Portfolios are a tool commonly used by artists, architects, and interior designers to show potential clients and employers their work.
For all other professionals, it is a relatively new idea. A portfolio is a way to show an employer samples of your work and pictures of projects you have worked on. It allows you to assemble, in an orderly fashion, representations of your best quality work. It gives you a chance to stand out from the competition by showing the employer you hope will hire you, a visual display of your work. You will most likely be sharing it in an interview.
It is important to understand that a portfolio is not a resume. A resume is a summary of your background and talents. A portfolio is a display of your work. (A resume should be included as the first item in your portfolio.)
Items that you choose to include in your portfolio depend in large part on what you have to show, and what you determine the employer needs to see. You will decide what to include after you have done some research and analysis. Read the job description and talk to people that currently work for the company to see what to emphasize. Visit the employer’s web site to glean relevant information.
The employer is looking for a basic set of skills and some specialized expertise specific to their industry. Included in the skills and expertise sought by employers are the following:
- Technical Expertise
- Computer Skills
- Communications Skills
- Analytical/Problem Solving
- Leadership Skills
- Organization Skills
- Team Skills
For your portfolio, you want to be able to actually find and show the work you've produced that demonstrate these skills and expertise. Examples of your talents can be seen in the things you have done such as reports, projects, designs, drawings, computer programs, diagrams, flow charts, class lists, documentation, memos, events, and letters of recommendations (employers are also looking for what others have said about you), etc.
They come from your:
- School work
- Work situations
- Professional activities
- Leisure activities
- Community activities
If you are a recent graduate your school projects (such as a senior project or your masters thesis project) will provide a rich sources of material to include in your portfolio.
If you are an experienced professional, your work product will be the source of materials for your portfolio.
To construct your portfolio you will need to get fresh, crisp, clean copies of the documents you plan to use. Do not use originals. Be sure to run spell checks on everything. And go to a professional copy service. Take pictures of your senior project with the whole team smiling! Then use the copies with captions under the pictures. You can get color copies at any of the commercial copy centers.
You will have to invest some money in stationary supplies such as sheet protectors, binders and dividers. Don’t be cheap! Buy high quality supplies.
Your portfolio should not be just thrown together. It should be extremely well organized and very professional looking. You will need a table of contents at the beginning and you will need to place dividers with labels in front of each new item. You should not throw in absolutely everything; just use the most impressive representations of your work and skills.
Your table of contents might include:
- References and Recommendation Letters
- Writing Samples
The use of a portfolio can really make you standout. It increases your confidence and it impresses employers. A portfolio helps you compete when the competition might have more experience. You will have a better presentation of your experience! That can make the difference in getting the job.