Aerial photograph of the Immaculate Conception Chapel

Portfolio Planning

Students can begin planning and collecting items for their portfolios in their first year in college. When you receive positive feedback on a project in school, at a service opportunity and on the job, save the work electronically and put a hard copy in a folder. Soon you will be ready to begin organizing the content as you prepare to apply for internships or jobs in your field.
To develop an effective portfolio, begin by defining its purpose and identifying the audience. Those answers will inform your selection of relevant content and presentation.


Every portfolio is created for a reason, to meet a particular goal. What is your goal?

  • Is it to fulfill course requirements, such as CMM 498: Communication Internship?
  • Is it to maintain a record of your college education and work?
  • Is it to prove your professional competency?
  • Is it a comprehensive record of your academic and professional experiences?

Given the various goals, portfolios come in various forms. You will develop at least two of the following portfolio types:

  • A college portfolio is used to get into graduate school and/or post-graduate  programs.
  • An internship portfolio documents a particular internship and/or serves as the capstone project to earn academic credit for the internship.
  • An employment portfolio is used to secure a specific internship or job.
  • A professional portfolio is the repository of materials reflecting a career and  becomes a source of materials for other portfolios.



Each type of portfolio has a particular audience. Who will see your portfolio? Why are they interested? What are their needs, interests and concerns? What do they want see? 

Your audience – whether a company, organization, division or university – generally is interested in information and work samples relevant to the institution’s mission. They want to learn whether you are capable of doing a job, completing a program, or in some way enhancing their institutional goals. They want to determine whether you would fit in with their institution.

A targeted audience generally wants to see:
  • information about what you have learned,
  • examples of particular skill sets,
  • information and examples reflecting a variety of skills, and
  • evidence of your critical thinking and problem solving abilities relevant to the field.

Thoroughly research the audience so that you can tailor your portfolio for each opportunity.

In all cases, the portfolio must be able to stand on its own and speak for itself. The person reviewing it should not have to ask for clarification and explanations.



The better portfolio showcases your knowledge and abilities against specific professional standards as well as the recipient’s requirements. Your choices of material to include in the portfolio will reveal your ability to judge what is exemplary, good, average and mediocre in your field. When specific material is requested for application packages, your choices will show your understanding of the institution and ability to follow directions.

You can start a strategic collection of materials by identifying the requirements of your profession. You can find them in textbooks, classroom education and job descriptions. Review internship and job notices closely and create a list of the qualities and skills that employers seek in the ideal candidate. Collect relevant materials. Pursue opportunities that will allow you to get specific experience in the areas that you lack.

The basic portfolio includes:

  • academic and professional development, e.g., degrees, certifications, workshops;
  • professional abilities, e.g., work samples;
  • assessments, e.g., job evaluations, awards.

Generally, chose materials that:

  • relate to and further your goals;
  • demonstrate various abilities;
  • showcase your strengths;
  • honestly reflect your contributions to the work;
  • accurately reflect your knowledge and abilities;
  • relate to the opportunity you seek.

When you begin to develop a portfolio, review all of your work. Spread hard copies on a table and look for areas of strength, representations of different skills, and quality of work. You might also seek honest feedback from professors, professional mentors and family.



Portfolios should be attractive, functional and easy to navigate. The format and style will depend upon the specific purpose, audience, content and professional standards.

You will need to decide:

  • the best medium, whether the portfolio should be electronic, a hard copy or a combination;
  • an organizational structure so that the portfolio is user-friendly and specific materials can be readily accessed;
  • a design that best conveys who you are and best showcases your abilities.

In all cases:

  • use high-quality products;
  • set a tone that suits your profession;
  • be consistent with portfolio’s fonts and other style to unify the overall portfolio;
  • keep everything neat.