A professional portfolio is a collection of examples and evidence to showcase your experience, capability and potential for employment opportunities and professional development.
Your portfolio should contain written and visual overviews of projects and significant pieces of work that you’ve managed or been involved with. It should also include an insight into skills you have, methods you've used, the impact of your work, along with any relevant outcomes and / or lessons you've learned.
You can create a positive first impression with prospective employers through a portfolio, especially if it’s available online, as it can help bring your career history to life. Creating an online career portfolio is relatively simple and enables a wider audience to have visibility of your skills and experience.
The nature of a portfolio is that it’s always a work in progress.
From an employer's perspective, a professional portfolio indicates that you’re self-reflective and proactive in terms of your own development.
Where to start?
- Identify relevant examples and evidence that best match the jobs or development opportunities you’re seeking.
- Organise your portfolio into categories such as a personal statement, employment experience, training certificates, voluntary experience and references. Choose your best examples and evidence to support your job application.
What to include on your portfolio
- Personal statement - this is an overview of your career journey, inspirations, background knowledge and career goals.
- Reports, evaluations, research summaries or visual presentations (charts/tables etc.).
- Published articles in which you're mentioned.
- Photos of products you helped develop or artwork you've created for customers.
- Photos of merchandise displays, if relevant.
- Awards and certificates.
- Appropriate professional licenses.
- Contact information for personal and professional references, or written endorsements from them.
Personalise your portfolio through your examples and evidence gained throughout your career or studies, not your favourite TV programmes, photos of pets or irrelevant information about yourself. Some employers may discard your application if other information distracts from the work-related content.
Create an online portfolio
Many businesses and employers actively use online platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to develop professional relationships, grow business and recruit staff. Through such social media, you’ve a great opportunity to get your profile and portfolio seen by international employers and senior staff within organisations, plus the chance to join freelancing social networks, as applicable.
- Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn enable individuals to create a profile, where you can add career examples and evidence, highlight key skills, share your employment history, connect with employers and receive endorsements to enhance your career progression. Such sites require input on your part to make professional connections, join groups and promote yourself through likes/shares and comments on articles and posts. LinkedIn also offers a blog on making a personal profile/portfolio.
- Individual web page portfolios can be created with sites such as About me. You don’t need extensive web skills but you need to market and promote your portfolio. It’s particularly appropriate for freelancers who prefer not to be restricted to a LinkedIn profile template and want a personalised portfolio.
- Multi-page portfolio websites can have a domain name included and a choice of templates for different sectors, they can be suitable for individuals with a small business or those who want to showcase a photographic gallery of their work. Portfolio Box is an example of a multiple page portfolio website. You will need to manage the website yourself.
- Video and animation formats can be created with services like Vizualize.me. This is a great way to present your portfolio in a visually engaging format and is often chosen by those looking for creative and media sector opportunities.
- Blogs and templated sites such as WordPress allow you to have more control over your digital portfolio. Simple to use, they provide a website building toolkit, known as a dashboard. Many individuals and organisations ‘build’ their website using WordPress and with a range of features, you can add tabs, links, have a comments box, upload images and choose from a wide selection of templates. If you opt to have a personal domain name that is not provided with the toolkit, you’ll have to pay extra for this, but the website address will look more professional. As with other similar sites, you're required to market and promote your portfolio.
Make sure it’s easy for people to view your information, use plain English and check it for spelling and grammar.
Please note, Careers and Employability Services do not endorse or support these sites listed above, but provide them as examples of online portfolio tools.
How to make use of your portfolio
Promote your portfolio as much as possible.
You can promote your portfolio on social networking sites including Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. You can register on general and sector specific job sites, where you may only be able to upload your CV, which will be sent to employers. You could include a web address to your full, online portfolio on your CV, if it’s appropriate. Many sectors (e.g. Psychology) have a professional body and website where practitioners can promote their service, provide a brief summary of any relevant specialist areas and contact details.
- Market your portfolio to prospective employers.
Whether your portfolio is online and / or paper based, it may be appropriate and tempting to contact a prospective employer directly, inviting them to view it in person, or sending them a CV with a link to view your online version. Many sectors are continuously seeking the best candidates for employment opportunities, including Hospitality and Catering, Business, Sales and Marketing, Science and Technology. Check whether an employer welcomes speculative applications or prefers not to receive CV’s or portfolios unless a vacancy is advertised.
- Make sure it's accessible.
Keep your portfolio in an accessible place or format. Make sure it’s easily accessible from a social networking site or an easy web address to enter into a search engine. You’re more likely to keep an online portfolio up to date, rather than putting a paper-based format in a cupboard and forgetting about it. You can manage and update your information and add good examples as and when they occur.
- Keep it up to date.
Remember your career is a work in progress so review and update your portfolio at regular intervals with evidence of your continuous professional development (CPD). Your portfolio should be ready for when completing job applications, attending interviews and to make an impact when networking too.