How to Build a Professional Portfolio

Many students and grads wonder how to best showcase their skills and stand out amongst the competition in the job search. Well, here at the CDC we believe in the 5 P’s of Career Development: proper preparation prevents poor performance. One of the most vital parts of an interview, besides yourself and your resume, is your professional portfolio. Typically, you use your resume to “talk the talk” and your portfolio assists in “walking the walk.”

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So what is a professional portfolio?

A professional portfolio houses all of your professional writing samples, creative pieces, copy writing, editing, and research materials and any notable accomplishments. You want to include everything that specifically showcases your personal development in your industry of choice. Your physical portfolio is shared alongside your resume with employers during an interview but you should also recreate your physical portfolio online as well.

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Physical copy: two versions

What should be placed in the physical copy of a professional portfolio? Well, it’s a lot simpler than you think, but first you’ll want to consider creating two versions – one that includes all of your work, and a second that is a condensed version for interviews.

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           a. First version – documents everything

This should be your “master copy” of your professional portfolio that documents and showcases you’re your relevant works, projects and accomplishments. Always remember to save your work from internships and classes throughout college — it makes the process so much easier when compiling your achievements later on. Keep a file on your computer or box in your dorm for every assignment from relevant classes.

For example, let’s focus on students interested in working in the Public Relations industry. For your full physical portfolio, here are some typical items to include:

  • Press releases
  • Graded essays (that you did well on!)
  • Creative designs/projects
  • Newsletters
  • News articles
  • Pro Tip #1: Also, when using a newspaper article or newsletter copy, always include a clean copied version with the masthead and cut straight lines. Attention to detail is key.
  • Pro Tip #2: make sure you’re spending a significant amount of time on the presentation of your portfolio. Your work can be displayed in a simple, colored, leather binder. The SJU bookstore has a few options but feel free to shop around at Staples or Office Depot. It’s okay to show your personality through your portfolio, but try not to get too funky with designs that may distract from your work and professionalism.

           b. Second version – for interviews/condensed

Now, it’s time to sift through your various projects and documents to best identify what should be included for the interview. This is the time to showcase your best work, so try to limit turning your portfolio into a lengthy anthology.

According to PRSSA, a good portfolio should include the following:

  • A clean copy of your resume and cover letter
  • A few writing samples (press releases, media alerts, clippings, news articles, flyers etc.)
  • One or two examples of your editing abilities
  • Evidence of social media work (screen grabs from internships and analytics)
  • Clean copies of pieces you’ve created from digital editing software (like Photoshop)
  • Evidence of any specific skills or professional affiliations
  • Letters of reference and other documents that highlight what you can offer to the prospective employer

Pro Tip #3: Make a few copies of your materials to leave behind after your interview. Each employer won’t have to time to go through your entire portfolio. Add your digital portfolio link to either your Thank You email or card at the end of the interview.

Pro Tip #4: Inside, be sure to add page protectors to hold your writing samples and a table of contents to help employers easily identify the various sections.

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Digital copy

For your online portfolio, make sure you add the direct link to your email signature, LinkedIn profile, and your resume for employers to see more of your work when going through applications. Also, your social media presence is another representation of professionalism and portfolio. Be sure to always present your best self online, edit privacy settings, and create separate accounts should you choose engage with employers across their social media platforms.  It’s also incredibly important to have an online portfolio (ex. WordPress) for employers to have a digital reference to view at their discretion. Here are few examples of online portfolios to get started.

Conclusion

It’s never too late to begin building your portfolio, and it’s a process just like resume building.  Quality over quantity is most important so be selective and SPELL CHECK, SPELL CHECK, SPELL CHECK! Make sure everything on both your physical and digital portfolio is free of errors, well-organized, and concise. Each individual accomplishment and project is worth showcasing, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to “wow” an employer because you don’t think you have anything portfolio-worthy. Don’t hesitate to meet with any of the CDC career counselors should you feel stuck while developing your portfolio!

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