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April 2008

Guide to Using Free Tools to Create an Online Portfolio

Portfolio_notes_screencaputre_2   Last week I ran my Using Free Tools to Create an Online Portfolio webinar. We had a nice mix of different professional backgrounds, although it was all women, which I found kind of interesting. Men, where were you?

Anyway, I got lots of good feedback and emails and was happy to hear that several people were already working on pulling together their portfolios.

I thought that others could benefit from the handouts I created for the webinar, so here they are, your Guide to Using Free Tools to Create an Online Portfolio.

Six Steps to Creating Your Online Portfolio:

1.  Identify the purpose of your portfolio

2.  Identify/create/organize your artifacts

3.  Identify the technology tool you will use

4.  Set up a portfolio structure and Table of Contents

5.  Create your portfolio

6.  Market/Share your portfolio

You'll also find a bunch of great examples, as well as links to other resources and articles.

One interesting thing I noted in the webinar was that everyone who attended wanted to use their portfolios for passive job searching--essentially building their online reputations and letting people know what they do as a form of networking. I was actually really glad to see this because I've found that waiting until you're actively searching to pull together a portfolio isn't as effective. It takes time to create a body of work and you need to treat this as an ongoing process of pulling together your best stuff. And of course, having an online portfolio is yet another way to manage your reputation.

I'm planning to run the webinar again in a month or two, so if you're interested in participating, drop me an email. Also note that I'm postponing the webinar I had planned for April 8 on Using Storytelling Techniques to Make Your Online Portfolio Rock! I'll post the new dates when I reschedule.

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With Web 2.0, You Can Run, But You Can't Hide: Tools and Resources for Managing Your Online Reputation

In a few weeks I'll be doing a presentation on social media and public relations for the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society, so this video via Escape from Cubicle Nation is very timely. It's from  Gary Vaynerchuck who argues that in the transparent world of Web 2.0 it will be impossible to have multiple identities. "You are who you are online," he says. No more can you be "one person for the chicks" and another person for your business associates. His conclusion? The "forces of good" can now win, because the best people will rise to the top, their actions and quality of work apparent to all.

That's a really powerful idea for both organizations and individuals. It's also a dangerous one if you aren't  careful. You have to be on top of your game because if you aren't, then people will know it. You have to keep learning, because if you don't, your outdated skills will show. That's not to say that you can't screw up, but if you do, then you won't be able to hide. It will be out there for people to see, so  you'll have to acknowledge and deal with what you've done. How you address mistakes will then become part of that public record too.

Monitoring and managing your online reputation becomes a critical success skill for both individuals and organizations in a global trust economy. In case you don't believe it, check out this survey. And don't forget The Transparent CEO.  So how do you do this? Below are some resources to get you started.

Tools and Resources for Monitoring and Managing Your Online Reputation

I'd love to hear from you about your favorite reputation resources and your thoughts on Gary's assertion that you can't have multiple personas in a Web 2.0 world.

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Offline Manuals Really Don't Cut it For Me Anymore

User_manual I'm in the middle of putting together a teacher manual on how to conduct informational interviews and job shadows and I don't mind saying it's seriously annoying. The client wants a paper-based version because she says that people like to "hold something in their hands." While this may be true, that manual they're holding  won't be nearly as dynamic and helpful as it would have been if I could do an online version. Some of what will be missing:

  • Videos and slideshows I could have embedded that would actually show what the jobs involve so that kids would know even before they did a job shadow whether or not a job seemed interesting.
  • Active links to career assessments that they could just click through to, rather than having to type in the URL from the lesson plan. I could also have created some linkages between assessment results and career information on a website, but that won't be possible in a printed version of the manual.
  • Links to blog posts like this one on virtual volunteering. I can include the links in the manual, but the odds that anyone will actually go looking for the information are probably pretty limited.
  • Documents and other resources that could be downloaded onto student computers--and that students would be able to access outside of the classroom.

The biggest issue, of course, is that the offline manual just sits there, while an online version asks for you to interact with it. I can put many of the same resources and links into a print version as an online version, but they just don't hold the same appeal to folks. Who wants to type in a link like this:,27&nodeid=28&cluster=6

I also think that there's an issue with accessibility--at least with a website, it's there, easily found and available 24/7. That paper version I suspect will land on someone's desk somewhere and I'll be lucky if it lands in anyone's hands.

This experience is making me realize how much I've come to rely on using the web as my primary means of delivering information and training. I'm OK with trying to find online tools that you can print out if you need to hold something, but having to build something offline is increasingly uninteresting and limiting to me. It feels like I'm not providing the level of resources and supports that I could because I'm unable to make use of the interactivity and range of media that's available on the web. I also can't make it accessible to a broader audience.

Am I the only one who's feeling this? Is it harder for other people to have to create off-line resources once you've been working online for awhile?

Photo via buffcorephil

When Learning Gets Personal: For Bob Cook

Bob_cook_2I write a lot about the benefits of blogging as a learning tool and have done a great deal of thinking about what gets people motivated to start blogging. An email I received yesterday from Sarah Cook Curtis reminded me that sometimes learning to use a new technology can come from an incredibly personal (and somewhat painful) place.

Sarah's email had the subject line "Thank You" and said this (with her permission):

Hi Michele,

I just wanted to take a moment and thank you.  We spoke on the phone a couple of years ago now after you responded to a post I'd put on on trdev.  You were so kind and helpful.  But the project I was working on got panned etc. et al.  Then sometime in Jan (I think), I saw a post or reply from you on trdev and saw your blog. I started reading it ferociously and then discovered your glass ceiling blog.  While reading them I was having a rough time at work(have since a parted with the organization which was great), I wanted to use a lot of the technology you were writing about.  At that time I just wasn't able to see how I could use it professionally, but I wanted to learn. 

About 4 weeks ago my father's health took a huge nose dive.  While he'd been sick for quite some time the speed at which he started to fail was incredible.  My dad was a computer programmer and then a trainer and he loved technology.  Though he was a mainframe dude at heart he loved that I was exploring Web 2.0.  So to make a long story short, I started a blog.  It was a blog to start sharing stories and memories of my father while he was alive.  To celebrate life, family and community. It's been a wonderful experience for me.  Thanks so much.  This is the power of Web 2.0, you were inspiring me way up here in CT.

Here's the blog it continues and I uploaded a video i made today.  I'll keep learning.

My father passed yesterday and I didn't want to keep intending to thank you for your inspriration, I wanted to do it.

Best wishes and thank you,

Sarah Cook Curtis

I emailed Sarah immediately, offering my condolences and appreciation for her taking the time to write me such an incredible email in the middle of her own personal sadness. I asked for her permission to share what she'd written because it touched me so much to see how she'd used blogging as a way to celebrate her father's life and to connect to him through the technology. It also seemed like the learning process itself was healing for her. This morning I received this response:


Please feel free to share any and all.  I created the blog to celebrate my father's life while he was alive.  So often people are memorialized and stories are left unshared.  I also created the blog to learn how to do it.  I learn a little bit every day. 

My father was a mainframe computer programmer who became a computer programming trainer.  he worked mostly in the insurance industry and he loved technology.  Originally he asked me to just post the obituary to the website for my mother's healthfood store, but then as he started to explain to me what I needed to do that sounded really complicated.  So I decided to just get the blog up and running, it's full intention only came to me as I laid restlessly one evening. I asked his permission and off we went.  It was great to show him the title picture and share the stories with him.  (I still plan on tackling the website thing)!

The blog has also been great for my family.  My fathers siblings live in Massachusetts, Washington State Hawaii. Luckily they were all able to be here with my father as he passed.  But now they have a living experience that they can share with their friends.  That's just great.

I see lots of great things I can do and directions that I can go in from this experience.

Btw, we also used google docs to work collaboratively in writing the obituary.

Sometimes learning and technology intersect in some really personal spaces. I hope that blogging continues to help Sarah and her family through a difficult time and I'm incredibly grateful that she shared her story. For people who think that technology somehow makes us less connected on a human, personal level, Sarah's experience shows us how untrue this is. Technology can help us connect on the most profound and deepest levels, even when we deal with the hardest times of our lives. Thank you, Sarah, for reminding me of that lesson.

Technology Nuggets--Blogging by Cell and Twenty-Somethings Don't Know Everything

I'm feverishly preparing for Thursday's webinar, but wanted to blog a couple of quick tech-related items. I also needed a break.

Jott_screen_2 Blogging by Cell
Cammy Bean over at Learning Visions woke up this morning with lots of blog ideas running through her head. Between two kids and a grueling work project, she's looking for ways to multi-task, so this morning she wrote her latest blog post with Jott. I've been using it mostly for reminders in the car, but it's people like Cammy and Bud Deihl who get me thinking that maybe I need to do something besides listen to NPR while I'm driving.

Gen Y Doesn't Know EVERYTHING About Technology
My 20 year-old daughter began blogging a few months ago from college, primarily on feminism and political issues, although some of her daily life is thrown in as well. Luckily she shared the link with me since I gauge whether or not she's still alive by the presence of new posts in my feed reader. Lately it's about the only way I can find her.

Anyway. . . she called me very excited a few hours ago to report that Huffington Post had linked to her, which completely threw her off because like most bloggers, she assumed that only her friends and work colleagues were actually reading her blog.  I asked her if she had Google Analytics installed so she could look at her traffic and my extremely web savvy, was on Xanga at 14, Gen Y daughter said "no." Then she said she didn't know how to do it and waited with that pregnant pause known to mothers the world over, the one that says "could you do it for me?"

So I just spent a few minutes installing it for her. My point being that there are still a lot of things these digital natives don't know about, which I have to remind myself of now and then. She's also never heard of Twitter. Or maybe she's just pretending that she doesn't know what it is because she's afraid I'll follow her.

This incident also showed me how times have changed. When I called from college for help, it was to ask if they'd send me some cookies.

Micheles_portfolio_screencapture There's Still  Room in the Using Free Tools to Create an Online Portfolio for Work or School Webinar
It's still not too late to sign up for the Using Free Tools to Create an Online Portfolio for Work or School webinar I'm running on Thursday, March 27 from 2-3 p.m. (EST) An investment of one hour and $35 and you'll get access to the webinar and a step-by-step workbook with links to some great examples ( I went with Google Notebook, in case you were wondering) . It should give you all you need to pull together a portfolio for yourself. You can complete the registration form here.

Working/Learning Blog Carnival

Carnival David Ferguson from Dave's Whiteboard has just published the first of what I hope is a continuing series of Blog Carnivals on working and learning. The theme was simple: “Work at learning; learning at work” and there are some excellent posts from Cathy Moore, Janet Clarey, Harold Jarche and, of course, Dave. One of my "golden oldies" is in there too. An excellent way to ease into your Monday after what was for many of us a long weekend. Enjoy and let Dave know you'd like to see the Carnival continue!

Photo via carf.

Dump Your Resume--Build a Reputation Instead

Reputation For anyone who’s looking for a new job or just wants to keep their options open, this is a little scary.

Dan Enthoven, vice president of marketing of job search firm Trovix, recently conducted a study where he sent out 35 fictitious resumes to companies he knew were seeking software engineers:

The resumes included all the right credentials and background needed for each specific job posted on company sites, including degrees from none other than top engineering schools such as Stanford and MIT, just to make the candidates even more appealing.

Out of 35 of these perfect resumes sent only seven received emails saying, “we’d like to talk to you,” says Enthoven. “That was shocking.”

Actually, it isn't shocking. It's an inevitable outgrowth of information overload and the inherent concern most organizations have about hiring the right people. What's a little scary for a lot of us is that even when these candidates looked perfect on paper, that wasn't enough.

So how to get noticed in this kind of environment? Seth Godin believes that resumes are dead, especially for really good jobs, and suggests that you need to find some alternative ways of selling yourself:

  • How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?
  • Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
  • Or a reputation that precedes you?
  • Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

I'd add to the list a great online portfolio. It will give you an easy way to share your compelling blog, your extraordinary letters of recommendation and your sophisticated project. With a click, I can really see what you have to offer and whether or not you're worth talking to.

Going digital will also help you build that all-important online identity. The first stop for many organizations to see what they can find out about you is Google. Having an active online presence that presents you in the best light is most definitely going to serve you better than keeping all that great stuff you've done in a box in your office or on your hard drive.

The point here is this--and now I'm quoting Seth again:

Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for... those jobs don't get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.

I'm going to take it one step further and argue that NO job is filled with a resume. It's filled by having people know and love your work, either because someone recommended you or you've demonstrated your greatness on your own. Jobs are filled by people with a reputation. So what are you doing to build and communicate yours?

Photo via monsieur paradis

Google vs. Zoho for Handouts: Reader Feedback

Yesterday I put up two versions of online handouts I'm considering for my March 27 webinar on e-portfolios--one using  Google Notebook and the other using Zoho Notebook--and asked for reader votes and feedback on which version to use. As usual, I was richly rewarded.

The majority of readers (67%) voted for Zoho. Like me, they were attracted to its look and feel. Claudia Escribano thought it was more "digestible."  Mike Taylor thought the navigation was "super-simple" and he liked how you can embed items into the notebook, something I thought was cool too.

But, there are two major issues with Zoho. First I heard from Britt Watwood, who sent me this screencast of his walk through Zoho where he discovered that the commentary I'd added to one of the sample portfolios I embedded in the notebook was floating on top of the portfolio, like this:



This didn't happen for me, so I'm guessing that it could be a browser issue. Regardless, it obviously gets in the way of Zoho's effectiveness. One fix would be to remove the text object I embedded in the Notebook page and make my comments on each portfolio using Zoho's comments feature. The downside of that, though, is that comments aren't readily apparent--I would have to make sure that people knew to read the comments.

The other biggie, which may be a deal-breaker is the fact that you can't print a Zoho Notebook. One of the great things about Zoho is that you can embed objects into a page, so you can have text, a video, a website and audio all in one Notebook page. To do this, though, you're using frames, and of course frames don't print well.

I'd actually discovered this several days ago and decided that if the interface was good enough, I was willing to do a print version of the handouts in a PDF. But I'm having second thoughts about this--do I really want to add one more thing to my work load? Technology should make things easier, not add another step in my process. One major advantage of Google Notebook is that you can easily print it, so I only have to do the work once.

I'm still in the decision-making phase here, although leaning toward Google, much as I love Zoho. I think it's the combo of floating text AND printing issues. One or the other I could deal with, but not sure I want to deal with both. That could change of course.


Zoho Notebook vs. Google Notebook for Handouts: Which Would You Use?

Google_notebook_sampleI'm prepping for the webinar I'm doing on Using Free Tools to Create an Online Portfolio for Work or School on March 27 and was looking for the best way to create my handouts. I knew I wanted to do something online because there were a lot of samples to share, so I started thinking about my options.

Initially I was going to set up a wiki, but then I saw some samples using Google Notebook that I really liked. It seemed like it would be an easy way to pull together various resources and create links for people to be able to check out later, so I started working in that. You can see a sample here.

As I kept going, though, it felt like one big long screen scroll. I had a lot of info to cover and it felt like it might overwhelm people if it appeared for them in a long list, rather than in smaller chunks, even with the Table of Contents. I also thought that the layout was a little boring. Zoho_notebook_sample_2

Then, Zoho Notebook popped into my head. I'd experimented with it a long time ago, but had never really gone back to it. What I liked was that it would allow me to create individual pages and the look and feel was a little more attractive than the plain Jane Google Notebook. You can go here to see a sample I created.

Now I'm wondering which is the better tool to use. Zoho Notebook looks more attractive to me and I like the way that you can embed web pages directly into the notebook. With Google Notebook you can only create the links. But I'm also wondering if Zoho is harder for people to navigate--the scrolling between each page isn't entirely intuitive, nor is the scrolling on individual pages. Depending on what you put into a Zoho page, you're actually dealing with different frames and for some people that can be really confusing.

What do you think? If you were going to be getting online handouts, would you prefer a Google Notebook or a Zoho Notebook version?  Drop me a line in comments if you have some specific thoughts or just answer using the poll. And if you have some other ideas, hit me with those.

Voice Problems

Mouth I'm having a voice problem right now. Not of the laryngitis variety. It's a writing issue.

Today, as I wrote a jargon-laden response to an RFP for a client, I realized how soul-sapping it is to do that kind of work.  It's what's expected, unfortunately, by the funders and by the client, so I have to do it. In fact, I've become quite adept at stringing together a series of polysyllabic vocabulary words in a way that to me often seems to obscure what we want to say, rather than make it clearer. But clients love it and it's what's on my plate right now, so there you go. 

This would bother me less if I didn't feel like it carries over to my writing here. When I've been in this world for too long (and too long can be a few days for some of these jobs), it feels like my blogging takes on that dreaded "teacher voice." You know, the Charlie Brown "wa wa wa wa wa" voice? There's a slight lecturing quality that I don't like, but can't seem to get rid of. It's also a time when I seem to draw fewer connections and when I feel stale and boring, even to myself. And usually I find myself to be endlessly fascinating, at least according to my husband.

I've tried to address this by blogging at 5:00 a.m., before I start the jargony stuff. But it seems to carry over from the day before, dogging me. You'd think that sleep would help me shake it off, but apparently not. When I'm in this mode, it feels like I've lost the connection to my "real" voice, the one that helps me learn and to see things with fresh eyes.

I think it's interesting that I feel like I have a "teacher voice" when I'm stale and not learning and when I've been working on the same kinds of projects to meet the demands of various competing bureaucracies. Is this a coincidence? What does that mean?

But that's really an aside. This post is more to acknowledge to myself that I'm in a bit of a pit, not attuned to my inner teacher, as Tom Haskins would say. The first step to changing things is to say them out loud, so there it is. I'm having voice problems. Let's hope they clear up over the weekend.

Photo via kkelly2007