Fact: a resume and cover letter aren’t going to cut it anymore if you’re in the market for a new job or promotion. Today, you need a lot more than just a few sheets of paper (or digital files) to affirm the skills and value you bring to the table. You need something that will resonate with prospective employers and demonstrate your initiative. You need a professional portfolio.
Decent jobs are still hard to come by given the recovering economy — and dream jobs, well, they’re still about as common as four-leaf clovers in most industries. With so much competition in the workforce, you have to set yourself apart from the masses if want to have any shot at a position. A professional portfolio does just that by showcasing your experience, skills, and talents in one cohesive, easy-to-read file.
What the heck is a professional portfolio?
Basically, a professional portfolio is a compilation of materials that explain your career path, professional achievements, skills, and ambitions. Most portfolios include a resume, documentation of education (such as copies of diplomas and certificates), work samples, documentation of your skills, and letters of recommendation. The package of materials can be complied in paper format or, if you’re digitally inclined, in an online portfolio. Either way, a professional portfolio should paint a complete and accurate picture of you and your career.
How do I create a professional portfolio?
Assembling your professional portfolio is fairly easy, but you need to ensure you can customize it for multiple uses. For instance, you might organize your portfolio differently when looking for a new job than you would when applying for a promotion. If you’re going the paper route, a standard three-ring binder is perfect for organizing your materials and rearranging them for different portfolio uses. Create a cover and spine for your portfolio, use sheet protectors to store the various documents, and insert tabbed dividers between sections for easy navigation. It’s that simple!
If you choose to go digital, make sure all the files in your portfolio are reviewable across all types of computers. For instance, a Word file may not open on a Mac user’s machine. Conversely, a Pages file might not be viewable if the person is using Windows. A good way to avoid this problem is to save files in PDF format or as images. You can also create a website, using WordPress or About.Me, to house your portfolio and direct current and prospective employers to your site to review it.
Regardless of the format, make sure your professional portfolio easy to navigate and read. Creating one is pointless if it’s unwieldy and difficult to understand. Ask a friend, family member, or colleague to review it and point out anything that’s confusing or needs improvement.
If you’re serious about landing your next job or promotion, you need to portray yourself in the best professional light possible. A professional portfolio helps you achieve this and acts as a great professional ally — whether you’re seeking employment, chasing a dream job, or asking for a raise!