In this article, technical writers will learn how to create a writing portfolio and how to choose which samples of writing to include.
Purpose of a Writing Portfolio
Within the job market, technical writers increase their competitiveness as a candidate by reassuring an employer that they are the most qualified for the position. One method for proving one’s qualifications is by using a writing portfolio.
Similar to a resume or cover letter, technical writers can create a writing portfolio to further communicate their skills and experience. The main difference between a writing portfolio and a resume or cover letter is that a portfolio compiles completed writing samples, allowing writers to demonstrate their applied skills and showcase their diverse projects, capabilities, and strengths. Providing your samples of writing during the interview process allows employers to ask more in-depth questions about your work experience, which can make a significant difference in assessing one’s credibility and fitness for a specific role.
Compiling Samples of Writing
As candidates must adjust their resumes and cover letter for different positions and companies, writers must do the same when they create a writing portafolio. For instance, an IT technical writing position may require candidates to demonstrate proficiency in drafting instruction sets, while a technical writing position in healthcare may require candidates to demonstrate proficiency in drafting grants. Timothy Esposito, a logistics documentation manager at Oracle, shared in an interview that he is most likely to hire candidates with writing samples of the work that his team produces at the company. Due to the varying expectations and responsibilities, individuals should refer to the job description of their desired position.
Individuals who have recently obtained a degree or individuals who are transitioning into technical writing may find it difficult to compile writing samples. Consider the materials that you have drafted within your education or within other positions. Can any of these materials be updated, revised, or expanded upon? If the answer is no, set aside time to draft some writing samples based on the company’s needs or requests. New writers can begin by reviewing and revising existing content, such as an instruction manual for a common household appliance. Then, begin drafting and refining your own samples.
Individuals who are experienced technical writers can use existing documentation from volunteer work, documentation developed for friends or family, and even documentation that they developed for themselves, such as a style sheet. As mentioned earlier, the samples included within one’s portfolio will vary based on the job description and candidate requirements.
Creating a Writing Portfolio
Please note that if a writer intends to use a document that was developed at a previous job, it is imperative that he/she receives written consent to post or share the document. Even if the company’s logo and identifiable information is removed, most companies still own the intellectual property developed by their employees. Without written consent from a former or current employer, a writer can encounter copyright and legal issues for sharing this work.
To avoid copyright infringement, Mr. Esposito recommends sharing your work that is accessible by the public, known as the public domain. For example, a website page that you may have collaborated on with former colleagues.
After determining which samples to include, writers must dedicate time to revise and update their samples as needed. Some samples may require a brief description of the document that explains the purpose, layout, and relevant terminology. Ideally, the chosen samples should demonstrate the best pieces of work that the writer has completed and, therefore, should be typo and error-free. Writers who typically review their own work should have another writer or trustworthy person review these materials for typos.
Maintaining a Portfolio
A writing portfolio must be shared to be effective. Today, the most common method for sharing professional information is LinkedIn. If a job application does not include a section for submitting writing samples, reference the portfolio within your cover letter and resume. Then, provide a link to your LinkedIn so that the employer may easily access your samples. According to Mr. Esposito, another effective method for sharing a writing portfolio with employers is by developing a website and sharing your website link. Technical writers can use a website to organize different samples and provide additional details about their work or experience gained.
Remember to update your LinkedIn profile and portfolio regularly to ensure the information is current and accurate. Was this information helpful? Consider sharing the article on LinkedIn to help other technical writers!