Developing portfolio from proprietary work?

Hi all,

I have experience with technical writing (5 years over 2 jobs) but all of the work has been on proprietar information. The first job I legitimately had to sign an NDA, and the second job was all marked confidential.

The problem? People keep asking for a portfolio of work I've done, and get a little suspicious when I say that that I don't have one because of the proprietary info.

Any suggestions on how to work around this? It's like people think my value diminishes without a portfolio.

Thanks for reading and in advance for any replies!

I'm not a technical writer, but for my industry, I can use confidential work in my portfolio once the product is launched or the information is released to the public. Is there any info in your contract/NDA that gives a timeline on when you're able to share your work? AFAIK all contacts have some kind of timeline stated. I just signed an NDA with a 5-year timeline today. For now, could your portfolio focus on the impact that your work provided? Maybe you could break your portfolio down into different industries you've worked in, showing your breadth? Can you create case studies showing where your work fit into the bigger picture leading to the positive outcome? I think most people understand that things need to be confidential and appreciate you upholding your part of it. If it were me, I would additionally also proactively create a sample project (create my own brief/process/solution) for the industry/job I'm targeting. That way you can show your actual work. It's unpaid work on the front end but if it gets you where you want to go... I know it's not the same as showing exactly what you've done, but may be useful in the interim.
Thanks for your reply Connie! I think the impact/case studies is a good idea to discuss my past projects, thank you! Do you have any suggestions on how to narrow down a sample project? I've thought of doing something like that, but given that I'm not SUPER set on a particular role (and there are a lot of facets to technical writing), I haven't been able to come up with a way that would make that 'worth it.' Any ideas?Thank you again for your response!
I would just choose one area I'm interested in and make the project very specific to that. Maybe choose a company or industry that's very trendy right now (i.e. highly relatable to lots of interviewers) and do a project on that.Narrowing down your subject of interest might also be helpful for interviews. In my experience as both a hiring manager and a prospective employee, conversations have been much more fruitful when I'm clear on what I want. Perhaps you could first put together your list of case studies of existing work and then identify a gap in your existing work and do a sample project to fill this gap.I also wanted to ask if you've looked at portfolios of other technical writers- I'm sure you're not the only one held back by confidentiality/NDAs- how do other people get around this obstacle?