It’s a tight market for job hunters right now. To secure your instructional design dream job, you’re going to need a powerful tool kit, and that includes a great instructional design portfolio on top of:
- A well-crafted resume
- Personalized cover letter
- Social media presence
- Stellar references
If your resume still needs work, check out this free guide for all my best tips! Then, toggle back to this article to get to work on your instructional design portfolio.
How To Create an Instructional Design Portfolio That Actually Gets You a Job
More than any other part of your toolkit, a portfolio can help you get called for an interview by highlighting your talents and abilities, not just as lines on a resume but as finished products. While not every job explicitly requests a portfolio, sharing one with hiring managers or potential clients gives you an edge over your competition.
In a cut-throat industry where hiring managers may be looking at thousands of applicants, that’s a huge advantage. So, how do you make an impactful and attractive instructional design portfolio? Let’s walk through the steps together!
Step 1: Know Your Career Goals
Before investing time into creating a portfolio, take a moment to clarify your intentions. Your goals will help guide the decisions you make as you move forward.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are your career objectives?
- Are you actively seeking employment?
- Looking for freelance gigs?
- Or trying to create an up-to-date exhibit of your work?
Each of these will influence what you include in your instructional design portfolio.
Seeking employment in a corporate or higher education role?
Focus on creating a balanced portfolio that sells your most significant strengths. Choose to illustrate a variety of your skills and highlight any relevant experience.
Trying to land freelance gigs?
Incorporate your portfolio into a more sales-friendly format that includes information on your availability and rates.
Sites like Upwork and Fiverr offer this service for free (but will take a percentage of your earning). You can also host a portfolio on a free Google site or pay a monthly fee to use a more professional site like Squarespace or Wix.
Looking to build your reputation as a learningpreneur?
Suppose you’re looking to showcase your work and maybe establish credibility as a reputable figure in the industry. In that case, couple your portfolio with a blog that you update regularly. A strong social media presence that supports your views on instructional design is another way to round out your presence.
Step 2: Pick the Perfect Projects for your Instructional Design Portfolio
The projects you select for your portfolio should match the kind of job you’re looking for. I always suggest tailoring your resume and cover letter to each individual job post. But it can’t hurt to also have a good rotation of projects you showcase for different types of job applications.
Conduct some research into your desired field: wade through job descriptions, probe around on forums, and, if possible, set up informational interviews with professionals who are already doing your dream job. Try to identify the most pertinent skills that hiring managers are looking for.
Here’s an example. If you’re looking for a corporate instructional design job, you can showcase work you’ve done encompassing employee training, training-related software packages, and video creation.
Don’t worry if you’re new to the industry. You can still create a respectable portfolio without any paid professional experience.
Do this by sharing relevant artifacts from your education or current job. You can also design your own projects.
If you’re interested in learning how to start a project from scratch that you can include in your portfolio, you have to get on the waitlist for the Instructional Design Accelerator course.
Step 3: Find a Website to Host your Instructional Design Portfolio
The easiest way to assemble and exhibit your portfolio is on a website. Files that must be emailed or uploaded and even physical portfolios have their place sometimes. But you can never go wrong when you have a simple link to send off all your best work samples.
Uploading your portfolio online also improves your online presence and increases the chances of recruiters and potential employers reaching out to you directly.
Depending on how internet-savvy you are, you have a couple of different options. The most straightforward technique is to post your portfolio on a dedicated portfolio-sharing website.
Options like Carbonmade and Portfoliobox offer pre-built portfolio sites that don’t require technical skills so you can share your projects quickly and easily. There’s also Behance, which is very graphics-centered and is favored by artists. However, with this approach, you miss out on a lot of the flexibility you get by configuring your website.
The more creatively flexible option is to host your portfolio on your website. It’s comparatively easier to set up a website these days using services like Wix or Squarespace (like I mentioned earlier) or WordPress. Many of these sites have pre-made portfolio samples, or, if you have the skills, you can create your own template. Just be mindful of choosing a design that’s well-organized, easy to understand, and represents you as a brand.
With a personal website, you also have the option of hosting a blog or other materials on-site as well. As a bonus, building your website is a way to showcase your creativity to potential employers.
Step 4: Organize and Summarize your Portfolio Contents
Although their designs may vary to some extent, most instructional design portfolios have similar elements. Of these, the only essential thing is to include examples of your work, but consider providing potential employers a bit more information regarding yourself and your background history.
Here are some additional elements that can help your portfolio stand out:
This short paragraph is similar to the objectives stated in a curriculum vitae(CV): it sheds light on who you are and what you’re looking for. It’s commonly displayed near the top of your page prominently, so visitors to your portfolio immediately notice if your interests align.
This is by far the most critical part of building your portfolio: examples of your work! This is where you will share artifacts from your training, resources you created as part of your past jobs, or completely new work you’ve created for the portfolio.
The kinds of projects you include will vary, depending on your expertise and goals, but common things to include in your instructional design portfolio are:
- eLearning examples
- Participant and Facilitator Guides
- Evaluations/QA Documents
- Job Aides/Quick Reference Guides
These might take the form of screenshots, video tutorials, Google Docs, slide shows, etc. You can showcase your work in any medium you like, as long as it’s easy for the viewer to understand.
Spend time thinking about your biggest strengths and what you do very well. Even if you are still building skills in certain instructional design areas, you want to put your best skills and talents on center stage.
For each of your works, include a detailed description of the project. Include the project’s objective, your specific involvement (if you didn’t create the entire finished product), the tools you used, and any other pertinent details.
Incorporate at least three projects that display the diversity of your skills. There’s no limit on how many projects you can list; however, no hiring manager will take the time to sift through dozens of different projects or watch long videos, so make their job easier by highlighting only the cream of the crop.
“About Me” Section
Your “About Me” or biography section is your opportunity to add a personal touch to your professional package. While the introduction is meant to be just one or two sentences stating your objectives, your biography can be more extensive and in-depth.
Don’t post a complete resume; instead, stay within the confines of two or three paragraphs, sharing only the highlights of your education and employment history. Incorporate notable certifications or awards you’ve won as well.
Some people also prefer to include a photo as a personalized touch, but this is a personal choice and never essential or required.
While most hiring managers will be viewing your portfolio because you expressly shared it with them, there is always a chance that someone will come across your portfolio on their own, mainly if you are using it to look for freelance work.
There’s no point in impressing potential job prospects if they have no way to reach out to you. So make sure to include, at the very minimum, an email address where people can message you for more information.
If you want to go one step further, you can create a contact form or link to your social media accounts.
Wrapping it up
I know this is a lot of information, especially if you feel like you’re starting from scratch. My best advice is to take it one step at a time- literally! Focus on one thing every day or every week. Before long, you’ll have an amazing instructional design portfolio that will get you hired.
If you need an extra push or know you’ll need to create a project from scratch, don’t forget to look into the Instructional Design Accelerator course. You’ll finish the course with a reviewed portfolio, tons of new instructional design knowledge, and contacts with other professions in the field.