Today’s job seekers are facing one of the most discouraging job markets in recent history. The increased competition for jobs requires candidates to find ways to stand out from their competition. How can you make yourself stand out when you go in for that coveted interview? One surefire way is to market your skills in the form of a professional portfolio.
The concept of a portfolio is not new. For years, people in career fields such as art and photography have used portfolios to illustrate their talents to potential employers. However, only recently have job candidates in other major fields started to utilize this tool to market their talents and skills. It is a marketing tool that is catching on among job seekers in all career fields.
When employers conduct interviews, they often seek specific examples of what the candidate has accomplished, how the candidate has taken initiative in previous experience, and how the candidate has demonstrated his or her greatest strengths. Their interview questions will ask for specifics as opposed to generalities. By knowing what kinds of specific examples employers look for, you will be able to determine what to include in your portfolio.
The first thing that needs to be included in your portfolio is a copy of your resume, which must be polished and completely error-free. It is recommended that you have someone critique or proofread your resume to ensure that it is letter perfect. Since employers want to know specific examples of your skills, it is important to include in your portfolio writing samples from previous work assignments. Also, you can demonstrate your computer skills by including sample spreadsheets and desktop publications that you can share from past jobs or ones you’ve done in your participation in professional associations. Print outs of web pages you’ve designed are also great to add to your portfolio. Employers will ask you in an interview how others would describe you. Including in your portfolio letters of recommendation, letters of recognition, and certificates of merit will help you answer this common interview question.
Other suggested items include presentation materials to demonstrate your public speaking skills, group projects to demonstrate your teamwork skills, academic transcripts, certifications of training, a list of conferences and workshops you have attended, etc. The list can go on and on. Your chosen field/industry and your personal style will determine how your portfolio will look. You want to include anything that will illustrate your ability to achieve, but make sure the items you include are relevant to the job duties or the necessary qualifications of the job. I recommend that you have a master portfolio that includes items you’ve done in all your previous jobs, and then pick and choose from that the few that will really stand out for the specific job for which you are applying. This smaller collection will be what you take with you to the interview. Remember that your portfolio should be of great quality and not great quantity.
Once you have compiled your portfolio, you need to first promote it and second present it. First, promote your portfolio and pique the employer’s interest in you from the start by replacing the unnecessary line at the bottom of your resume “References available upon request” with the phrase “Professional portfolio available for review.” Next, learn how to use it in the interview. Do not just let it sit on your lap during the interview. Refer to it when answering questions such as the ones stated above. For example, if an interviewer asks you what kind of computer skills you possess, you can respond by opening your portfolio to a publication you have designed and begin with, “As you can see, I am proficient in a variety of desktop publishing programs.” Presenting your portfolio in an interview will show the employer that you take pride in your work. In addition to having a hard copy of your portfolio, you will want to have some samples of your work digitally available so that potential employers can refer back to your work. You can provide a slide show of your work on your LinkedIn profile or you can put some samples of your work on a flash drive or CD to leave with the employer when you leave the interview.
While preparing a portfolio may seem like a lot of time and effort, it is definitely worth it for today’s job seeker. A portfolio will demonstrate your organizational skills and your focused efforts, which in turn will make you stand out above the rest of the competition!