For years, creative professionals like architects, designers, artists and writers seeking opportunities have used career portfolios otherwise known as the job search portfolio to communicate their abilities by displaying prior work, either done for employment or for leisure. In today’s competitive, knowledge-based labor market, other professionals are discovering the value of a well put together career portfolio.
If well thought out, the act of putting together a career portfolio will help candidates from any industry reflect on their skills and create an occupational focus for future employment. It can help employees develop a marketing tool which is strategically laid out to influence a potential employer when making a selection. Career portfolios can also help the employed or the re-entry worker with career transitions or the already employed get promotions or new jobs by identifying transferable skills. Not only does the portfolio work well as a marketing tool, it also helps to catalog professional development information as you move through your career.
Career coaches and counselors are increasingly recommending the career portfolio as an important job search tool to help job search candidates stand out from the competition in a competitive job market. Of course once you have made the decision to move forward with your career portfolio the next big decision is about what to include. In short, for your first pass – include everything you can find in your first pass. Over time you might choose to retire items from your career portfolio or choose to create one on line.
What to include in the Portfolio?
The overall objective of the portfolio is to provide support for the information included in your resume. In other words you don’t just have to speak about what you have done; you can also demonstrate what you have done. To do this effectively, the career portfolio must be conveniently designed for travel and the material must be easy to retrieve and attractively displayed. In selecting items for your portfolio, ensure that the item has a clear purpose and is tailored to suit your audience. In addition, remember that the visual presentation will reflect your professional standards so categories need to be clearly defined and labeled and special attention paid to the fundamentals like font and layout.
Key Items to Include in a Career Portfolio
1. Current resume which would include details on education, jobs and duties performed. You may choose to use a chronological or functional resume format.
2. Awards & Honors, Diplomas, Degrees, Unofficial transcripts or any other document that verifies your education or outstanding work, for which you might have been recognized.
3. Membership cards, licenses, training or technical certifications or any other documents that supports your qualifications are a great asset to a career portfolio.
4. Letters of recommendation, performance reviews, employment evaluations, “Job well done” emails or letters and customer satisfaction surveys are all perfect examples that will showcase work ethic or express the opinions of others about your work.
5. Work samples and research output could demonstrate skills specific to the job for which you are applying.
6. Sample publications, reports and papers written or presented are always a positive add for your career portfolio as well.
7. Miscellaneous evidence of work and projects completed could include event programs and photos of events you have helped to plan or coordinate.
Now that you know what to include in the career portfolio, the following are some general tips to keep in mind for the completing and presenting your portfolio:
1. Make copies of items for use in your portfolio – Do not use your originals. Heaven forbid that your portfolio gets lost or ruined. Replacing originals of your life’s work will not be easy.
2. When displaying or showing your career portfolio – be sure to hold it for the viewer to see it clearly. You already know what’s there, so avoid keeping it directly in front of you. It is a good idea to practice sharing your portfolio with friends, colleagues or career professionals and watch for falling content as you open and display.
3. Explain items in the portfolio by talking about the “why” or the “back story” behind your work. Be sure to place these items not only in the historical context of what you have done, but in context of what you can and will do for this new potential employer.
4. If you have opting to create your portfolio offline at first, use a medium sized binder and sheet protectors as an easy way to get started..
5. Remove, reorder or relocate materials as they lose their relevance or your interest changes. Although your career portfolio is about cataloging your past, it is also about relevancy to your future