Your Portfolio IN 2023!

May 24, 2023

I just did a(n albeit quick) search for "portfolio", because my "pile" is circa 2015, with most of it being more about WEB Design (which I did before achieved a MEd in ISD in 2011. Till now, I've been getting by with a work sample PDF w/ intro "what this is" and links to the work on my website. (And yes. They are way-too-big-samples). My Department was "eliminated" in November. And of course, no ones is hiring, they're trying to make it to a new budget year. Still, that's now 5-1/2 months with less than 15 interviews. When I had a job I was interviewing 4-8 times a week, every week.

Now, there are lots of jobs, but also lots of people. I have LinkinedIn Premium so I see that the ID job wanting a Bachelors and 3-5yrs for $85k will easily get you 500 applicants in the first week! Oh and I've noticed that ADDIE seems to be alive and well, I haven't seen a demand for "Design Thinking" within T&D which sucks to me because I think it's great.

I think it's time to suck it up and make a proper portfolio.

My portfolio advice's may be outdated. eg. the TD@Work "Keeping Your Career On Track" is 2016, and the TD@Work- "Career Portfolio" is 2015. (And now of course, you try to search "elearning portfolio" and there are tons of things from some weird websites (elearning..thing.IO ?)

So I'm asking for anyone who's talked to clients/employers/hiring managers in the past year or two. What has your experience been like ? What's in demand? What isn't (besides Captivate (the red-headed stepchild of Adobe...)? What feedback are you getting from those who are hiring? From the general, to the specific:

eg. Employers LOVE results, right? Well, what happens if 1/2 of your experience is as a Contractor, and you do everything, and they say, "ok, great, thanks, BYE!" - and you never know what the results are?? (And yes, I've gone to previous Managers and begged for "how many people had to take this?" ).

It would help if I had a direction to go in. (like even though the rebels on Hoth had a great number of ways to get away from the Empire, they chose to go through them. At least it was a direction. (I'm sure the "boob nipple gun" was doing a lot of good). (Damn I need a job)

5 Replies
Alison  L.
Bianca Woods

Hi Alison. Wouldn't it be lovely if there was a single portfolio format hiring managers would tell us they're looking for?! Because on one hand, it's nice to have the freedom to create our own portfolio approach. But on the other hand, it's stressful not knowing if what we created is what a particular hiring manager wants to see.

Taking a look at examples is always a good first step. And you've pulled up some great ones from our most recent e-learning challenge on portfolios and the Must-See eLearning Portfolio Examples article from Tim Slade's E-Learning Designer's Academy. Here are a few aspects of those examples that align with some of the things my hiring manager friends have recently mentioned they look for:

  • Jonathan Hill's portfolio does a good job of organizing his examples into a few content categories, so they're easy for reviewers to skim through and find what they need.
  • The projects in Montse's portfolio have titles that make it easy to understand what they are. And when you click through to each one, she often shares insights into her design process. That could be helpful for hiring managers who were once e-learning creators themselves.
  • Jessica Bradt's portfolio makes a real visual impact! It functions as a combo portfolio/resume, which is a neat way to do something a little different than the usual setup. And her project descriptions do a nice job of summarizing what informed her design process.
  • Dan Graham's portfolio for the Digital Learning Studio does an excellent job of making it clear what they do (and don't) specialize in. And the individual project descriptions highlight the project goals—something that makes it easier for a hiring manager to assess the quality of a project.
  • Amanda Nguyen's portfolio has a clean design and is another good example of making one's specialty clear. Her example descriptions also give an excellent amount of detail on the project challenge, solution, and results. While you may not have the results data for your contract projects, providing information on the other two categories used here would likely land well with hiring managers.
  • Cath Ellis' portfolio is another example of clear design, sharing one's specialty, and example descriptions that give readers insight into her design process.
  • Nyla Spooner's portfolio is stunning and is another one that showcases a person's specialties. She also smartly included a section on her podcast, which is a good way to help potential employers/clients see the breadth of her expertise.

There were two other resources I thought of that you might find helpful as well:

Best of luck with refreshing your portfolio!

Alison  L.
Bianca Woods

Hi Alison. Wouldn't it be lovely if there was a single portfolio format hiring managers would tell us they're looking for?!

Unfortunately, Job hunting is a lot like AI : "learning data" + [?BLACK BOX?] = results!
In that "job" + search + [black box] = job! (eg. "Did they (or more likely the Talent Management System) not like my cover letter / resume / work samples / interview answers to the TalentAq / Hiring Manager / Group/Panel?" )  

Alison  L.

Happy 10-month Anniversary of the elimination of my Department. While I've been leaning into data analysis on Coursera, I've also been inventorying for a revamped portfolio. Thing is, the 'How To.." articles are mostly for newbies! So of COURSE "less is more" and of course: "focus on what you want to specialize in".

However...(for us old farts)

There are many "Senior Instructional Designer" jobs on the big sites. (There also tend to be 100s of applicants for them as well.) Thing about them though, is they want EVERYTHING- Be able to do every letter of ADDIE, oh, and, while you're at it, throw in some Project Management deliverables since you're in there. They are tomes (SR ID for 3M), with vague wording (my fave being "innovative!").. Strong emotional intelligence and relationship manager. ...Strong written, oral communication, facilitation, interpersonal and collaborative skills. - for a SRLXD. How do you show any of those things in a portfolio??

If YOU know, please share. Otherwise, thanks much for listening.

Bianca Woods

That's a really good point about most portfolio articles being about making one when you're early in your instructional design career! And yes, trying to figure out how to highlight ALL the things an employer says they're looking for when all you have to work with is a resume, cover letter, and curated portfolio is a significant juggling act.

Some of the skills you mentioned (like your emotional intelligence and relationship management skills) might be tough to directly weave into a portfolio. You'll likely have an easier time showcasing those skills in an interview. That said, I wonder if there are ways to indirectly make nods to these more senior skills in the descriptions for each project that you include in your portfolio?

For more junior instructional design roles, portfolio project descriptions are a good way for people to showcase that they how to put a project together and use different e-learning design and development techniques. But a senior instructional designer's portfolio might describe the exact same project a bit differently by also including a deeper dive into the strategy of the project and interpersonal skills and teamwork that helped it come to life.