When job searching, people in creative careers—such as writing, graphic design, and web development—are expected to show portfolios of their work. The portfolios may include the best samples of the person’s work in print form or be a website that displays and links to the person’s online work. The goal of this portfolio is to show the worker’s skills and prove his or her ability to do a job. Employers like well-done portfolios because they can verify the candidate’s fit for their needs.
But even if you are not in what is traditionally considered a creative job, you should think about using a portfolio for a big job-search boost. For example, a friend of mine was interviewing for warehouse work and took along a folder containing a perfect attendance certificate and a safety award certificate. He included extra copies of his resume, a recommendation list, and an excellent job review from a past employer. My friend afterward told me the employer stared at the perfect attendance certificate for quite some time. “The interviewer was in awe of it,” my friend observed. It’s no surprise that my friend was offered the job.
This story is a great example of using a portfolio for a job that does not usually require a portfolio to get hired. Obviously the interviewer of my warehouse-worker friend had issues in the past with employee attendance. Knowing a worker will show up every day on time was a big concern for the employer. By using a portfolio, my friend made himself the top candidate for the job.
|Portfolios are for everyone in the job search.|
The approach of using a portfolio when it’s not expected can work for almost any job. Here are a few portfolio-building tips for everyone, no matter what your career:
- Save all portfolio items in one place. When you start job searching, it can be difficult to dig up portfolio materials, such as past performance reviews, certificates of accomplishments, recommendations, awards, honors, transcripts, thank-you notes, compliments sent by email, news clippings, and the like. So start right now by gathering in one place everything that may be appropriate for your portfolio. These items can come from jobs, education and training programs, military service, and volunteer and community work. Make multiple copies in case you want to give them to employers. If possible, scan and save the items so you can attach them to online job applications and to emails sent to potential employers.
- Be selective when assembling your portfolio. When assembling items for a portfolio to show to employers, don’t include items that are old, that are not relevant to the job opening, or that are duplicates or very similar to each other. Choose only items that will give you an extra edge in the employer’s eyes. Include materials that will highlight the traits, skills, and background most valued by that employer. You don’t want to overwhelm employers with too much information.
- Keep your portfolio current. Keeping your portfolio current is a career-long process. After you get hired, don’t stop saving material for your portfolio. Also remember to ask for letters of recommendation as appropriate, not just from past employers but also from customers, clients, and colleagues. You never know when you’ll need to job hunt again, so having up-to-date and relevant portfolio content is important.
- Use a simple portfolio presentation. If you have just a couple of portfolio items to share with employers, you can put them in a clean folder. If you have more items, consider using a three-ring binder and inserting the items into plastic page protectors. Make extra copies of portfolio items if you want to give them to employers as leave-behinds. There's no need to spend time and money creating an elaborate portfolio because the contents will do the talking.