Why don’t you have a portfolio?
When I ask people who aren’t artists why they don’t have a portfolio, the majority say they don’t have a portfolio because they aren’t artists. If you are an artist and don’t have a portfolio, that’s a different conversation because you most definitely should know you need one. I can imagine the IT professional reading this thinking, “I’m in IT, what the heck would I show in a portfolio?” It doesn’t matter what profession you are in, you can and should have a portfolio. So what do I mean by “portfolio?”
What is a Portfolio…Really?
A portfolio is anything that offers proof of competencies, achievement, or qualities. Consider your portfolio your evidence that backs up any claims you have of why you are a great employee. Employers don’t care about someone who can talk about how great they are or who simply makes claims about what they can offer of value to an organization without any proof. Your portfolio is the evidence that supports your claims and evidence is the key to making persuasive arguments. If you want employers to believe you when you claim you are the best fit for the job, you should have a portfolio. But, what should you put in your portfolio?
What Should You Put in Your Portfolio?
The first rule is that anything you decide to put in your portfolio should be relevant to the needs of the employer. So, if the position for which you are applying requires an ability to design brochures, you should have brochures in your portfolio. Moreover, you should try your best to mimic the type of brochures the company makes which means you should demonstrate you can achieve their art style or brand image. For non-creative jobs, you should consider having writing samples or reports that you have done. Consider having charts or graphs that provide visual displays of results achieved by your performance. You can include media clippings, certificates and awards, letters of recommendation, and even emails from customers or colleagues commenting on your performance, service, or attitude. Take pictures of projects you have done such as a series of before and after shots of a network you may have set up, furniture you may have repaired, or whatever may be relevant to the job. A portfolio can include anything that proves your abilities.
5 Ways to Build Your Portfolio
- Make things better – Wherever you work, think of ways to improve a process, save money, save time, or fix a problem. Find ways to make your organization better and monitor and track those results
- Measure your accomplishments – Every job has performance metrics regardless of whether or not your manager tracks them (which they should). Track your own results.
- Get Involved in the Community – Getting involved in the community through volunteering, joining groups, or starting your own organization provides more opportunity to make an impact.
- Have a Web Presence– You should have a print portfolio so that you can have something tangible to show employers in interview situations but you absolutely must put your achievements on the web. You can use tools like Visual CV, LinkedIn, or Wix to create a web presence. We’re in the digital age so you need to have a digital presence.
- Quality vs. Quantity – Don’t try to fill your portfolio with as many things as you can. Make sure you have quality achievements with impressive results. Otherwise, your portfolio will simply look like the box of honorable mention ribbons your mom kept from all your grade school activities – not impressive.