What Is a Portfolio for Work, and Do I Need One?

Businesswoman with a portfolio
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What's included in a work portfolio? Do you need one when you're job searching? An online portfolio provides a way to reveal your credentials to the world. It allows you to package the best evidence of your candidacy for employment such as your resume, design work, artwork, reports, lesson plans, transcripts, certifications, articles, letters, and more in a form easily accessible via the Internet.

Do I Need a Portfolio?

A well-prepared portfolio provides "evidence" to an employer of your accomplishments, skills, and abilities. It is a good way to show the scope and quality of your experience, training, and to demonstrate your talent and your ability to produce high-quality work in your field.

Portfolios can range in from something as simple as an online version of your resume to a website full of materials. A portfolio can include word processing files of your resume and writing samples, digital images of your graphic and artwork, and video and audio files.

In most creative fields -- like writing, web design, graphic design, advertising, photography or videography, for example -- a portfolio is absolutely required to secure a job. If you're expected to produce creative work in a new job, your employer will have to see how you've performed in similar roles in the past.

If you aren't sure if you need a portfolio, reflect on your field and think about what tangible items you've produced during the period of your employment. If there's anything you created that you think would benefit your case, you should include it. If you're still unsure, talk to other professionals in your field about whether or not they use a portfolio.

How to Design Your Portfolio

Designing your web site well can significantly alter your user's reaction to your work. Your goal in creating a portfolio is to present your credentials and personal information in a manner that is functional, user-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing. If you have some HTML or other web design skills, you may want to consider creating a web portfolio that utilizes a more interactive and presentational effect. You can use websites like WordPress, BlogSpot, Squarespace or even Tumblr to easily build an online presence for your work.

In some cases, you'll want to bring in a hard copy of your portfolio to show during an interviewer, so you should keep in mind how the design will translate into that format, too. If possible, print your work on premium paper and organize your document in a nice folder, binder or leather portfolio case.

How to Build Your Portfolio

Remember that your portfolio is a work in a process. You don't need to upload everything at once. Take it one step at a time and take the time to create a professional, polished portfolio. Shoddy work won't reflect well on your candidacy for employment.

Keep your portfolio current. Check to make sure everything is in working order on a regular basis. That means no broken images or broken links to other sites or outdated information. If you have a link to your email address test it to make sure it works.

Add a link to your portfolio to your resume and mention it in your cover letters so employers can access the information quickly and easily.

Finally, remember that your portfolio, if you have done an excellent job, could be what makes you stand out in a crowd of candidates!