Technical writer positions are being advertised even amidst the pandemic. You’ll see postings for full-time positions, internships, contractual, and freelance roles across various industries. Many employers are now asking for writing portfolios before even inviting applicants for an interview. This year, as the pandemic has forced interviews online, applicants are in a quandary. While many are thrilled with the cost and time savings, they are also concerned about showcasing their writing strengths and personality in a virtual interview. In these times, an online portfolio has never been more important.
On Saturday, August 22, STC Carolina conducted a webinar on how to build an online portfolio to promote your personal brand as a tech. comm. professional. This article aims to provide the resources and recommendations to guide you through this unprecedented application cycle.
Making your mark – Building your Technical Comm. Portfolio
The session was kicked off by Dr. Laura Palmer from the STC Board of Directors and Keenesaw State University. She introduced the concept of building a portfolio as your personal brand.
A portfolio is a showcase of your work and your abilities and highlights what you bring to the table. A portfolio should tell your story; it is a strong vehicle for finding/changing jobs. The biggest mistake that applicants do is add everything that they worked on in the portfolio. It should be a set of carefully-selected samples with the purpose of taking you to the next level — the interview. Ideally, a portfolio should be used strategically as a business asset, a living organic product, and one that should be constantly updated. Dr. Palmer urges you to think of a portfolio in two ways: as your brand and your brand strategy.
Use the following do’s and don’ts to build a strong technical writing portfolio:
Do this in your portfolio
- Take your personal inventory of your brand, and find out who you are. Think about what previous jobs you had that led you to build your brand and skills, and create your personal inventory.
- Connect to your previous experiences, such as your jobs in college, working in food service. For example, waiting at tables teaches you how to multitask, how to resolve conflicts, how to manage time efficiently. Show how those skills contribute to how you think about technical writing.
- Get sassier as tech writers, and blow your horns more. Be bolder, be more upfront with what you can do.
- Don’t show only the finished products. Employers want to know your thought process, your starting point. Explain your thought process and show some work along the way. For example, show a 4-5 frame process diagram to explain your process. Describe the best practices and principles and how they informed your decision making.
- You do not need to know all the tools. When you look at job ads, don’t overfocus on the tools because they change all the time. Tools aren’t everything but provide some ideas about what you use.
- Try to include up to to 6 – 8 samples in your digital portfolio. People don’t go through all the samples if there are too many samples.
- If you are changing jobs, you might not want to use the existing documents that you wrote for a company without their approval. This might raise red flags with the current employer. In this case:
- Craft some products that are not from your employer. Rework your samples with a general product such as Gmail, Twitter, and gitHub.
- Offer your content as a service (such as create a training module that offers your documentation as a service)
- If you are a student, you might not have significant work experience. In such a case, you can check out different college course assignments, recreate those assignments, and upload them to your portfolio.
- Volunteer for writing activities, such as writing blogs for STC Carolina or for any open-source projects.
- Search engines love PDF file formats. In your PDF, add the keywords as your file metadata. This practice is an excellent way to drive traffic to your portfolio.
- Keep your portfolio active, tweak it regularly with major or minor changes. If possible, connect your portfolio with your blog.
Don’t do this in your portfolio
- Don’t be ‘cutesy’ in your presentation. Focus on your products and your brand messaging.
- Don’t use too many fancy features from the digital platform. A lot of times, too many features simply increase the noise and distract the audience.
- Keep your website clean so your products are the focus. You want your personality and writing to be the focus.
- Add relevant search terms in your digital portfolio. SEO needs rich media and text that is written clearly, accurately, and keyword-rich. Embed relevant keywords in your writing, and explain your thought process behind the writings.
Promote your brand
- Get a custom URL, as much as possible, for your online portfolio. Try to use your own name or something closer to your name so that you can be found by employers.
- Add writing pieces and your processes for arriving at the writing.
- In your LinkedIn profile, add your portfolio URL.
- Attach your portfolio in your email signature.
- Don’t forget to leverage for SEO.
- All images need ALT text. Make sure you describe the image in rich keywords so that the search engines can find you.
- Update your Linkedin profile too per the keywords search. Keep it robust, and have good SEO keywords. If you have a blog, repaste it as your LinkedIn article or share it on LinkedIn.
About you, about me
An interesting article suggests that you flip the traditional ‘about me’ content to ‘about you’. What kind of company would you like to work for?
Describe the type of company you’d fit with best:
- Work environment
- Company culture
- Other factors – What do you need to be successful in a company? Have you thought about that?
This is the most interesting way to showcase your portfolio and share your ideas of a perfect job and company culture.
Be authentic, keep it real. Having a nice conversational style would work really well in a portfolio.
Volunteer, STC Carolina
Sayee is an experienced Technical Communicator and has developed and delivered technical content for top-tier tech. companies, structured content for maximum impact, and managed multiple projects in fast-paced environments. She decided to take a break from active employment and extend her learning, and is now enrolled as a graduate student in MS in Technical Communications program at NC State University. She also serves as the President of the Technical Communication Association (TCA) at NC State.
You can reach out to her through the following channels: