4 Reasons Why You Need an Instructional Design Portfolio

So you’ve heard that every ID needs a portfolio to land their dream job. While that’s not always 100% true, having a portfolio certainly improves your odds.

This is especially true for new instructional designers, or those with limited experience. If you think about it from a logical perspective, there are at least four good reasons why every instructional designer should build a portfolio of work:

  1. Everyone likes a sample

  2. You’ll benefit from the practice

  3. You can use it as a benchmark

  4. You can repurpose the content

First, think about it from the perspective of your potential employers.

They need someone who can do the work, and who can contribute to their team without needing to be trained. But how can they be sure that you’re that person? They need you to show them that you’re just what they need. If you were the hiring manager, and you were choosing one more person to interview, would you choose a mystery applicant, or one who showed good work samples? Naturally, most people would feel more comfortable calling in the applicant with the samples.

Picture of Person Standing out

It’s like two choosing between two restaurants. If one can offer you a delicious sample, you might just choose to spend your money in that restaurant, before seriously considering the one with no sample. But there is a catch. It’s got to be a good work sample! So how do you go about figuring out what’s good enough to go into your portfolio? See my blog post, What to put in an instructional design portfolio?

The short answer is that if you have next to nothing, get started with what you do have. In instructional design, we all improve in our craft with more effort and practice. If you’re just starting out, your work will not be as good as it will be a year from now - but that’s okay! Show it anyway.

What’s most important is that you show what you are currently capable of producing.

Much like dating, there will be someone out there who is looking for what you have to offer. If you have nothing right now, that’s okay. In fact, it will only benefit you because it means you’ll have a chance to practice, practice, practice. Whether that means crafting design documents or developing in an elearning tool, filling your portfolio with samples means you’ll get opportunities for much needed practice.

As you grow in your skills, you can replace old work samples with newer, better ones. But you need to get started somewhere, so proudly display your work. You can use your old work as a benchmark to see how far you’ve come. Ask most IDs and they’ll tell you that they cringe when they look back at some of their early work. But that’s okay. It serves as a reminder of your progress and can build your confidence when you reflect on how much you’ve learned over time.

Lastly, you need an instructional design portfolio so it can be repurposed in the future. Think down the road. Even after you land that first job at a company, you might want to advance or take on further responsibilities in your role. When that time comes, you’ll have a body of work (neatly organized in one place) showcasing your potential. By demonstrating how you’ve successfully tried an approach in the past, you can show your employer that you can do more!

In conclusion, while it’s not absolutely necessary to create a portfolio, new instructional designers should strongly consider it. Remember to think about it from a hiring manager’s perspective and consider all the long-term benefits. Don't forget, there are at least four:

  1. Everyone likes a sample
  2. You’ll benefit from the practice
  3. You can use it as a benchmark
  4. You can repurpose the content

Now what are you waiting for? Go out there and create something great!


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