In the previous exercises, you found your direction and started the project planning:
We are now ready to sort through our list of targeted examples, to plan and produce a portfolio project.
To help you get started, below are a few examples of small portfolio projects:
- a technical writing sample to show how you write complex topics
- a mini-course to show presentation skills and course development, for example, a lesson in recorded webinar or conducted in person
- a short e-learning course or video to demonstrate or explain a feature or concept
- written examples of course assessments, games or labs
- a quick reference guide with graphic elements
- a demonstration of visualization, for example, using text and adding visual elements
- a blog on why and how you would apply a strategy, for example, needs analysis, in less than 500 words
- a written lesson that teaches a key concept or a technique in less than 1000 words
Sounds like a lot of dull work? Now add your own twist to motivate yourself, to put the carrot in front of your own nose.
Base your work on your personal passions and interests
Create a learning piece for cause or an organization you believe in, for example, a place or group you would normally help or volunteer to spend time with outside of work.
Doing something for a cause you believe in already will make the time fly quickly on your project. Before you know it, you’ll be setting a timer to take a break. If you tie it to a volunteer event, you’ll be setting a deadline for yourself to give and showcase your work. You’ll become highly motivated.
Create a shared portfolio project
Many of us have a fitness buddy who works out or goes on walks with us. By working on the fitness goal together, you both become committed and motivated.
When you collaborate on a shared project with another peer, you are creating a small business model of a real project. Just like a business contract, it’s a good idea to discuss and write up your guidelines for the project before you begin, the expected output and your shared vision. Be specific about how much time you would each commit each week, and how you will communicate and answer questions together.
Many times I’ve done this by phone and online, a virtual collaboration. In virtual, we can miss an email or communication, so there is pressure to follow through on your end of the commitment. When one person produces and asks questions, the other person is obligated to pick up and continue with the discussion or project in a certain amount of time.
A good example was my project Find Your Mentor and Move Ahead, where I collaborated with a graphic artist. When we met at a local networking event, he said “I have graphic skills and software, but no content.” That’s where my content came in, my blog I had been writing in text form. Together we established the rules, limited our time together and on the project, and came up with beautiful graphics you see in this blog.
In the end, we did create a project that was better than one I created alone. It was a win-win for both our portfolios.
Go beyond the comfort zone
The beauty of a portfolio project is you may try new skills and tools in a low pressure environment. This can be very satisfying and helpful to your current job.
For example, I recently bought and loaded the latest Camtasia and SnagIt software packages on my personal machine for a portfolio project.
I do use both software programs at work; however, our work versions are about three or four years old. Our work budget is tight, so we have to make a case to justify each expense and obtain approval.
It is easier to start that process at home. I can check it out the new software at home first doing my portfolio projects. After I have tried it, I can better explain the benefits, and make a case for upgrading to the new versions on my work computer.
Here’s another example. For years, I’ve been an amateur photographer, mostly architecture, nature and landscapes. When I started building my own portfolio, I was able to try using my own photography, for example, the photo in the blog header.
I did use my own photography for a couple of day jobs. However, the downside of that decision was that those photos became part of the body of work owned by that company. Over time, I went on to other jobs. I have no control over how those two companies use those photos today.
So in several ways, my portfolio is a better place to showcase my favorite photos and graphics.