Developing and Using a Portfolio in the Internship and Job Search
Myth: Portfolios are for creative types only.
Fact: Portfolios are valuable to any job seeker wanting to stand out in a crowded job market.
WHAT IS A PORTFOLIO?
- A portfolio is an organized collection of materials documenting your education, experiences, activities, training, skills and accomplishments.
- It is used during an internship or job interview as supporting evidence to document your skills, abilities and accomplishments.
- It can be hard copy or electronic.
- Organizing a portfolio is ongoing! You should constantly be assessing and evaluating the materials in your portfolio and comparing them to the skills needed by employers in general, or employers specific to the internship or job for which you are applying.
STARTING A PORTFOLIO
Gather examples and documentation of what you are doing and have already done. Collect and file evidence of your accomplishments and skills, assignments, internships, special training, workshops and other activities in your life. If you need additional examples or evidence of your skills, reconstruct or create items. Retype or redesign documents from memory or from rough drafts. Write or create pieces and have others review your work, refine them and then include them.
Possible items to include:
- Evidence of specific skills such as writing samples
- Items created through class projects
- Evidence of awards or honors
- Laboratory work
- Synopses of term or research papers
- Papers with instructor comments and grades
- Certificates of attendance at seminars or workshops
- Documentation of leadership experience
- Flyers or other promotional materials you designed
- Evidence from volunteer, internship and paid experiences
- Licensure or certification documentation
- Positive evaluations
- Letters of recommendation
- Philosophy statement
- Personal mission statement
- Professional organization involvement
- Examples of program development
- Grants and proposals
- Sporting awards
- Video showing you in action
- Reports on topics of special interest
- Outlines and handouts from class presentations
- Electronic slides from class presentations
- Printouts of, or links to, websites or blogs you created
- Anything that adds value to or is going to elicit additional conversation during the interview
Consider editing your work if it is very lengthy; you may not want to include an entire term paper.
Teacher candidates may want to consider additional items such as:
- Lesson plans
- Samples of students' work
- Conference programs
- Teaching evaluations
- Professional development plans
- Evidence of involvement with parents
ORGANIZING A PORTFOLIO
There are different ways to organize your portfolio. Two of the most popular and useful ways to organize it are by subjects or by skill or knowledge areas.
- Subject order includes organizing by areas such as school subjects, or by job or project, such as independent study, lab experience or internship.
- Skill or knowledge order matches projects or activities to skills and knowledge. You can use the job description to help you decide what to include. If the job description identifies teamwork, public speaking, computer and communication skills, organize your items by those skill areas.
FORMATS FOR PORTFOLIOS
There are two different formats for portfoliosóhard copy and electronic. You may want to create both.
- Can be on the Internet, a stand-alone version on your laptop or a DVD.
- Showcase your skills by adding sound, video and animation, keeping in mind it should be professional.
- Make it organized and easy to navigate and browse with the most important information available in the fewest clicks.
- Pick a unifying design theme and be sure the color scheme and design elements are not overwhelming.
- Keep it simple and consistent with readable fonts and files that are not too big to download and view.
- Some advise limiting the font and color choices to no more than three.
- Use menus and icons effectively.
- Provide brief statements or introductions to your work that link to the full descriptions and examples.
- Link to related websites, resources and professional organizations.
- If your portfolio is on the Internet, include the address on your resume and in any correspondence you send to employers.
- Make sure everything is error free and grammatically correct.
- Organize items in a three-ring binder.
- Use clear plastic sleeves to protect your materials and make them easier to organize and see.
- A portfolio is approximately 10-20 pages.
- A table of contents helps direct readers to particular items and gives a general idea of how the portfolio is organized.
- Tabs can be used to highlight areas indicated in the table of contents.
- Use captions on every piece of evidence in the portfolio. Captions lead the reader to the importance and understanding of the piece. If you need to leave your portfolio with an employer, captions help it stand on its own. Captions work best when they are concise, specific and eye-catching. Use a bright color to help them stand out and draw the reader in.
- Consider making a duplicate of your portfolio to leave with employers if they ask to examine it for any length of time.
- Make sure everything is error free and grammatically correct.
PRESENTING YOUR PORTFOLIO
- When presenting your portfolio to a prospective employer, you should include only necessary items.
- Add and subtract items as the need arises. Reorganize and edit your portfolio to suit each position and company. Your portfolio may change from employer to employer.
- Research each potential employer's needs and incorporate any work you've done that relates to what you learn.
- You may want to introduce the availability of your portfolio in your resume by stating "Portfolio available for review" with your reference statement at the end of your resume.
USING A PORTFOLIO
When you schedule an interview, inform the employer that you have a portfolio and ask if anyone would like to review it prior to your interview. If so, provide it.
There are two methods of presenting your portfolio in an interview: the wait method or the up-front method.
- In the wait method, you present your portfolio when a question comes up about a skill or activity that can be answered with proof in your portfolio.
- With the up-front method, you introduce the portfolio in the beginning of the interview and ask whether the interviewer would like to examine it now or later.
Whichever format you choose or way you choose to use your portfolio, when you practice interviewing, practice using your portfolio. Be completely familiar with the contents and be prepared to talk about its elements. When you mention a skill, use your portfolio to illustrate your explanation and back up your claims.