought he got the job over the other applicants. Without hesitating, he
replied that he thought his portfolio made the difference. Almost all the work samples in his portfolio were samples that he
created in his graduate work at the University of Maryland. The samples demonstrated his expertise in instructional design
by showcasing his design plans, instructor guides, tutorials he created using popular software authoring tools, evaluation
instruments, and more. Apparently, the company was impressed with his “real world” work samples and hired him.
What are the lessons learned here? First, the power of a well-designed portfolio cannot be underestimated. Second, if
your credentials are in the ballpark of what is required, then apply for the job. Finally, the only thing you have to lose when
applying for jobs is time.
4 | Creating a Career Portfolio
that job? Next, identify the job and skills you need
prior to that job and so on.
Once you go through this process several
times, it will be much easier for you to see what
your career path should be and what you need to
get to the next step or level.
One additional word of advice: Make sure
your goals are drafted in the SMART format.
That means your goals are Specific, Measurable,
Achievable, Relevant (or Results-focused), and
Where do you start when creating work samples?
A good place to start is to make a list of your top
career accomplishments. These can be used in
your resume and your LinkedIn profile as well as
in the planning of your portfolio.
What’s a good accomplishment? A good
accomplishment is one that solved a real
problem in the workplace or improved a work
situation. Additionally, a good accomplishment
is measurable, for example, “Staff who took the
course I created made 19 percent fewer claims
processing errors.” Here are some examples of job
and career accomplishments:
• Created first e-learning course for the
Department of Human Resources.
• Managed the design, development, and
implementation of a “New Supervisor”
training program.
• Reduced training vendor costs by 23 percent
while maintaining the same level of service
and production.
• Developed and implemented, at no cost
other than staff time, the inaugural
employee coaching program at the Ajax
company to address employee performance.
• Created new blended employee orientation
program for employees. Program enabled
staff to begin their jobs faster. Received 85
percent satisfaction rating from supervisors,
compared to previous rating of 53 percent.
Because I work with college students, I know
how important their career is to them. But they
often wonder how to create a portfolio when
they are first entering the professional world.
At this point, your accomplishments may be
projects you’ve completed for school or through
volunteer opportunities. Many associations seek
professional assistance pro bono. And if you have
completed an internship, experience gained
through it is another possibility. See the sidebar,
How Can I Get Experience? for additional advice.
As I mentioned early in this issue of TD at Work,
just as there are many ways to organize a resume,
there are many ways to organize your portfolio;
the following model is one. No matter which
organizational model you opt for, you should keep
in mind a few guiding questions:
• Who will be reading it?
• Will readers be knowledgeable about
the content?
• Have you chosen your best and most
appropriate work?
• What do the readers know about the
L&D profession?
• Will you always have a chance to
present your portfolio, or will it be
open to interpretation?
Your portfolio should be organized and easy to
navigate. You should have work samples labeled
and have an introductory cover sheet for each. Put
yourself in the shoes of the viewers or the readers.
How will they want to see information laid out?
What type of navigation would they like to see or
use? What information needs to be labeled?
A good practice is to have someone from
outside your field read your portfolio. Having a
pair of fresh eyes—especially those of someone
not familiar with the acronyms and nomenclature
of a particular profession—can provide you
with valuable feedback on how to organize
your information. The last thing you want is for
readers to not be able to find or understand the
information that they view.
Because today’s portfolios are often digital,
most work samples will be an electronic file of
Creating a Career Portfolio | 5
A big dilemma for job seekers is having the required experience to get hired. How do people get experience if they don’t have
it? Another question revolves around career changers who have little experience in a new field: What can they do? How can
you develop work samples without experience?
The good news is that you do have options. The bad news is that there are no quick fixes. Getting experience will take
some time, and you need to be patient.
There are many organizations out there in need of help that may be able to give you the opportunity to build experience.
The three most promising options are:
• professional associations
• nonprofit organizations
• schools.
Professional Associations
If you are interested in getting into the field of learning and development or instructional design, one way to make contacts
and identify opportunities is to join a professional association such as the Association for Talent Development (ATD), the
e-Learning Guild, or other similar organization. If you are a student, many professional associations have heavily discounted
student memberships such as the one ATD provides for students (www.td.org/Members/Student-Membership).
Professional associations usually have local chapters that hold regional meetings, giving you ready access to a local
network in the field. By attending local chapter meetings, you can learn about the latest trends while building a network of
professional colleagues.
Most local chapters need volunteers to help organize meetings, identify speakers, market programs, and manage their
chapter websites. Volunteering to help run your local chapter can provide excellent opportunities to build skills, experience,
and relationships.
Nonprofit Organizations
Nonprofit organizations are always in need of expertise and are often short of funds. If you are not a student, nonprofits are
one of your best sources for volunteer work because for-profits are restricted to offering unpaid internships to students.
If you’re not sure where to begin, look at the opportunities on a site like Volunteer Match (www.volunteermatch.org);
Idealist (www.idealist.org); the Taproot Foundation (www.taprootfoundation.org); or a local volunteer sourcing organization
(most cities have a list of volunteer opportunities).
If none of the listed opportunities meet your needs, identify some local nonprofit organizations you’d like to work with and
contact them. If you have no idea whom to contact, I recommend searching the organization’s website or LinkedIn profile.
Usually, a good place to start is human resources or the education or volunteer coordinator. Research the organization online
to identify some areas of need for the organization that you can help with. For example, if you know you need to develop some
work samples in e-learning, identify organizations that need to provide education in your community. Almost all nonprofit and
community organizations do this sort of outreach, so you should be able to find many opportunities to build your skills.
Talk to your contacts about being an unpaid intern or a volunteer. Tell them that you want to work on projects that will help
build out your professional portfolio. There are many organizations out there that would love to have help, so don’t settle for
projects that do not help you build your professional skills. In theory, you can work as many or as few hours as you would like,
although some organizations will require specific commitments. In a rare instance where things don’t work out, you are free
to move on to another organization that is more compatible with your interests.
6 | Creating a Career Portfolio
If you are a full-time student, your options for gaining experience and building your portfolio are more numerous. Class work,
paid and unpaid internships, and extracurricular activities all provide opportunities to build your skills. Review current job
ads for the type of position that you wish to find and identify the skills that are most frequently requested. This will help you to
focus your efforts on the areas that matter most to employers.
Paid Opportunities
It is sometimes possible to gain experience with a for-profit organization through contract work, part-time opportunities, or
organized paid internships. Sites such as Internships.com and Flexjobs.com may provide you with some leads. And members
of the local chapter of your professional association may be able to assist you with ideas and leads.
While it can be more difficult to find paid opportunities to gain experience, if your skills are in demand, you may be able to
apply for a position on the strength of the work samples you developed in school or through a certificate program (see the
sidebar, Sean’s Story).
So, while it will take some extra effort on your part, gaining experience in a new field is possible if you are both patient
and creative!
some sort. The file should have a descriptive
file name (such as yourname_design_plan.pdf
or your name_job_aid2.pdf). The cover sheet
that introduces the work sample should list the
competency the work sample demonstrates
(competency); provide a context (context);
describe what the applicant did (action); and
describe the outcomes (results).
The easiest way to do this is to use the
following simple C-CAR format.
C ompetency: Identify the competency.
C ontext:
Describe the situation.
A ction:
Describe what you did
and why.
R esults:
Describe outcomes, using measurable results if possible.
Here are some example introductions using
the C-CAR format.
Example 1
C ompetency: Learning design.
C ontext:
Sales revenue down after hiring new sales reps.
A ction:
Created company’s first online sales training course.
R esults:
Sales revenue rose 24.7 percent a quarter after the course was implemented.
Example 2
C ompetency: Training delivery.
C ontext: Remote staff can’t get training. New employees made 27
percent more errors processing claims.
A ction:
Taught company’s first online course in claims processing.
R esults:
Claims processing errors reduced by 17 percent after the course was implemented.
In terms of the C-CAR format, the good
news is that we work in an industry where the
competencies and standards are already well
defined. The competencies that may be the most
familiar are those established by the Association
for Talent Development (ATD). See the sidebar,
ATD Competency Model, for details.
ATD is the premier professional association
in our field, but there are other associations that
have learning and development competency
models. The first is the International Society
Creating a Career Portfolio | 7
of Performance Improvement (ISPI); more
information can be found at www.ispi.org. A
second is the International Board of Standards for
Training, Performance, and Instruction (IBSTPI),
which can be found at http://ibstpi.org. These
organizations have a slightly different approach
and philosophy, which may be helpful to review.
You may be unsure about identifying your
competencies. Organizations increasingly value
a potential employee who shows the ability to
achieve results like these:
• increased revenue or resources
• increased efficiency
• decreased staff time
• decreased costs.
It may be helpful to keep these competencies
in mind when you create and polish your work
It is your responsibility to educate others
about yourself and your skills. Using the C-CAR
format is an excellent way to explain who you are,
what you have accomplished, and how it helped
the organization.
In the past, portfolios were created and shared
in hard-copy format and given in person to
prospective employers. Today we often create
and share portfolios digitally using websites or
file-sharing programs such as Google Drive or
Dropbox. Using these programs helps you control
who has access to your files.
Many hiring managers don’t care if work
samples are posted on a website. Unless you are
applying to be a website developer, the website
is merely the wrapper in which a work sample is
The following are talent development competencies as listed by the Association for Talent Development (ATD) in its 2014
Competency Model:
• Performance Improvement. Apply a systematic process for analyzing human performance gaps and for closing them.
• Instructional Design. Design and develop informal and formal learning solutions using a variety of methods.
• Training Delivery. Deliver informal and formal learning solutions in a manner that is both engaging and effective.
• Learning Technologies. Apply a variety of learning technologies to address specific learning needs.
• Evaluating Learning Impact. Use learning metrics and analytics to measure the impact of learning solutions.
• Managing Learning Programs. Provide leadership to execute the organization’s people strategy; implement training
projects and activities.
• Integrated Talent Management. Build an organization’s culture, capability, capacity, and engagement through people
development strategies.
• Coaching. Apply a systematic process to improve others’ ability to set goals, take action, and maximize strengths.
• Knowledge Management. Capture, distribute, and archive intellectual capital to encourage knowledge sharing
and collaboration.
• Change Management. Apply a systematic process to shift individuals, teams, and organizations from current state
to desired state.
More detailed competency information can be found on the ATD website at www.td.org/Certification/Competency-Model.
8 | Creating a Career Portfolio
contained. The most important thing is the
work sample itself. Therefore, making work
samples available using file-sharing programs
is usually sufficient.
Creating an Electronic Portfolio
While creating an electronic portfolio can be
daunting, it’s actually much simpler than it used
to be. Most portfolios can be created using simple
files and links to hosted content such as videos
or multimedia productions (using, for example,
Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline). The
idea is to create your work samples in a format
that can be easily displayed, shared, and
distributed electronically.
There are three or four basic types of files used
for work samples.
Text Documents: Text documents can be
shared as PDFs or Microsoft Word files. PDF files,
as opposed to files created with Microsoft Word,
may be preferred because they are widely used
and the Adobe Acrobat reader software is free.
PDF files cannot be edited and are more likely
to display properly because they are essentially
pictures of your document.
Videos: Video files are the next type of file that
is commonly used in portfolios. The most common
types are WMV, MPEG-4, and MOV file formats.
Posting your videos to YouTube is likely your best
bet. Nearly all people know how to play video that
is posted on a YouTube site.
Proprietary Formats: Another common type
of file used in portfolios are those created with
Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, or similar
authoring tools. Avoid offering work samples
in obscure or proprietary file formats that the
average person may not be able to open. As with
asking someone else to read your portfolio, it also
makes sense to get someone who is not in our
field to “test drive” your work samples.
Using a Website for Your Portfolio
You can now create your own website without
having any in-depth technical knowledge. There
are a number of free and low-cost website
creation tools that work quite well. These tools
provide templates that you can customize to fit
your own needs.
If you decide to create your own website or
use one that someone has created for you, the
site needs to be simple, uncluttered, and easy to
navigate and use. But note: Having a website is
not required! Your time is better spent on
improving your work samples.
Some of the more popular free or low-cost
website development tools are:
• WordPress.com, a very popular platform
that allows users to create their website
for free. It has several different plug-ins
and templates.
• Google’s iSite and other Google sites that
function like blogs and include widgets and
integration with many other Google tools.
• Weebly, an easy-to-use platform that also
provides free access to a collection of
images for noncopyrighted use.
• Wix, which uses drag-and-drop widgets to
give you flexibility in placement of items.
• Joomla.com, similar to WordPress, has
predesigned templates.
• Adobe Muse, a build-your-own platform
that requires no programming skills or
These are just a few of the more common
tools; there are many others. Because technology
is dynamic, new products are being developed
all the time. Worth noting is Behance.net, which
supports many file-sharing types that the other
tools do not, including interactive programs,
which may make it a better tool to showcase
creative portfolios.
The University of Wisconsin-Stout has posted
a rubric for assessing—either by yourself or by
asking others to do so—how user-friendly your
e-portfolio is, whether it has grammatical errors,
and the like (see References and Resources).
The biggest caution with website development
is the time it requires. While you may not need
in-depth technical expertise to create a website, it
will take time. It is more important to spend time
creating and polishing your work samples than it
is to have a website.
Another thing that can take up a significant
amount of time is the maintenance of your
website. Posting files, changing website navigation,
Creating a Career Portfolio | 9
and updating software is time-consuming. The
site also needs to be backed up, and you need to
decide what you will do if your site goes down. If
you decide to create a website, be sure to have a
plan in place to handle these issues.
Using File-Sharing Programs
for Your Portfolio
Websites are not the only way to distribute your
portfolio. The fastest and easiest way to share
your work samples may be by using file-sharing
These are some of the more common free
programs for sharing and distributing your work
• Box
• Dropbox
• Google Drive.
In general, these programs are easy to use.
Because many people already use these popular
programs, there may be no learning curve for the
recipients of your work samples.
These programs have individual differences,
but they provide many of the same features,
• syncing with other devices (for example,
iPad and tablets, iPhone, Android)
• control over who has access
• easy ways to share content to email,
Facebook, Twitter, and other social media
• ability to access anywhere
• storage backup.
The remote access feature may be useful
during interviews if you need to share work
samples on the spot.
10 | Creating a Career Portfolio
Note that additional costs may be incurred
for increased storage capabilities and premium
Incorporating Video
Into Your Portfolio
Video has become a critical tool in the trainer’s
toolkit, and I strongly encourage you to include it
in your work samples. Depending on the role you
seek, you may include a video of yourself teaching
or training. Another idea is to have a short video
(less than two minutes) that tells prospective
employers who you are and what you have to offer
their organization.
Such videos can make quite an impression
on employers and make you stand out from the
crowd. They can be akin to the “elevator speech”
and also can relay your training philosophy. Most
people would rather watch a video than read text
in a document or on a website. Including a video
not only makes your portfolio more appealing for
users, it also illustrates your technology skills.
In the past, creating, editing, and publishing
video was expensive and difficult. Today, with
affordable cameras, such as home camcorders and
smartphones, it is pretty easy to capture highquality video. Additionally, the editing process
has become much more simple and affordable.
With free and low-cost editing software—such as
Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Premiere Elements,
Apple iMovie, and Lightworks—there is no reason
someone cannot create a simple video.
Technology Work Samples
Learning technology is an important competency.
If you look at job advertisements in the L&D field,
you will notice that many jobs require technology
skills. The following are possible work samples
related to learning technology competencies:
• products you created using authoring tools
• video created using Apple’s iMovie and
Microsoft’s Movie Maker
• audio podcasts or instructional audio
created using software such as Audacity
• screen tours created using Captivate
or Camtasia
These are some of the software and learning tools learning and development professionals commonly use to create and
share their portfolios electronically.
Audacity is a free, easy-to-use audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems.
In addition to recording, it can cut, copy, splice, and mix sounds together.
Box and Dropbox
Box and Dropbox are free file-sharing tools. You can use them to store, manage, and share your files securely in the cloud
and access your content anywhere you might need it via the web, tablet, or smartphone. You also can share large files with a
simple link from any device. This is a quick and easy way to share the work samples in your portfolio.
Camtasia Studio is a screen video capture program for Microsoft Windows. It can record your screen and create, for
example, training videos or other multimedia productions.
iMovie is a video-editing software application that allows Mac users to edit their own home movies. It was originally released
by Apple in 1999. iMovie imports video footage into a computer where the user can then edit the video clips and add titles
and music. Effects include basic color correction and video enhancement tools and transitions such as fade-in, fade-out,
and slides.
Keynote is a presentation software application developed as a part of Apple’s iWork productivity suite (which also includes
Pages and Numbers). It is Apple’s version of Microsoft’s PowerPoint.
Snagit allows users to capture graphics or enhance images. It also is a screencasting program that can record audio
and anything that appears on your PC screen and save it as a video. It is a powerful tool with an easy-to-use interface that
contains features needed by technical writers (for example, scrolling page screenshots and automatic “trim edges” function).
Emerging Software Tools
Because new tools are constantly emerging, you need to keep abreast of changes. One way to do this is by visiting the “Top
100 Learning Tools” at the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies at http://c4lpt.co.uk/directory/top-100-tools.
• online surveys created using Zoomerang
or Survey Monkey
• samples of your multimedia production
for learning
• websites you created
• narrated PowerPoint (or other multimedia)
learning modules you created.
• job aids you designed and developed using
instructional technology
Creating a Career Portfolio | 11
One of the main reasons to have a portfolio is to
convince prospective employers that you have the
knowledge, skills, and competencies you need to
get a job. Many jobs are now filled by recruiters
who contact people who are not actively looking
for a new job. This changes the whole job search
dynamic. To portray yourself in the best light
and to learn about new opportunities that could
propel your career, you need to proactively share
information about your expertise.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to use
social media. While social media may still have a
bad reputation with some people—for example,
because of privacy or security concerns—it
is difficult to deny its reach and power in the
professional realm. See the sidebar, Managing
Your Online Content, for guidance on creating an
appropriate online presence.
Today’s social media simply is a marketing
and communication tool to help you get noticed
as a subject matter expert. The key is to use the
right type of social media for your purposes. For
example, you can provide feedback and comments
on blogs, professional Facebook pages, Twitter,
and more.
Once people see that you know what you are
talking about, they will want to learn more and will
often check out your profile and work samples.
Many consultants use this technique to get
established and keep their name active. It can be a
lucrative way to get consulting contracts, speaking
engagements, and other professional opportunities.
Sometimes getting the job is contingent upon making a great first impression, and that first impression may be what is found
online. If you choose to post your career information or your portfolio online, people can and will make judgments about you.
Recruiters are using social media at an ever-increasing level to check out prospective candidates. If what they see reflects
negatively on you, you may never even get an interview. However, if they see complimentary postings from professional
colleagues and well-designed work samples, it will enhance your professional reputation.
First, a few don’ts. Don’t post your work phone number or your work email. Never post your home address; however, if you
want employers to know that you are local, you can include your city or town of residence.
Now some dos. Ideally you want to give potential employers a taste of what you can do professionally. Do post some
“teaser” work samples that pique viewers’ interest. Let them know that you have more to share. Consider posting your resume
in a functional format with accomplishments listed by competency or category. Although recruiters tend to dislike this type
of resume from job applicants, in your online portfolio it can serve as a brochure that shows the types of services you have to
offer an employer.
If you use social media or have worked in an online environment, you are probably aware of the privacy issues associated
with the digital world. Controlling your personal and professional information is important, and it isn’t always easy to stay on
top of everything. You may have created, posted, and forgotten your resume and other types of career information on different
accounts. You may have a Facebook site that combines personal and professional information. If you are applying for jobs or
seeking consulting opportunities, take some time to review all of your online profiles to make sure that they are up-to-date.
Remove or delete anything that is out-of-date or inconsistent with the online presence you wish to share with the world. It can
be difficult to completely remove items from the web once they are posted, but with diligence you should be able to remove
the offending items.
According to Minda Zetlin’s Inc. article, “Why You Should Google Yourself Regularly (and What to Do About What You
Find),” it is a good practice to Google your own name occasionally to see what shows up. You may be surprised what you find.
If so, you may need to take action to correct it.
Social media is a very powerful tool for marketing and promoting yourself. However, you need to review your content
periodically, using the above guidelines, to make sure you are creating a great first impression.
12 | Creating a Career Portfolio
LinkedIn is the most popular career-related
social media platform. It has nearly 400 million
users around the world. Because users can
search for people and jobs by using key words,
LinkedIn has become a favorite tool of recruiters.
According to Jobvite’s 2015 Recruiter Nation study,
92 percent of recruiters use social media, and of
those, 87 percent use LinkedIn—well above the 55
percent who use Facebook. As a result, not having
an account means that recruiters and employers
are far less likely to find you. While you may not
get any points for being on LinkedIn, you probably
lose some points by not having a professional
profile on the site.
LinkedIn also has more than 2 million groups
that members can join to share professional and
career-related information. In addition to the
Association for Talent Development group on
LinkedIn, you may want to consider the eLearning
Industry, Organization Development and Training,
and the Workplace Learning and Performance
Another advantage to LinkedIn is that you
can share your resume or work samples on
your profile. For example, you may want to post
documents and presentations, links to videos that
are hosted elsewhere, and links to presentations
in SlideShare.
Items can be added, edited, moved, or
removed from your LinkedIn profile from the Edit
Profile page. As with all technology, things are
changing quickly, so check LinkedIn for the latest
As mentioned in the Jobvite study, Facebook
is also popular and is increasingly being used by
recruiters in addition to LinkedIn. Be cautious
about mixing your personal and professional
information on one Facebook page.
Instead, consider creating a separate “page”
with a unique website address under your original
(personal) account. This way, you can post all your
professional items and thoughts on one page and
keep your personal Facebook posts and birthday
party pictures separate. I have two Facebook
pages under one account: My personal Facebook
page is www.facebook.com/gregwilliams123, but
my professional Facebook page is www.facebook
Many times, applicants are required to
submit an electronic application and resume to
prospective employers. It is imperative that you
list an active link to your portfolio on your resume.
You want employers to view your portfolio, so
make it easy for them to do so.
Up until this point, we’ve mainly been discussing
how to use your portfolio in the job search
process. Here are a few more ways to use
your portfolio:
Most interviews are fairly predictable. For
example, one of the typical questions is “What
are your greatest accomplishments?” This is the
perfect opportunity for you to talk about your
accomplishments and show work samples that
demonstrate your achievements.
Essentially, your potential employer or
client wants to understand your strengths and
weaknesses, why they should hire you, and
how you are different from other candidates.
Your answers to these questions should be
rehearsed until your responses sound natural.
A common mistake people make when it comes
to interviews is that they don’t practice
beforehand. Interviewing is a skill and skills
improve with practice.
Ideally, each answer you give should be backed
up with a specific work sample in your portfolio
that proves you have the skills you claim to
possess. Showing your work provides powerful
evidence that you have the ability to do what you
claim. However, be careful about sharing your
work samples without first asking interviewers if
they would like to view them during the interview.
They might prefer to look at your portfolio after
Creating a Career Portfolio | 13
Many jobs involve information that may be considered secret, confidential, or proprietary, or that may provide a competitive
advantage. Information like this may be found at private companies, military organizations, or organizations that simply
don’t want certain information to be public. As you can understand, situations such as this may be an issue for learning and
development professionals. We may have some great work samples that we cannot share beyond our own company.
So what can you do? First, you need to find out the company policy about sharing information outside of the organization;
some organizations have strict policies about not doing so. Other organizations may limit what you share.
Second, if your organization allows you to display certain information, here are some things to consider:
• Choose work samples that do not include information that meets the commonsense questionable threshold, for
example, employee orientation and safety information.
• Edit information. You may redact, white out, or change organization names. Instead of naming your company, for
example, you can just say a “midsize manufacturing organization” or the “Acme Company” or another fictitious name.
It is also possible to take excerpts of work samples. Say you have a 50-page design plan. Because most prospective
employers will not need to review every page of your work plan, you can provide 10 to 15 pages that do not share any
objectionable or questionable information.
Whatever you do, make sure that your employer agrees before you display or publicly share any information. If your
employer does not allow you to share any information, you may need to consider working as a volunteer. You can do this with
another organization that does permit information to be shared (see sidebar, How Can I Get Experience?).
the interview, so be sure that you have a leavebehind that will enable them to do so.
Performance Appraisals
Performance appraisals and employee evaluations
also provide opportunities to use your portfolio.
Ideally, you have not had the experience of having
a boss who cannot remember what you have
achieved during the year. Unfortunately, this
happens more often than most people realize. By
using work samples in this process, employees
can make it easy for their supervisor to remember
what they have accomplished.
Like an interview, performance appraisals
are usually predictable. Employees typically have
individual goals that the employee and supervisor
have agreed on. If the goals are drafted well, it
should be relatively simple to prove that the goals
have been met (the goals should be SMART, just
like your career goals that you developed at the
beginning of the process).
It is helpful to have a one-page statement that
provides your supervisor with the summary of
your accomplishments and achievements. These
14 | Creating a Career Portfolio
items should be linked to specific work samples.
The goal is to make it easy for your supervisor to
see what you did and how it made a difference in
your organization.
Your Professional Development
The purpose of a career portfolio is to provide
evidence of your professional performance.
Work samples can be very personal, and people
are often uncomfortable sharing their work
outside their own work environment. However, to
improve, we need feedback on our performance.
Seek out qualified people to give you meaningful
input on your work samples. Then, use this advice
to improve your portfolio.
Networking and
Marketing Yourself
If you are active in social media and on
professional blogs, people are more likely to
review your professional profile. Portfolios can
be a useful tool to market yourself and make
networking connections. As previously mentioned,
having a well-thought-out LinkedIn profile is
one of the easiest ways to establish an online
presence. Because your profile is public, only post
items that you feel comfortable displaying for
all to see. Be careful not to share any items that
include proprietary or confidential information,
or material that your employer may not want to
make public.
Many consultants use LinkedIn to establish
themselves as subject matter experts. They post
samples of the work that they have completed for
satisfied clients. If you were looking for a building
contractor to remodel your kitchen, it would
be nice to see samples of their work. The same
applies in this situation. But again, make sure the
information is not something the client is unwilling
to share; it’s good to ask for their OK to post.
Tomorrow they may be a requirement; today,
they are a tool that can give you a leg up. Use it to
your advantage and prepare for the future.
So what does the future hold for portfolios?
Learning and development is one of the
professions that will see a significant increase
in the use of portfolios. The use of technology
to create and display portfolios will undoubtedly
In the future, it will be commonplace for
trainers to have videos of themselves teaching
a class or multimedia tutorials that they created
posted online. And in many cases, the future jobs
in the L&D field will require more applicants to
submit portfolios electronically. There will also be
a greater push to have portfolio content that can
be accessed or viewed through mobile devices
such as smartphones.
As you’ve seen from Sean’s story, career
portfolios are one way that you can differentiate
yourself from other job applicants. Career
portfolios may soon be as common in this field
as they are for other architects, artists, and
graphic designers.
Creating a Career Portfolio | 15
Bolles, R. N. 2014. What Color Is Your Parachute?
Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies
2015: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and
(C4LPT) by Jane Hart: http://c4lpt.co.uk/
Career-Changers. Danvers, MA: Ten Speed Press.
Creating ePortfolios with Web 2.0 Tools by Helen
Hayman, A. 2009. “How to Develop an Instructional
Barrett: http://electronicportfolios.org/
Design ePortfolio–Part 3.” Z(e)n Learning,
Developing an ePortfolio by the Instructional
August 3. https://aprilhayman.wordpress
Design Career Center at the University of
Wisconsin-Stout: www2.uwstout.edu/content/
Lankford, L.A. 2011. “ISD Professionals: Building a
Portfolio.” Training Pros: Leighanne’s Learning
Notes, February 14. https://ileighanne.wordpress
Free Technology for Teachers by Richard Byrne:
Malamed, C. n.d. “Answers to Instructional Design
Career Questions.” The eLearning Coach. http://
Idealist: www.idealist.org.
The Taproot Foundation: www.taprootfoundation
Volunteer Match: www.volunteermatch.org.
Singer, M. 2015. “Welcome to the 2015 Recruiter
Nation, Formerly Known as the Social Recruiting
Survey.” Jobvite, September 22. www.jobvite
Williams, G. 2012. “Using a Career Portfolio.” Career
Development Blog, October 17. www.td.org/
Zetlin, M. 2015. “Why You Should Google Yourself
Regularly (and What to Do About What You
Find).” Inc., November 18. www.inc.com/mindazetlin/why-you-should-google-yourselfregularly-and-what-to-do-about-what-youfind-inf.html.
16 | Creating a Career Portfolio
Directions: Select one of your work samples and organize it into the C-CAR format using the categories below. See the
example for guidance.
C ompetency: Identify the competency.
C ontext : Describe the situation.
A ction: Describe what you did and why.
R esults: Describe outcomes, using measurable results if possible.
C-CAR Format Example
C ompetency: C ontext: A ction: R esults: Learning Design
Sales revenue down after hiring new sales reps.
Created company’s first online sales training course.
Sales revenue rose 24.7 percent a quarter after the course was implemented.
ATD Press grants permission for the material on this page to be reproduced for personal use.
Creating a Career Portfolio | 17
This is a simple table to help you determine whether you have the experience for a particular job. You can use this for
any job, not just an instructional design or training job. Look at the job description and cut and paste the required skills
and experience into the left column. Then, in the right column, fill in your own skills and experience that address these
requirements. Remember that your skills and experience should be corroborated by your work samples.
Some examples are below.
Skills and Experience Required in Ad
My Skills and Experience
Example 1: Instructional Designer
Skills and Experience Required in Ad
My Skills and Experience
Minimum of three (3) years of professional experience
designing, developing, and managing online, blended, or
other technology-mediated instruction.
I have 4.5 years of experience designing and developing
face-to-face and online instruction. See work samples 3
and 4 in my portfolio for the Captivate modules I created for
online learning.
Collaborate and consult with subject matter experts and
communication specialists to design, develop, and deliver
online, face-to-face, and blended learning experiences.
I have created 18 course modules by collaborating
with SMEs. See work samples 5 and 6 in my portfolio
as examples.
Familiarity with graphic design principles appropriate for
developing online, face-to-face, and blended instruction, as
well as print-based learning materials, is required.
Created all the graphic design elements for three years in
my first job for both online and blended course materials.
See work samples 1 and 2 in my portfolio.
18 | Creating a Career Portfolio
ATD Press grants permission for the material on this page to be reproduced for personal use.
Example 2: Training Manager
Skills and Experience Required in Ad
My Skills and Experience
Manage production and coordination, and oversee
revisions of curriculum for online courses.
I served as project manager for four years where I was
responsible for supervising instructional designers and
e-learning development staff to produce 27 online courses.
See work samples 1 and 2 in my portfolio.
Facilitate production, coordination, and updates for trainthe-trainer programs to include creation of curriculums,
facilitator manuals, and participant guides.
I have created both instructor and participant manuals for
two separate Train the Trainer courses. See work samples 3
and 4 in my portfolio.
Oversee faculty vetting and development through
in-service program.
I have hired and vetted nearly two dozen trainers in a fouryear period. Ninety-seven percent of the trainers I hired
received a good or excellent rating by employees.
ATD Press grants permission for the material on this page to be reproduced for personal use.
Creating a Career Portfolio | 19
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