Power of the Portfolio: The Key to Becoming an IDOL

You’re thinking of becoming an instructional designer, or maybe you’re ready to start applying for jobs. You think to yourself, how can I make myself stand out to employers? How can I build confidence as a new ID? The answer: a portfolio. 

Yes, really.

The power of a portfolio unleashes all of your darkest fears. Creating a portfolio allows you to take that leap into the unknown, and scream, “this is me and I want everyone to know it!” The first step to getting over imposter syndrome is to believe in yourself; so what better way to put yourself out there than with an organized, visual representation of who you are? 

Who are you exactly? You are a learner, curriculum developer, problem solver, eLearning developer, and instructional designer - and so much more!

 

Here’s a little backstory. 

I am new to corporate and higher Ed instructional design. Most of my pre-ID professional experience was as a high school science teacher. After spending over ten years in the classroom, I wanted to challenge both myself and my skill sets in curriculum and presentation design. I knew I was worth more than my small paycheck and even smaller acknowledgement for the hard work I put into my lesson materials. I signed up for the January 2021 IDOL courses Academy cohort, and I was all in. As encouraged in the “Do It Messy” two week jumpstart, I created my first portfolio with Google Sites. Within my first two weeks, technically my first day, enrolled in IDOL Academy, I was already setting myself aside from hundreds of other instructional design applicants. 

 

Here’s how.

Ever apply to an instructional design job and see that spot on the application where it asks for other materials? What were you planning on putting there? If there wasn’t already a spot for your cover letter, I would certainly suggest one. If you did that already, then now is your chance to add your portfolio. What if the application just downright asks for a personal or portfolio URL? I suppose you could leave it blank like many other applicants out there, but, guess what, you have one! Maybe it’s not finished yet, and that’s okay. By the time it takes for a recruiter or hiring manager to look at your portfolio, you will have already added a few peer-reviewed assets - that’s if you are a member of IDOL courses Academy that is. One more thing, if there isn’t a spot that is specifically designed, or discreetly suggesting, to add a portfolio, then be sure to hyperlink it in your resume and cover letter. 

Once I had a MVP, or minimum viable portfolio, I was already able to set myself aside from other applicants who didn’t have one. See what I mean? You already have the power. 

It gets even better. 

Once you have enough peer-reviewed and coach-reviewed assets, you should be confident in your abilities to be an instructional designer. This confidence should exude itself not only in your portfolio, but also in your networking with recruiters and hiring managers. 

 

Let me paint a picture for you. 

You just applied for your dream job. You can work remotely, show off your ever-growing ID skills, and feed your thirst for knowledge. You find the name of the hiring manager on LinkedIn. What do most people do? Maybe click on their name. Poke around. Maybe he or she will notice you. Some will even send them a connection in hopes that they will look at their profile. Not you though. You have a portfolio that you are proud of. Feel its power. Reach out to the recruiter, send them an inMail, and send them your portfolio link. This shows recruiters that you are capable, confident, and ready to take on the challenge of their position. 

I was able to get two interviews for six figure instructional design jobs with the above tactic. Both hiring managers complimented me for not only having a portfolio, but sending it to them too. 

A portfolio is powerful. It’s a gallery of your analysis, design, and problem-solving skills. Don’t hide it. Be proud of it, post it everywhere you see fit, and you will see that the power of the portfolio will help you in your journey to becoming an IDOL. 

Here are some helpful suggestions to get started. 

Research. 

There are plenty of resources available to help you get started. For one, IDOL courses offers a step by step course on Building Your Online Portfolio, samples of inspirational portfolios in the Academy, and blog posts from both novice and experienced instructional designers. 

Check out this blog post from IDOL Academy Member Kristi Oliva on IDOL Academy’s tools and additional suggestions for building a portfolio prior to an ID job. 

Include samples of work that are not just aesthetic, but also show off your problem solving abilities. 

 

Make it yours. 

Choose a domain name and style that match your personality, aesthetic, and design philosophy. How are you different from other instructional designers out there? If you have a more natural, subtle, and clean look to your presentations, that should come across in your portfolio. If you are vivacious and your presentations scream creativity, then make that shine. The point is, if you are going to back up your portfolio, then you need to love it. 

Still need some guidelines? Try using a digital palette creator, such as Colormind, to determine your website colors. 

 

Get feedback. 

You may think your portfolio can be navigated easily, but an outside opinion is always helpful. Ensure that viewers can find your assets easily, view your results and accomplishments, and contact you for inquiries. IDOL courses Academy is designed so that cohort members, new and old, have a safe space to share their portfolios and assets among peers, mentors, and coaches.

 Looking for another avenue? Try looking at #FreelanceFriday posts, or try it yourself, with Nicole Papaioannou’s Your Instructional Designer Freelance Facebook Group

 

Put it on your LinkedIn. 

There are two spots where you can add your portfolio on your LinkedIn. Be sure to add it as a link in your media files and add it to your Contact Information section so that hiring managers can find it easily. 




An educator turned corporate ID, Jen creates innovative learning experiences for today’s learners through her eLearning courses, ILTs, vILTs, and other learning resources. Her skill sets, eye for detail, niche for data analysis, and knowledge of the learning design process implement solutions for internal and global audiences.

Jen is employed as a full time instructional designer creating learning materials for leaders of global databases. Jen is also a Vyond Animator for the University of IOWA Learning and Development team. 

Jen is a mother, wife, twin, and lover of art, nature, and adventure. She can be found designing, hiking, and stand-up paddle-boarding in New York State’s Finger Lakes and Ontario Lake Regions.

Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her portfolio, www.JGSweetDesign.com.

 

 

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