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Career portfolios

A career portfolio goes beyond a resume and a cover letter to show a prospective employer your work experience, skills, accomplishments, and more.

Portfolios include information about who you are and examples of your work and achievements. A traditional resume is included in a career portfolio along with written and/or visual information that highlights what you have to offer.

So, what types of things go in a portfolio?  The following list of the types of things you should consider including in a career portfolio comes from Quintessential, a longstanding career development website:

  1. Career Summary and Goals: A description of what you stand for (such as work ethic, organizational interests, management philosophy, etc.) and where you see yourself in two-to-five years.
  2. Professional Philosophy/Mission Statement: A short description of the guiding principles that drive you and give you purpose.
  3. Resume: A summary of your education, achievements, and work experience, using a chronological or functional format.
  4. Skills, Abilities and Marketable Qualities: A detailed examination of your skills and experience.  This section should include the name of the skill area; the performance or behavior, knowledge, or personal traits that contribute to your success in that skill area; and your background and specific experiences that demonstrate your application of the skill.
  5. List of Accomplishments: A detailed listing that highlights the major accomplishments in your career to date.  Accomplishments are one of the most important elements of any good job search.
  6. Samples of Your Work: A sampling of your best work, including reports, papers, studies, brochures, projects, presentations, etc.
  7. Testimonials and Letters of Recommendations: A collection of any kudos you have received — from customers, clients, colleagues, past employers, professors, etc.  Some experts even suggest including copies of favorable employer evaluations and reviews.
  8. Awards and Honors: A collection of certificates of awards, honors, and scholarships.
  9. Conference and Workshops: A list of conferences, seminars, and workshops you’ve participated in and/or attended.
  10. Transcripts, Degrees, Licenses, and Certifications: A description of relevant courses, degrees, licenses, and certifications.
  11. Professional Development Activities: A listing of professional associations and conferences attended – and any other professional development activities.
  12. Military records, awards, and badges: A listing of your military service, if applicable.
  13. Volunteering/Community Service: A description of any community service activities, volunteer or pro bono work you have completed, especially as it relates to your career.
  14. References List: A list of three to five people (including full names, titles, addresses, and phone/e-mail) who are willing to speak about your strengths, abilities, and experience.

A career portfolio will also set you apart. Despite the obvious advantages of having a portfolio, few employers see them during interviews. So how effective are they? Verizon Wireless “talent connector” Krystal Dominick says only three or four applicants out of the 300 interviews she conducts annually come in with a portfolio. And how many people in that small group were hired? “All of them got jobs,” she says.  “The portfolios really help them showcase their experience and their job histories.”

The benefits of developing a career portfolio go beyond having a useful tool to showcase yourself. The process of creating the portfolio is also a valuable way to prepare for networking and interviews. Through the effort of identifying, writing about, and organizing your experience, education, skills and accomplishments, you will be prepared to speak easily and confidently about yourself to prospective employers.

Tip: Take your portfolio online

E-portfolios or online portfolios provide the same information as a traditional career portfolio but in an online format. You can use tools such as Pathbrite, Figdig, or Carbonmade to create an E-portfolio and then provide the link to prospective employers and your network. E-portfolios are visually appealing, easy to update and efficient to share.