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How Public Should Your Portfolio Be?

Privacy_3 Sarah Stewart is continuing to build her online portfolio and in doing so has run smack into an issue that concerns anyone who has information online--how much should she share?

As Sarah points out, she's in a bit of a fix, because of course some aspects at least of her portfolio must be public if she's going to use it to build and communicate about her professional identity. But the question becomes "where's the line between being transparent and sharing too much?":

Most of the reasons for having an ePortfolio are tied up with giving it a public profile ie role modeling to my students and midwives, and using it as a teaching tool. My friends know I am quite shameless in wanting to build a public profile as a midwife and educator who uses Web 2.0 and social networking effectively in her professional practice. And ultimately, I may want to change my job one day which will require my ePortfolio to be made available for potential employers to view. So if I wish to achieve these aims, my portfolio will have to be public. portfolio is also an extremely important part of my ongoing professional midwifery recertification
and has the potential to contain some very sensitive material and personal reflections about women, students, and colleagues. It is highly unlikely that I am going to write anything sensitive about what I learned from attending a conference, but it is much more likely if I am talking about my clinical midwifery practice. I have a professional and legal requirement to maintain my clients' anonymity. My position as educator could also be seriously compromised if I published inappropriate material, be it in my portfolio or on this blog.

What complicates things for Sarah is the fact that she's in a healthcare field where issues of privacy are huge and, as she points out, being transparent about mistakes can have some serious repercussions. Part of her wants to be able to write about these things because she believes that the profession would be better served if healthcare professionals were able to talk about their mistakes. But another part of her worries that this could be catastrophic career-wise.

Sarah's considering what I think is the best strategy for dealing with the situation--having two portfolios. One will be public and include all of the information she wants potential employers and "customers" to see, while the other will be password-protected. This version will be more for her personal/professional development, a place where she can reflect on more sensitive situations and even reflect on mistakes she's made without fearing that others will see it.

My personal opinion is that you should always have more than one portfolio. One is your working portfolio that includes everything and is basically for your eyes only as a professional development tool and repository of information. Then you create presentation portfolios, subsets of your full portfolio that are customized for specific purposes and audiences. Potential employers, grad schools, customers, etc. all want to see only the parts of your work that are relevant to their needs. I would argue that each presentation portfolio has to tell a different story about you, which means what you present and how you present it will vary depending on the purpose of the individual portfolio.

This still doesn't answer the question of how far you go in what you include in your portfolio. There I think we're talking about having to find your own personal comfort level. What I'm willing to share with people may be far more than you're comfortable with. I will say that I think there's value in including something in your portfolio about a mistake and how you've handled it. We're all great when things are going well, but how you handle failure says a lot more about who you are as a person.

What do you think about going public with your portfolio? How much should you share? How much should you keep to yourself?

Illustration via mushon.


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I agree with you completely, Michele, but I'll probably come to the same conclusion that I did with my blog and that is time will only allow me to concentrate on one portfolio.

I totally understand that, Sarah--time is, of course, always the challenge. :-)

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