How to Use Your Career Portfolio

Utilizing a career portfolio in the job search process used to be a requirement just for writers, designers and artists. But in today's competitive job market, more job-seekers are turning to career portfolios for an edge over the competition.

Types of Career Portfolios

Hard copy - typically a binder with clear sleeves or removable pages so you can add, delete or relocate materials easily. Portfolio maintenance is a crucial component of their usability so make sure that whatever binder you choose should be easy to frequently edit.

Digital - a computer document or file stored on either a hard disk, pen drive or your computer itself. This digital portfolio needs to be even more transportable than a hard copy. So choose a simple, common format (like a PDF or Word), save it on a CD, memory stick or pen drive to leave with your interviewer, and be able to "zip" to condense its size for email purposes.

Online - available at a portfolio website that employers access when you provide them with the link. You have 24/7 access to update and change. Employers have 24/7 viewing for convenience.

Career Portfolio Uses

Career portfolios are your professional story in 3-D. It's your chance to organize, in one place, all the facets of your professional education, skills, experience, achievements and goals. Once your portfolio is complete, you can use it for a variety of purposes including:

To apply for internships, part-time jobs and full-time jobs.

Instead of sending a resume, send a digital portfolio that puts all of your information at their fingertips.

To scrutinize your skill and experience for gaps and weak spots.

A career portfolio gives a broader perspective of your professional skill set. As you organize and maintain that portfolio, focus on areas that need more development, experience or education.

To practice your presentation skills.

Use the portfolio to create a "sales" presentation of your skills and practice presenting. It's a chance to hone your general presentation skills and practice selling yourself at the same time.

To help you give a dynamic interview. 

Go through your portfolio as you prepare for a job interview and arrange the materials to speak to the specific job for which you're applying. Practice using the portfolio to sell your skill set instead of sitting back and waiting for questions that may never address your best qualifications.

To prepare for an interview. 

Before your interview, use your portfolio to create a list of the career details you want to highlight and how the potential employer can benefit from them. Look for gaps in your skills or experience and be prepared to address those areas in a positive manner, if it comes up.

To ask for a pay increase. 

Bring a streamlined version of your career portfolio to your manager as you make your bid for a salary increase. Use it to show tangible examples of why you are worth the increase.

It's never too late to put together a career portfolio and even if you're a full-time student, it's never too early to start pulling it together. Using the suggestions above, it can be an invaluable resource throughout your career.