Nothing says “preparedness” like walking into an interview with an impressive portfolio. No matter your industry, a physical portfolio can be done to showcase your talents, results, and proof of your work history. Although a digital portfolio can be done to display on your iPad or laptop, we are going to focus on a good ol’ fashioned physical portfolio that anyone can put together.
First, choose your portfolio style. Amazon (www.amazon.com) has many options or you can pay a little more and go to your local Staples (www.staples.com) to find a nice leather-bound portfolio. It is best to find one that easily allows you to slip papers into a plastic protective sleeve. If you do not expect to have papers larger than 8.5 x 11, then go with one that fits letter-sized paper. There are also portfolios that allow you to fold it out into a table flip book for easy display. Regardless of what you choose, keep in mind that it should look as professional as possible. A three-ring binder just isn’t professional enough these days.
Now that you have your portfolio, what should you put inside?
- Your resume should be the first thing in your portfolio. Have extra copies tucked behind. If you have reference letters, take extra copies with you to give to your interviewers.
- Think of your career as a story. Start at the beginning and focus on achievements throughout the years. Then use physical and visual pieces to use while you tell your story. Do you have newspaper clippings featuring your work? Pictures of people enjoying a product you helped to brand? Printed materials from an event your produced? Newsletters boasting your dedication to the company? Copies of a magazine where you were published? Really, anything visual will make your portfolio pop. If you’re in a technical or financial field where visuals are not readily available, find articles about the companies you have worked for and find visuals to pump up their credibility. This is the section of your portfolio to share how well your work was received by people outside of your company. If you are a graphic designer, this is where your designs should appear.
- Next, it is time to brag about how much your past employers appreciated you. This is your chance to show awards you have won. You need to show the interviewers that you can back up all the great things you just told them. Take pictures of awards you have earned and print them for your portfolio. If you have received memos, letters, or emails of congratulations from your boss or company, put them in this section. http://depts.washington.edu/cidrweb/Bulletin/ProfessionalPortfolio.html
- Share good reviews by displaying them, personality tests your company may have administered, or anything else that shows a true indication of your positive evaluations. This shows that you are not afraid to share what your past employers thought of you, which goes a long way. Another thing you should add if you have them are copies of internal reports that actually show your results in black and white. Especially if you are in a results-driven industry. Quickly explain to your interviewers how to read the report, then boast away!
- The final thing you should put in your portfolio is anything that shares your personal achievements. You may wonder how your personal life weaves into the job equation, but WHO you are is very important. If you competed in a triathlon, won a writing contest, volunteer for a local Board of Directors, foster for a local animal shelter… these things are impressive. It shows your employer what a great person you are outside of the office, which has a lot to do with who you are in the office.
- If you choose to be an overachiever, another thing you could add to your portfolio is a project you prepare specifically for the company you are interviewing with. For instance, if you are interviewing for a Public Relations job, you could write a fake press release about the company to prove your writing ability. They will appreciate your enthusiasm.
Once you have your portfolio assembled, practice how you will present it. Work on making it a “story” and have a reason behind everything you put into the portfolio. Do not spend a lot of time on any one piece. You do not want to bore your audience. Be enthusiastic and proud while showcasing your work. You SHOULD be proud! You worked long and hard to become the professional you are today, so use your portfolio to animate you achievements.
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