The Power of Portfolios

It is common knowledge that a picture is worth a thousand words, and a job-skills or career portfolio is easily one of the most powerful tools that any job seeker can have in his or her professional repertory. Demonstrating visually what a resume or a cover letter cannot, a well-constructed portfolio is like a book of snapshots giving an employer a holistic picture of a person’s life and potential based upon his or her experiences, education, accomplishments, and skills, and in the creativity and thought that have gone into the construction and maintenance of the portfolio.

The traditional portfolio is maintained in a professional three-ring binder, with or without a zipper closure. Once considered to be a tool utilized by photographers, graphic designers, journalists, models, and other creative professionals and artists to showcase their work, portfolios are now widely used by job seekers from all walks of life as effective representations of themselves and their accomplishments.

A portfolio can include any meaningful representation of an individual’s life, arranged chronologically or by category of accomplishment. In addition to samples of work, portfolios typically contain outstanding school reports and papers; certificates of award or honor; military awards, medals, and badges; degrees, licenses, and certifications; testimonials and letters of recommendation; and any other tangible evidence, in any multi-media format, of excellence in personal skills or accomplishments.

An effective career portfolio would include an individual’s resume, a statement of his or her goals, samples of any published or other written work or artwork, a clear and specifically defined listing of professional accomplishments, personal and professional references, job evaluations, a description of community service activities and volunteer work performed (including thank you letters from the relevant organizations), and brochures or certificates from the conferences, seminars, and workshops attended and associations in which he or she is a member.

The initial assembly of a portfolio is time consuming, but, once assembled, it should be a fairly easy task to maintain it in good order. The portfolio should be updated immediately upon completion of each project or the receipt of some recognition or reward and tweaked when any previous accomplishment comes to mind.

Individual documents within portfolios may be covered in clear plastic to protect them or enhance their appearance. Whether covered or not, documents within a portfolio should be easily accessible – and easily readable – when presented to someone for viewing.

The best employment portfolio should present any prospective employer with a crystal clear picture of the person who is applying for a job. As such, it should be brought to each and every interview as an amazingly powerful demonstration of the experiences, skills, and accomplishments that one can uniquely offer to that employer.

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