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Top tips for creating, maintaining your professional portfolio

March 4, 2014 — The term "portfolio" has been around for decades and is associated with a variety of occupations. As massage therapy professionals we can also take advantage of this tool.

So what is a professional portfolio? Simply put, it is a collection of your education, additional training, work achievements and awards.


March 4, 2014
By Andrea Collins

Topics

For massage therapists it could include:
– Education certificates/diplomas
– Additional courses and training (First aid/CPR certificates)
– List of any conferences and classes you took  part of
– Any volunteer and outreach experiences
– Samples of your resume and CV; current and previous (see sidebar)
– Promotional materials (business cards, brochures etc.)

Any literature that you have written or collaborated on pertaining to
the public or for the professional side of massage (blogs, articles for
magazines, newspapers, etc.)
– Clinic policies, fee schedules and privacy policies

Quality Assurance Program (relates to the continuing competence of the
members as described in the regulatory documents in the provinces that
are regulated)
    o Self-assessment tool and continuing education tracking
    o Peer Assessment (Ontario)
    o Touchpoint Article responses (Ontario)

Keep
in mind for Newfoundland and Labrador therapists you need to keep
proof, including copies of receipts and educational materials, and proof
of completion, including grade, assessment of performance, certificate
or diploma from an eligible course, program or activity attended and if
requested need to provide this proof within two weeks to their college.
In other provinces, the governing college or association may have a
program that tracks your CEUs. It is important to know what is expected
in your area in order to maintain your respective recognition/status.

Some
provinces have specific requirements regarding what is kept on file in
your professional portfolio. This determines your “must haves” to
maintain your registration. These are usually related to your quality
assurance program mentioned above. As massage therapists, however, we
could also incorporate best practices and make our portfolio even more
effective. This could include your privacy policies, clinic policies,
health history forms (including any that you have for special
populations, for example children or insurance), consent forms for
sensitive areas (if you have them – and you should), and fee schedules
including any sliding scales or special pricing. By keeping all of this
information collected in one area you have created a valuable instant
resource if you are ever challenged and have you prepared for a peer
assessment (in Ontario).

The next part of the portfolio can be unique to each therapist — you can include your achievements in other fields:
– Other education prior to or in conjunction with your massage career
– Other training or courses
– Personal improvements (courses not in the massage scope of practice; more of a personal nature)
– Personal accomplishments: athletic, hobbies other interests

These
are a list of possible suggestions. Depending on your life and work
experience, it could be vastly different – customize it for yourself.

This
may seem like a great deal of work when you don’t see a purpose. I will
almost guarantee that at some point in your career you will be asked
for a resume or a CV. At that point, you will have to scramble in order
to make sure that what you have recently done is current and accurate.
The worst scenario is leaving some information out of your resume that
could have secured an interview for the position you were seeking.

When
you are early in your work career, your portfolio may not be that
substantial and may only contain high school certificates, transcripts
and possibly some volunteer experience. As you gain more experience and
training, continuously update your portfolio with this information. If
you are entering the massage field later in your career, you will have a
much more substantial portfolio, It may not all be related to massage –
however, it may come in handy.

As you progress through your
massage career, what you want to do may evolve to include teaching or
earning income in another manner that draws on your skills. When you are
faced with these new opportunities, a well-prepared portfolio allows
you to quickly assemble the accurate information you need for the
opportunity.

An example is a therapist that was a lifeguard,
swim instructor and progressed to supervisor in high school and in
university. Some of the responsibilities included teaching advanced
classes, additional training in teaching CPR and first aid classes, and
organizing and conducting staff trainings. On the surface, these skills
do not specifically relate to massage therapy. However, if this
therapist wanted to start to teach at a school, they could use these
skills and experience to show relevant experience in a classroom when
applying to schools. If the therapist had discarded their previous
documentation, it would take valuable time and resources to try to
recall and recreate this information accurately.

Your portfolio
could also serve another function. It could be inspiration for what you
would like to do next in your career path as a massage therapist. For
example, if you come to massage as a second career or with extensive
hobbies and experience in other fields, you could use this as a platform
to see how it could be applied to the massage field.

Some examples include:
Accountant – help other RMTs with setting up bookkeeping or other tax questions as consultant

Website designer – RMTs are always looking for help and advice to keep their websites current and relevant

Photographer
– Massage therapists rarely have professional head shots for their
website or promotional material. You could also market photographs for
their clinic or treatment spaces and for stock photos that look like
proper massage treatments including remedial exercises or other
modalities.

Journalist – you could look for opportunities to
write for magazines relating to massage, write articles for other RMTs
and sell them for blogs or newsletters

These are just a few
examples that could expand your earning potential. Your goal should be
to see if the skills you have developed could pay off in the massage
field.
 
Ways to organize your portfolio
There are many options
that you can use to organize your portfolio. You could use binders and
dividers (I would also use sheet protectors to file your certificates or
use copies if you have them framed on your walls) or folders and a
small organizer to catch your receipts and smaller certificates.

If
you are technologically savvy, you could scan or take photos of your
certificates and transcripts and keep them on your computer. Be cautious
with this if this is your only copy. Computers can have failures so
keep the information backed-up somewhere, so in case you get the “blue
screen of death,” you have not lost all your information (actually this
is a good practice for your entire computer data, especially if it is
client-related).

Having a backup copy is not only valid for the
computer but also for paper copies. Flooding and fires are only two
examples that can destroy your documentation. It is always better to be
safe and have a backup – no matter how you organized your portfolio. The
computer option might be the best for therapists who tend to move
frequently, as things can get lost when you are packing and unpacking
and you may lose track of this information. This is a common complaint
that I have heard from those who tend to move around.

Maintaining
your portfolio is also very important. Even if you don’t have
everything completely organized, take some time to make sure you have
all of your latest information included. Your portfolio will only work
for you if it is current. If you use a binder have a piece of paper in
front to add dates and other information or have a plastic pouch to
store certificates or conference materials, so that you can file and
organize it at a later time.

——–
Andrea Collins, RMT, has
been a massage therapist since 1999. She has worked in a variety of
settings, and owned her own clinic. Collins has taught business at a
private massage school and has expanded to CEU seminars in business
(four-part series) and a techniques course (Massage Smarter, Not
Harder). For more information, please visit www.rmthelp.ca.


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