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Building a Portfolio Without an ID Job

#becomeanidol #elearning #idolcourses #instructionaldesign #motivation #portfolio #teachers Jul 30, 2020
building a portfolio idol courses

 It is a little overwhelming (to say the least) to transition from being a classroom teacher to instructional designer. Once you decide to make the switch, how do you get a job?

See this post by Roshon Goode: "Degrees Don't Get You an IDOL Job, Experience Does."  To prove you have the experience, you need a portfolio. And to create a portfolio, you have to be working as an ID.


Or do you?


Building a portfolio is something I never had to think about in my 15 years as a classroom teacher. It isn't easy to know where to start! But the IDOL courses Academy takes you through each step of the process. When building a portfolio, most people use their past experience and past projects. But since I was coming from K-12 and wanted to move into corporate, none of my previous work samples would do.

Here are my suggestions and experience with building real portfolio pieces without having an ID job.


  1. Reach out

Once I began my journey to becoming an ID, I told my family what I was doing during Christmas vacation. My brother-in-law (the owner and CEO of a limousine company) said he was thinking about updating his training program. It was serendipity! I told him I would happily build his training for him! It was a win-win: I was bulking up my portfolio with real, meaningful assets, and he was getting a brand new and improved training program for FREE! He agreed to share all of his training documents and pictures with me to get started.


If you are struggling to build assets and don’t know where to start, here are some tips:

  • Talk to your friends, family, and network. Everyone knows someone who knows SOMEONE who owns a business!
  • Make a post in a local small business Facebook group telling about your services and then pick and choose from the responses!
  • Go to eLearning Heroes and use their list of challenges to help you practice authoring tools and gain confidence in your new skills.
  • Check out GoDesignSomething for mock briefs that can help you choose a topic and type of deliverable to use for your "client."

 2. Assess

Shortly after returning from my family Christmas vacation, my brother-in-law did as promised and sent me his training files. I opened the shared dropbox to find an 84-page training manual that the CEO himself used to run in-person training and some pictures of a whiteboard from previous trainings. My job was to take this and turn it into something meaningful for him and his employees.  I was overwhelmed and had no clue where to start. I decided to jump in headfirst and see if I could swim. Since there were no current eLearning courses or facilitator guides, I decided my goal would be to make this manual into a series of courses that had a combination of asynchronous and synchronous elements making it easy for anyone in the company leadership to use and free up the CEO’s time to be a CEO instead of a trainer.


Once you choose your topic, assess what you need to do. What type of training needs to be developed? To find this out, you can do one or all of the following:

  • Complete a learner profile.

Check out The Learner Collective’s sample.

Use this form to interview current and former employees to find out more about them. This will help you develop the avatar (typical employee persona) that will help you identify the learners and there needs.

  • Talk to the company about knowledge or skill gaps in their employees. In other words, find out WHY they need this training.
  • Decide what type of training will best fit the company's needs. Will a job aid suffice? Or do they need an entire eLearning course?


  1. Plan/Organize

After interviewing the employees and several meetings with the owner, I still felt overwhelmed by the sheer size of the training manual and how to make this into professional training. My next step was to get organized.

To get organized for a large project, I recommend taking the following steps:

  • Read, and reread, and reread the manual or any other learning materials the company provides.
  • You must know what it says inside and out.
  • Find underlying categories and redundancies.
  • This helps decide the topics that need to be your primary focus.
  • Cut, cut, cut!

Training manuals can contain way too much information. Use your employee interviews and employer meetings to help you decide what is most important and what you can do without. Read what Connie Malamed has to say about this in her article "Less is More."


  1. Design

Once I had a rough outline of what I wanted to include in the training, it was time to start designing. I decided to use a blended learning approach for this training since I knew that many parts of the training needed to be in-person, facilitated events. As I worked on each element in the process, I realized that I was using the Agile MethodI got feedback from the owner as often as possible to make sure that I designed something that would fit his needs. I was also constantly getting feedback from the IDOL courses Academy Facebook group, where you can get great feedback from veterans, up and coming, and soon to be Instructional Designers.

When you start to design your assets, big or small, it is crucial to get feedback. The IDOL courses Academy has this built into their program, but there are many other ways to get great feedback as well:

  • Use the Agile Method and get feedback from your client.
  • I would recommend that you keep this feedback mainly in the storyboarding and scripting phases. That way, you are getting meaningful feedback from the client about your work's actual content instead of being distracted by colors, fonts, and animations.
  • Be careful not to get distracted by all the authoring tools out there or A.D.D. as Academy member Tabatha Dragonberry calls it in her blog post: “Overcoming ID A.D.D.
  • Get lots of feedback! Read about the importance of this in a blog post by Molly Parsons, "How I Learned to Love Feedback."


  1. Embrace the Unknown

There are still many moments where the learning curve is so steep that I wondered if I could do this. However, I have come to realize that with learning something new, comes the feeling of diving into the deep-end for the first time.

One of the most challenging parts about putting yourself out is the feeling of being an imposter, and the scary sense that comes with trying something new. However, the only way to gain confidence is to be curious and "Embrace Your Inner Child," as Ashanti Henderson discussed in her blog post. Just get out there and get started!

Good Luck!


Written By: Kristi Oliva

Connect with her on LinkedIn

Kristi is a teacher turned Instructional Designer and Curriculum Developer. She is passionate about making innovative and engaging learning solutions. She has a Masters in Higher Education-Instructional Design and Technology and a Certificate in Corporate Instructional Design and Online Learning from IDOL courses Academy.