What Is a Professional Portfolio?

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A professional portfolio is a collection of work and other documents that ideally provide a complete picture of a job candidate's abilities to potential employers.

Learn more about professional portfolios and how they work.

What Is a Professional Portfolio?

A portfolio is a way to document your professional journey and demonstrate your skills and abilities. It can be a collection of your work and accomplishments in either a physical or digital format.

A resume and cover letter are standard requirements for most job applications, but a professional portfolio is something that can help you stand out from other candidates. You can submit a portfolio with your job application, and you can also offer it during a first interview to give employers an in-depth and tangible summary of your best accomplishments.

How a Professional Portfolio Works

Developing a high-quality portfolio will take some creativity and time, but once you've made one, you usually just need to update it on occasion. You may also want to alter your portfolio slightly to include only the work that is relevant to the job you're applying to.

You can create a physical paper portfolio, a digital version, or both. If you choose to go the digital route, there are tools online (some free) that will help you create one.

What to Put in a Professional Portfolio

The most important elements to put in your professional portfolio are examples of your work. The types of examples you choose will depend on the field in which you work. They can include published articles or press releases, designs or artwork, ad creative, reports and surveys, project plans, evaluations, spreadsheets, lesson plans for teaching, and more. You should choose the items that best demonstrate your skill and scope of experience.

You may also include information about the employers you've worked with in the past, especially if you've worked for any well-known organizations. And if you've received any accolades or awards for your work, you should note them in your portfolio as well.

How to Use a Professional Portfolio

You can include a digital portfolio along with your resume and cover letter when you apply for a job. Many employers, especially in creative fields such as design or writing, encourage applicants to do this. You can also showcase it on your website for potential clients or employers to browse.

Another way to use your portfolio is to present it during your interview to support your claim as a leading candidate for the position. You can reference certain parts of it that substantiate what you are saying in response to interview questions. For example, if you are interviewing for a job as a teacher, you might point to a lesson plan in your portfolio that speaks to a scenario that the interviewers introduce.

Do I Need a Professional Portfolio?

If you want to differentiate yourself from the competition, provide evidence of your value, and let possible employers get to know the type of work that you're capable of, then you'll need to create a professional portfolio. You can create one even if you're not currently seeking work so you'll have it ready to go when you need it.

Portfolios are must-haves for artists, writers, and other creative professionals, but most others can benefit from having one, as well. No matter what you do, you can find a way to showcase your work in a portfolio.

For any type of job, you can detail your role in special projects and provide samples of your work. Medical professionals, for instance, can document their patient initiatives, special projects, and accolades. Educators can showcase lesson plans or class projects. Marketers can provide plans, creatives, and metrics for successful campaigns.

Professional Portfolio vs. Resume

A professional portfolio is not meant to take the place of your resume, but it can complement it. A resume presents your work history and experience, skills, and other qualifications. A portfolio gives possible employers a more detailed look at the work that you've done.

Professional Portfolio Resume

Showcases the actual work you've done

Presents your work history, skills, and other qualifications

Typically multiple pages long Typically one page long
Not always required for job applications Usually required by employers to apply for a job

Key Takeaways

  • A professional portfolio is a collection of work and other documents that showcase your abilities to potential employers.
  • It can be created in a digital or physical format.
  • You may submit a portfolio with your resume when you apply for a job or present it at an interview.
  • A portfolio is not meant to replace your resume, but it can complement it.