What Is a Work Portfolio?

Definition & Examples of a Work Portfolio

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A work portfolio is a collection of work samples that shows your capabilities to prospective employers. Job seekers might have an online portfolio, a paper portfolio, or both.

Learn more about work portfolios and their benefits.

What Is a Work Portfolio?

A work portfolio is a curated collection of a job candidate's best work. Writers would collect their best articles; web designers would have samples from their best websites; and teachers would put together the student work samples and lesson plans they're most proud of.

Online portfolios are a way for job seekers can show their work. They can develop their own portfolio websites or use a third-party site like LinkedIn to collect their samples. Some might want to use a paper portfolio if that better showcases their work.

  • Alternate names: Job portfolio, professional portfolio

How Does a Work Portfolio Work?

A portfolio provides tangible evidence to potential employers of your accomplishments, skills, and abilities. It shows the scope and quality of your experience and training.

In most creative fields, including writing, web design, graphic design, advertising, photography, and videography, a portfolio is required to secure a job. If you're expected to produce creative work in a new job, your employer will want to review and assess your past project performance.

In fields where a portfolio isn't expected, it's still a way to stand out. You might want to include presentations and pictures or samples from projects you've completed. Make sure you're not sharing proprietary information without permission, of course.

If you aren't sure if you need a portfolio, reflect on your field and consider the tangible items you've produced across your career span. Anything you've created that reflects well on your work capabilities should be a part of your portfolio. If you're still unsure, talk to colleagues in your field about whether or not they use a portfolio.

Designing Your Portfolio

If you're creating an online portfolio, present your credentials and personal information in a functional, user-friendly, and aesthetically-pleasing manner. Consider including an "about me" page with information on your background and a PDF of your resume with your contact information redacted.

WordPress and Squarespace are great tools to build an online presence for your work. You may also find that there are online options that cater to people in your field. For instance, journalists might use sites like Muck Rack to showcase their writing clips. Designers might want to take advantage of portfolio sites like Behance and Dribble

If you're creating a print portfolio, print your work on premium paper and organize the document in a nice folder, binder, or leather portfolio case.

Regardless of the format of your portfolio, make it easy for potential employers to navigate. Show off the work that you're most proud of prominently and group similar items together. If context is required to understand a design or project, add some text to explain it. 

Maintaining Your Portfolio

Think of your portfolio as a work in a process—it's a living, breathing document that's ever-evolving and growing along with your career.

Once you've set up your portfolio, occasionally check to make sure everything is current and working. Add your most recent work and check for broken images, broken links, and outdated information. If you have a link to your email address, test it to make sure it works. 

To maximize exposure, add a link to your portfolio to your resume and mention it in cover letters. You can also include a link to your portfolio from your email signature

Schedule a time every month or so to update your portfolio so all of your newest creations and accomplishments are on display. 

Key Takeaways

  • A work portfolio is a collection of work samples that shows your capabilities to prospective employers. Job seekers might have an online portfolio, a paper portfolio, or both.
  • Choose the format that best showcases the work you do. 
  • Your portfolio should be easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. 
  • If you're creating an online portfolio, you can create your own website or use an established, third-party site. 
  • Periodically update your portfolio to include new work and confirm no links are broken.