A business or career portfolio is useful for expanding on the information contained in your resume and cover letter. It not only illustrates your skills and accomplishments, but also validates resume and cover letter statements. Additionally, a well-constructed portfolio also offers a prospective employer a glimpse into what you may be able to accomplish in the future.
Just as resume guidelines suggest tailoring information according to a specific job description, so do portfolio best practices. This means that although a portfolio consists of standard sections, items within each section should target a specific position.
Hard Copy vs. Digital
Instead of thinking in terms of either/or, the American Intercontinental University recommends that you create both a hard copy and a digital portfolio. Although a paper-based portfolio might be more appropriate for an in-person interview, a digital version posted on the Internet provides opportunities for prospective employers to find you.
An up-to-date and well-organized portfolio tells an employer something about your organizational skills and substantiates resume statements such as “good attention to detail.”
- Include a table of contents to make it easier to find important documents.
- Tabs or index dividers can further help to organize information by subject or by type. If you create a digital portfolio, convert it into a single PDF document.
- Use a good quality, three-ring binder and plastic page protectors to keep documents in pristine condition. Carry a copy of your digital portfolio on a memory stick.
A brief vision statement at the beginning of the portfolio can help a potential employer understand what you want and expect to achieve in the coming years.
Resume and Work Samples
Start with a section that contains an up-to-date, targeted resume. This is important, even though you’ll also give a copy to the interviewer.
Work samples should include relevant writing samples and business documents, such as spreadsheets, graphs, charts or marketing materials and reports that you created, as well as photographs or screenshots of projects you worked on.
Get permission before you include business documents or information that a past or current employer may consider proprietary or sensitive.
Work-related Information, Awards and Honors
In this section, include copies of annual performance reviews, appreciation letters from clients or customers and any recognition awards – such as employee-of the-month – that you may have received.
Begin this section with your college diploma and grade transcripts or a copy of an outstanding grade report; also, include a copy of any professional licenses or certifications.
CareerCast.com recommends that you include four to six reference letters in your portfolio. The most effective are those written by educators, professional colleagues of your rank or higher and supervisors. In addition, reference letters should highlight different skills, abilities and achievements.
Finally, insert a sheet with at least three job references as the last document in your portfolio.