One way to make an amazing first impression in today’s tight job market is to create a career portfolio—also known as a work portfolio, professional portfolio, employment portfolio, or job portfolio. This underutilized tool can help you land a job by giving potential employers concrete proof of who you are, what you have accomplished, and what you could potentially bring to their company.
Much more detailed than a resume, a career portfolio is a collection of artifacts that showcase your education, abilities, and skills. During a job interview, a hardcopy of your career portfolio can provide a powerful visual impact and back up your skills and accomplishments with real-life examples. You can also use a career portfolio to demonstrate your achievements during a performance review or when you are seeking a raise or promotion.
To create an attention-grabbing career portfolio, make sure you include the following items.
1. Career summary
To help potential employers get a quick grasp of who you are as a professional, you need to include a career summary—a short description of what you do and what makes you special. This section should be one of the first things you list in your career portfolio.
An ideal career summary does the following:
- Uses 5-7 sentences or bullet points
- Includes numbers and percentages
- Provides specific examples that prove your qualifications for the job
- Convinces the reader to read more about the candidate
Here’s an example of an effective career summary:
“Accomplished marketing director with a proven ability to create and drive strategies that further financial and overall company goals. Have overseen decisive initiatives that reduced advertising costs by $400,000 while driving a revenue increase of 37%. Industry authority in brand storytelling, content marketing, and customer engagement.
Collaborative leader, able to construct and inspire winning management teams that consistently meet KPI goals. Hones skills and stays current with industry changes via continuing professional education (recently earned an MBA in marketing).”
2. Philosophy statement
A philosophy statement, sometimes called a mission statement, describes the things about your profession that matter most to you. By including this statement in your career portfolio, you give recruiters and potential employers insight into your value system and what motivates you.
When creating your philosophy statement, it helps to ask yourself the following questions:
- “Why is my profession important?”
- “What do I think about my industry?”
- “How do I treat other professionals in my industry (and in general?)”
- “Which of my skills help me thrive in my work?”
Your philosophy statement should contain three parts, although they don’t necessarily need to be spread out into three separate paragraphs:
- An introduction—This is where you tell readers about your core beliefs and why you do what you do.
- A body—This section goes into greater detail about your values or answers one of the questions listed earlier.
- A conclusion—This is where you summarize your values and what you wrote in the body.
“I trained to be a nutritionist because I enjoy helping others. In fact, the best (and most important) part of my job is when a client’s health improves as he or she starts to make healthier food choices. With the number of illnesses caused by poor nutrition on the rise, I’m grateful that I can make a difference in people’s lives.”
3. Short biography
A brief biography will let you showcase your personality to potential employers. This will help you make a human connection and be more memorable to potential employers.
As a bonus, the process of writing a biography (if you haven’t already done so) will also prepare you to answer the infamous “tell us about yourself” question during interviews.
A good biography does these things:
- Focuses on what’s most important—For your biography to be effective, you need to know who your audience is and what you want your biography to do for you. For example, are you writing a bio to gain credibility, get a job, or attract new clients?
- Uses the appropriate voice—Stick to the third-person (he/she/fullname did xxx) for your biography if you are using it as part of a job application process. Save first-person (I did xxx) bios for your personal website.
- Uses elements of storytelling—Sharing how you have overcome obstacles will help grab the reader’s attention and make him or her want to read more about you.
- Includes humor—Making your audience laugh is a great way to get noticed. A good place to use an element of humor is at the end of your biography.
- Is current—Don’t leave out any recent positions or achievements.
- Contains links to examples of your accomplishments—You can use multiple hyperlinks to individual samples of your work.
- Showcases your contact information—Including your contact information at the end of your biography can encourage potential employers and others to connect with you. Be sure to include your email address, your personal website, and your social media profiles.
- Is unique—You don’t want to use the same biography for every job application or post the same bio on multiple websites. Instead, you should tweak your biography for each new situation, making sure to highlight what each audience will value most.
Here’s a good example of a short bio:
“I’m a cross between a computer geek, a teacher and an entrepreneur. (I’ve been all of them at one time or another.) After years of working in both the corporate and non-profit worlds, I found myself “down-sized” a few years ago. I launched a couple of home-based businesses including one where I went to small businesses and taught people about technology and how to create an online presence. My motto then was “Big Business Solutions for Small Business Budgets”. Since then, I’ve self-published a book, dabbled in website design and marketed Virtual Tour photography.”—Sherryl Perry
Note: The contact information and links to Sherryl’s work are not in the bio itself but are included elsewhere on the page. If you don’t yet have your own personal website to post your biography on, you can hire us to create one for you.
It’s important to include your resume here, even though you’ve already submitted your resume with your application.
Here are some tips to ensure your resume presents you in the best possible light:
- Choose a typeface that’s easy to read.
- Make sure the margins match.
- Use consistent line spacing.
- Highlight section headings.
- Ensure there is sufficient white space.
- Don’t use photos or graphics.
- Stick to one page.
You can find resume examples for a variety of professions, as well as smart tips on how to make your resume stand out, in this Ladders article.
5. Marketable skills and abilities
This is where you get to prove your unique value to potential employers by listing all the things you do well. To help you decide which items to include, you should review all of your skills and choose the things that you’re most proud of and that best reflect your personal brand.
Some common marketable skills include:
- Project management
- Critical thinking
- Public speaking
- Taking initiative
Be sure to describe exactly how you use your skills:
- Used interpersonal skills to collaborate with other writers to draft and produce Company X’s weekly newsletter.
- Taught myself how to use several software programs, including Grammarly and Hemingway Editor, to make my writing more efficient.
6. Professional accomplishments
The professional accomplishments section is one of the most important parts of a career portfolio. This is where you prove your value as a potential employee.
When creating your list of accomplishments, separate them into categories and be sure to use lots of details. For example, don’t just say
“I won awards for my sales numbers.”
“I garnered the Salesperson of the Year award five years running for achieving a 65% average closing rate on new leads.”
7. Samples of your work
The purpose of this section is to show potential employers the actual papers, reports, articles, brochures, studies, presentations, projects, and so on, that prove you’re the best person for the job. When choosing which items to include, be sure to select samples that demonstrate a broad range of skills.
Depending on what you do and what industry you’re in, this section should contain links to lots of different writing samples, reports, or images. For example, if you’re in sales, you could include graphs or charts showing your sales figures. If you’re an educator, you could use copies of your lesson plans, class projects, and special assignments. Here’s an example of a writer showcasing his articles in his online portfolio.
If you don’t have much work experience yet, you can use what you’ve done for schools, clubs, or other organizations.
Make sure to include any feedback you received on your work samples. If you earned a high grade or garnered a promotion after a successful assignment, for example, you can include the review of your work in a short paragraph after the link to the item.
8. Awards and honors
Hiring managers know that past achievements usually predict an applicant’s future performance. This is why it’s so important to highlight your certificates of awards, scholarships, and other honors, in your career portfolio.
Here are some tips for how to list your accomplishments:
- Only include significant awards.
- Include the title of the award, its recognition level (if applicable), and the date you received it. For example, “Awarded the 2019 Content Marketing Award for Top Backlink Builder.”
- Use action-oriented verbs, like “garnered,” “achieved,” and “earned,” when describing how you won your award/honor.
- Explain the impact of your achievement.
- Quantify your accomplishments. For example, you should emphasize that you were the only one chosen from hundreds of employees for an award.
9. Transcripts, degrees, licenses, and certifications
Above all, employers want to see proof of your qualifications for the position. So, just like the Work Samples section of your career profile, this section should contain links to actual documents or photos of them—not just descriptions of these items.
10. Professional development activities
One goal of a career portfolio is to show potential employers that you’re a lifelong learner and passionate about your career. A great way to do this is to include a list of professional associations you belong to, as well as any notable conferences, seminars, workshops, or other professional development activities you’ve attended or participated in.
11. Military records, awards, and badges
Your military honors demonstrate your high standards and commitment to excellence. Therefore, if you’ve served in the military, you should be sure to note any commendations, awards, badges, your honorable discharge, or other special recognitions in your career portfolio.
12. Volunteering/community service
Employers want well-rounded candidates. So, if you have participated in any volunteering, pro bono work, or community service activities, you need to describe them here—especially as they relate to your career.
Include a list of three to five people who are willing to speak about your strengths, abilities, and experience. Be sure to include their job titles and contact information.
You can also share testimonials from clients, customers, professors, colleagues, or previous employers that highlight your best qualities and skills. This is also the place to showcase copies of positive employer evaluations or reviews.
Once you have created a career portfolio, you need to customize it for each new job application and interview. Look for key skills and accomplishments each employer mentions in its job listing and adjust your portfolio to highlight these items.
It’s also a good idea to update and improve your career portfolio at least once a year. Regularly reviewing your portfolio will enable you to add new information while it’s still fresh in your mind and remove items that have become outdated. It’s also a good way to monitor your progress and identify areas you need to work on.
If you don’t have a personal website yet to host your portfolio, we can help you get started. Our ReputationGrower product builds your professional web presence with a personalized domain name (for example, firstnamelastname.com), optimized business and social profiles, and monitoring of your personal brand.