A reflection on portfolios

After publishing a decent amount of blog posts here on my portfolio called “Content Pirates” since over a year, I want to take a step back and reflect – like a reflection on reflections. In the following, I’ll share my thoughts on this portfolio format and my process for reflection and my personal conclusion so far.

The open portfolio format

While publishing my first blog posts as the core element of my “portfolio” I was quite sceptic about making all my thoughts and ideas available for everyone on the internet. But the more you publish and interact with others, the more confident you get.

I also see at least a little bit of traffic with a good average time on site to the blog posts so I guess my blog posts are valuable for at least some readers.

Before applying to the Master programme I’ve been benefiting from the open portfolios a lot. I was able to read about the individual experiences and learnings of the #COS alumni. I enjoyed reading the stories they have to tell and it was great to get insights into the content of the curriculum. Although being public, it feels like a safe space within the content strategy community.

My reflective process

During my studies at the Content Strategy Master programme of FH Joanneum Graz we’ve covered a seemingly countless number of topics and resources – from SEO to UX to IA. In this huge field of content strategy and all the disciplines that are connected to it you easily feel lost. That’s why I’ve (partly subconsciously) built my own “reflective cycle” to remember (or “store”) as much as possible.

Side note: I’ve not re-invented “reflective cycles”. I’ve rather taken a reflective approach and tailored it to my own needs.

Reflection Cycle
The “reflective cycle” I’ve applied during my studies. (© Dominik Berger)

 

Learn

It all starts by learning something new. The source of new knowledge could be a lecturer sharing his own experience, a chapter of a book, a YouTube video on a specific topic or even a podcast with partitioners from the field. During this phase, I try to be like a sponge and collect notes (I really like Notion to keep my thoughts organized).

Discuss

Every time, when I learn something new, I try to discuss it with somebody (could be a fellow student, colleague at work or strangers on the internet). This usually helps me to gain new perspectives on the topic. From my experience, it makes sense to discuss things with people from other fields or with different backgrounds or experiences as this will help you to broaden your mind.

Apply

The next step is to apply the recently acquired knowledge” This could be at work, for a project work at the university or for a side project. Although it’s not always possible (i.e. working with a headless CMS), I try to apply things as much as possible. This will help me to get my hands dirty. That’s the reflection in action, accompanied by some “Eureka“-moments hopefully.

Reflect

The final step is to take some (formal) time to reflect. Although this really needs discipline, I think it’s vital to benefit from my learnings. This is usually the point where I revisit my notes and, simultaneously, my portfolio process starts. Finally, this is also the point where the whole reflection process starts again.

My portfolio process

As I mentioned already, I’ve a lot of notes and “loose ends” around a topic in my notes. That’s the starting point for a new blog post here on “Content Pirates“. I try to start with the end in mind so I can ensure a sound structure and story of my posts.

To my mind, the first draft of a blog post should not aim to be perfect. And that’s why I usually set myself a time limit (i.e. 75 minutes whereas I really enjoy working in “pomodoros” of 25 minutes) for the first draft of a blog post. Afterwards, I work on several iterations of the blog post until it’s ready to be published. This is also the moment where I work on visualizations for my blog posts. Usually, I’ll ensure that there is some time between those iterations so my mind can connect the dots on the content I’m writing about even better.

My conclusion so far

Although there is still some time left in the last term of our studies and I will publish more blog posts during the upcoming weeks and months, I want to take a moment and share my conclusion with you.

Writing the blog posts was definitely a valuable thing, it was time well spent. It helped me to develop the discipline of reflection. I had to sit down and take time to reflect and process all my learnings. Without this blog I think I won’t have spent that much time on reflection. I would have a large Notion account full of notes but I wouldn’t have taken the time to connect the dots by writing about the topics that we covered during the studies.

To sum up, I really enjoyed writing the blog posts although it was a time-consuming thing. But it was worth investing my time since this blog will be my personal “vault” of connected learnings. Although I’m still not sure what I’ll do with this blog after graduation, I’m pretty confident that I’ll keep it up and running for some time so others can benefit from my learnings too (and I can keep coming back to my own reflections as well).

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