When you are ready, seek direct and honest feedback from one or two trusted individuals on your portfolio pieces. Tell them your intent for the portfolio piece, any concerns you may have about it, and request that the reviewer does not hold back in their review. Give the reviewer a private way, messaging or email or phone, so they can respond honestly.
I have found peers to review my portfolio by keeping in touch with former coworkers, and friends who are in a similar line of business. Those who have been to college recently may find a few trusted classmates or a former professor willing to act as reviewers.
When you ask someone for feedback, you are asking them to spend time on you and your personal project. If you have a personal close relationship with the person, you already have a good foundation in place to ask for an opinion. Remember, there has to be something in it for them, when you ask a favor.
You may have to ask more than one person to review your work. Be prepared for a “no” or those who do not follow through. Some people would love to help, but they are simply overwhelmed with their own lives. Don’t be offended if they cannot find an extra hour or two to give to you. Others simply do not care to become involved; it is not their nature to help others. There are those who are willing and can give, and those who cannot.
To find a person willing to give and be a reviewer, look for those people who give consistently in different ways, volunteering at work or in their communities, taking the time to lend a hand to someone less fortunate, often going to lunch or coffee to share business experiences, taking time to ask others about themselves or their families at a party or business event. By observing these sharing and caring behaviors, you are likely to find an honest and willing reviewer.
Since you are asking for a favor of time, it helps to make the experience reciprocal for your reviewer. Find a way to pay them back for their time. What would they like in exchange for them reviewing your portfolio? Can you offer to take them to lunch or dinner or make a meal for them? Perhaps you will help review their resume or LinkedIn profile or their portfolio piece?
One of my former work friends asked me to help her with an Access database project for a couple of weekends. She knew I was short on funds due to being out of work for a while. In exchange for my work, she offered to take me to lunch. At lunch, she gave me a beautiful card with a small cash gift. I had helped her succeed with her project, and in return this personalized thank you meant a great deal to me. It left us both feeling good about the experience. We have helped each other a several times since that point, and we ended up traveling the same roads as instructional designers.
Today, I mentor young women often. Many of them offer to buy me a drink or meal in exchange for a mentoring session. This makes me feel appreciated, and it creates a pleasant memory for both of us.
Be open to the Feedback
When you ask for feedback, it may not always be what you expect. Be open to understanding what may be wrong about your piece as well as what may be right.
I remember one very self-involved woman I met a local networking event. After talking with me for about 5 minutes, she asked if I would review her online presence in her LinkedIn and Twitter accounts to help her figure out why she might be having difficulty landing interviews and a job.
At first I was inclined to say ‘no’. I didn’t know her. I was not invested in her enough to give her a few hours of my time based on a rather one-sided conversation all about her.
But then I thought about it. Change through communication is my motto. I realized I could be a good person to do a review with outside, unattached eyes. I was not likely to be involved with her directly in a job situation, like an interview or to act as a reference. So I agreed to do the review by email.
In my review, I discovered a few positive things, like recent education and an interesting work background. I also uncovered that this person had some red flags in both LinkedIn and Twitter. Her LinkedIn profile highlighted a job title of Data Scientist, yet her education and job experiences simply did not show why that title made sense. In looking at her Twitter feed, I saw a series of monologues, mostly complaints. There was little dialogue or interactions with others, either individuals or businesses. I wrote her explaining the positives and the negatives directly in a private email.
Say Thank You!
I wasn’t surprised when the women failed to thank me for my time reviewing her online presence. For a few months, when we saw each other at more networking events, she avoided speaking with me. About a year later, she finally let me know that I had actually helped her.
I tell this story, because I am someone who truly believes two-way communication is essential for change. I don’t always hear from reviewers what I expect or want to hear. But when it comes reviewing my portfolio, I’d rather hear the truth than unrealistic flattery or “it’s fine.”
So do always thank those who help you, even if they tell you something that is painful or difficult to hear. Wouldn’t you rather know the truth and make a change, learning along the way?
Sometimes reviewers may be hard on you, because they don’t know how to soften it the blow or find the positive pieces. I have had a few bosses like that. If you think the reviewer’s opinion is skewed or too one-sided, ask for a second opinion from another reviewer, and share the results from the first one. Between the two, you may obtain that accurate picture.
Today, I do a lot of mentoring, and I ask for a quick thank you as my main rule. People will often do that in person when we talk, but will fail often online. I let them know I will send them information, and all I ask is that they simply thank me. They don’t have to explain what they did with the information, but if they fail to thank me, my help and offers of information will cease. It’s a good arrangement.