What Is the Definition of a Professional Portfolio?

Businesspeople looking at portfolio
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A professional portfolio provides potential employers with a complete picture of a job candidate's abilities. A professional portfolio should include your experience, accomplishments, skills, education, interests, and professional goals and objectives. Portfolios are different from resumes or cover letters and provide information that might be just what you need to edge out the competition. 

Portfolios Are Proof of Your Abilities

A resume and cover letter are standard requirements for most job applications, but a professional portfolio can boost your visibility because they are more comprehensive. Candidates often bring their portfolios to their first interview to give employers an in-depth tangible summary of their best accomplishments.

Portfolios for Certain Careers

Some careers lend themselves to the use of portfolios - interior design teaching, or writing. For other careers, a portfolio may seem less apt - nursing, for example - but it is possible to build a portfolio whatever you do. Educators can showcase lesson plans or class projects that had a specific goal, interior designers can show their talents using before and after visuals of their projects, and a nurse could document a patient initiative that they may have spearheaded.

If you think a portfolio would be of benefit to your job search, build one because it will show your unique skills and differentiate you from your competition.

Portfolios are not necessarily physical documents. Many are digital and contain images and files which makes it easy to forward them to potential employers or to add them as a link to a cover letter or resume.

Make an Impression

Taking the time to develop a high-quality portfolio can be the deciding factor that puts you ahead of the pack. Although creating a portfolio will take some creativity and time, once it has been developed it only takes minimal effort to keep it current and up to date. As you would do with your cover letter and resume, when you apply for a job and take along your portfolio to an interview, include only the work that is relevant to the job to which you are applying.

How to Use Your Portfolio

The best way to use your portfolio is to present it during your interview to support your claim as a leading candidate for the position. Know your portfolio well so that you can make reference to certain parts 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 have describe a lesson plan in your portfolio that speaks to a scenario that the interviewers introduce. Explain the relevance of the lesson plan or the portfolio example.

It is best not to hand the interviewer your portfolio at the beginning of an interview, unless it is requested, because there is no guarantee the interviewers will look at it. Also, be careful not to overuse your portfolio. Refer it to it no more than three to five times during the interview; otherwise, you risk sounding repetitive, and the effect of the portfolio will be to detract from your professionalism rather than enhance your presentation.

Your portfolio is a way to document your professional journey. It is a collection of your accomplishments that can be updated over time and always ready when you need it. It's worth building a portfolio so that employers can see how your expertise has broadened.