May 10, 2012

Proving Your Education – Work Samples

This post thread started with my book review of Proving You’re Qualified.

In previous posts I discussed some of the elements of an education portfolio – résumés, letters of recommendation and testimonials. Although what elements go into the making of a good education portfolio varies by individual and job target, a good one might consist of a résumé, letters of recommendation, testimonials, work samples and documentation of learning. I’ll discuss work samples in this post and documentation in a future post.

Work Samples

A work sample can be anything viewable, readable or listenable that demonstrates you have certain knowledge, skill, experience or other qualities (professional or personal) that will contribute to a future employer’s bottom line. Work samples provide solid evidence of your past work, showcase your skills and abilities, and validate the quality of what you do. And all of it contributes to proving your education.

It’s also good to think of this as not just “work” samples, but samples of anything that highlights an accomplishment or learning of any kind.

All kinds of material can be used as a work sample. Some are obvious and others are less so. Think big and broadly.

If you work in a traditional office setting, depending on your specific job and level you can include copies of material you create such as reports, brochures, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, database designs, project plans, job aids, budgets, and requests for proposals. Almost any work product generated in a business environment can be used as a work sample.

If your work is in the more artistic realm, photographs, photographs of other physical artworks (paintings, sculptures, and so on), graphic designs and publication page layouts can make great work sample inclusions.

Anyone who makes a living with the written word, such as a writer or journalist, can use samples of their written work. Having examples of work that’s been published in the actual published form is always best. But your material nicely typed will suffice.

Entertainers, speakers, trainers and others who make their living in front of an audience or class can make video or audio samples of their work available.

And don’t forget other samples not related directly to your work. For example, if you wrote a killer research paper in school on a relevant topic, include a copy of that in your portfolio. Or perhaps you volunteer with a non-profit organization and have planned and executed a large charity event. Samples of the event advertising, donor mailer letters and other collateral you created can make excellent work samples.

I think you get the idea. Anything someone can read, view or hear that contributes to someone’s understanding of what you know, what skills you have, and what you’ve accomplished, is fair game for inclusion in the work sample section of your portfolio.

Come back to my blog as I talk about the last element of an education portfolio in a future post.

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