Portfolio contents bring your resume to life, becoming a visual representation of what you know and what you have done. The portfolio is not a scrapbook, but rather encapsulates your professional and academic abilities, strengths, contributions and achievements. The portfolio serves as proof of what you can do.
For employers and graduate school admissions committees, portfolio contents also can indicate your level of initiative, creativity, attention to detail, problem-solving ability, work ethic, critical analysis and honesty. Your choices of what goes into the portfolio and how you present the material thus become very important.
Approach the selection of portfolio contents strategically. Basically, the portfolio calls for three major categories of material:
- Personal, academic and professional information
- Proof of professional competency
The most difficult area for students is accumulating enough relevant material to demonstrate competency. Here, too, approach the problem strategically.
- Researching the knowledge and skills necessary for a successful career. These general competencies can be found in textbooks, classroom speeches, job and internship notices, professional and company web sites.
- List required knowledge and skills.
- Match those requirements with your own work materials.
- Identify areas that you lack.
- Seek experiences to fill in the gaps.
So, for example, in journalism you might list: educational background, reporting, editing, multi-media storytelling and design. Under each heading, you can become more specific, if appropriate for your field. Under reporting, you might list: hard news, features, sports and opinion. Under those divisions, such as hard news, your list might include: government and politics, public safety, education, business and religion.
In public relations and communication management, you will likely find business writing among the major job requirements. Under that heading, your list might include: speech writing, newsletters, meeting minutes, letters and e-mail, proposals, procedure manuals, and social media from Tweets to LinkedIn campaigns.
In electronic media, you might start with a specialty such as video production. Under that heading, you might list types, such as promotion, news, documentary and entertainment. Or you could list: producing, scriptwriting, editing and on-camera presentation. Then you could identify specific skills and equipment.
In any case, this process will let you see where you still need education and experience, so that you can better plan your next courses, internships and community service.Top
Cover & title page, or web site nameplate
- Feature your name, profession and Portfolio or Career Portfolio, or something similar.
Table of contents, or web site index
- Identify major sections and, within those divisions, each subsection.
- In hard-copy portfolios, separate sections by identified tab dividers. In electronic portfolios, indicate sections by tabs under nameplate or in an index bar on the right side of your web site. Drop down lists of subsections will help to separate and categorize information and work samples.
- Feature name and contact information prominently. Restrict personal information on web pages to your name and an e-mail account specifically for employers or college admission boards.
- Feature university education. Indicate expected date of graduation. Eliminate high school background in your third college year unless you are applying for a position in that location.
- Note other training, such as participation in an academic or professional program related to your profession.
- Note specific technical and computer skills, and other marketable qualities.
- List work experience, beginning with the most recent. Include jobs and internships. Include volunteer projects that required relevant professional activities performed for a class, through a campus organization or at a community program.
- If shy of experience, list successfully completed relevant courses.
- List presentations, and conference and workshop attendance, especially as they relate to your career.
- List military service, if applicable.
- List professional memberships, such as PRSSA, SPJ and IRE.
- Note scholarships, grants awards, service work and community involvement.
Transcripts & Certifications
- Keep copies of university transcripts. Share transcripts with institutions when required for applications. Do not post transcripts on the Internet. Do not send transcripts to a generic electronic address. Instead, when asked, send by mail, fax or post to a specific individual at a specific institution.
- Keep documentation of additional education and training useful in your profession. Maintain certificates awarded for technical and computer training. Consider dropping locations if posting this information on the Internet.
- Keep internship or co-op summary reports, if only to recall these experiences during interviews.
Mission & Goals
- Write a reflective statement describing your professional philosophy, guiding principles, organizational interests, work ethic, etc. Address your employment goals, educational objectives and reflection on how to attain your immediate and long-term goals. Keep it tight.
- This document prepares you to effectively respond to interviewers’ questions. A written statement might also be required with an application. Do not post on Internet or include in application unless requested to do so.
Evidence of Work
- Chose work examples related to your profession.
- Include samples of your best work, and look for work that has a wow factor.
- Consider material that shows:
- Focus, demonstrating specific areas and skills sets in which you excel.
- Variety, showing that you can perform in various areas in your field, even if you are weak in some.
- Quality, reflecting your knowledge of and adherence to professional standards.
- If you know the types of work performed at an institution, consider starting the employment portfolio with those samples.
- Include folios on all work: Materials should have a publication, broadcast, presentation or use date. Materials should also be in their “official” form, as produced for a particular institution. For example, you can present:
- screen shot of a web page
- newspaper or newsletter page of a published story
- copy of video production with identification at start
- script with at least first page featuring institution logo.
- Each work or each project will be preceded by brief, written explanations of your role in developing the piece. So, for example, you might note that you proposed the idea for the following brochure, or that you assisted the producer on the enclosed/posted video. Explanations help you accurately recall your contributions. They also help employers to understand your work without seeking your additional input.
- Be accurate and honest in representing your work and your contributions.
References, Recommendations & Citations
- List three to five people who are willing to speak about your strengths, abilities and experience. At least one reference should be a past employer or manager. Include their full names, titles, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Provide to interviewer if asked. Do not post on the Internet.
- Ask employers and supervisors for a letter of recommendation when you leave a job or internship. Letters should be on the institution’s stationery and should be signed. Do not post on the Internet. Do not identify individuals or institutions on the Internet unless you have their permission. Instead, write some key phrases under a heading such as What Previous Employers Say.
- Keep favorable job evaluations by your internship supervisors and employers. Evaluations should at least begin on the institution’s stationery and signed. Do not post on the internet. Provide a summary or a sample to interviewer if asked.
- Keep congratulatory and appreciation letters addressed to you from customers, clients, colleagues, employers, professors, the public, etc. Such letters attest to the quality of your work. Keep originals. Do not post on the Internet or identify specific individuals unless you get permission. Instead, summarize.
- Keep newspaper articles that address your achievements. Do not merely copy for your web site. Instead, briefly summarize and provide the newspaper link.
- Keep letters of your nomination to honors and academic organizations.
Review & Revise
- After preparing the first draft of your portfolio, evaluate it objectively. Get feedback from mentors, professors, Career Services, and family on content, style and design, and navigation. Revise as necessary.
- Although a portfolio serves as an inventory, do not let it become unwieldy. As you grow in your career, you will need to edit and prune.