With competition for jobs at an all-time high, job seekers need more than a resume. Career portfolios, or a bound collection of your work samples and credentials, may be the tool that sets you apart from the rest. Traditionally used by early- to mid-career job seekers, portfolios are being created today by college students to showcase their achievements to a potential employer. Although portfolios can be organized for many purposes and audiences, the point is to “show the skills employers want and prove you’re capable of moving to the next stage in a career or making a specific career shift,” says Catherine Smith, coordinator of employability skills assessment in the Michigan Department of Education in Lansing.
To package your portfolio, first gather your credentials. These include a resume, copies of diplomas, certificates, licenses, letters of recommendation, evidence of special talents such as computer skills or foreign languages, sales ranking reports, community involvement documents and any audio or visual artifacts such as tapes or photographs that support your abilities.
Unlike a resume, the elements of a portfolio can help an individual with limited work experience prove his or her ability to handle greater responsibility. For job-seekers who have had numerous jobs, portfolios can highlight accomplishments despite the many moves.
How you package your portfolio depends on what’s included, but a 9-by-12- inch leather-bound “photographer’s portfolio” is conservative and sleek. Smith suggests presenting a portfolio during the initial Interview so the potential employer can see your skills up front. Other career counselors suggest using it on the second interview when your qualifications are more closely examined.