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Want To Create An Awesome Work Portfolio?

Work Portfolio Ideas & Layouts

Do you want to knock their socks off when interviewing for your dream job? If so, stand out from the crowd by creating a portfolio of your work.

Regardless of what you do for a living, you can show your future boss or clients that you are perfect for the position. A portfolio with real examples of your work communicates more than just the quality of your work. It demonstrates your passion and commitment to your profession.

So let us take a closer look at what a work portfolio is and how to create one.

Seeing is Believing.

What is a Work Portfolio?

A portfolio is a collection of the best examples of your work. No matter what kind of work you do, it showcases what you excel at. For example …

  • if you are a chef, you can include things like your menus, written recipes of your specialties, restaurant reviews, training certificates and inspection reports. (Of course, tasting samples of your specialties is a must for anyone hiring a chef.)
  • if you are a bookkeeper you can include a detailed list of the software systems you use, example pages of the types of accounting reports you prepare, stats on the volume of data you routinely process, along with letters of commendation.
  • if you are a high rise construction worker, you can include photos of the buildings you have worked on during construction and close ups of your construction techniques, a list of projects you have worked on, records that illustrate your ability to meet deadlines and maintain high levels of safety, as well as your training certificates.
  • if you are a detective you can include sample case history notes, examples of your investigative process, reports about the application of new techniques and technologies in your field, a list of cases solved, training certificates and letters of recommendation.

Your portfolio is also a great place to store and display those all pieces of paperwork you never know what to do with — such as training certificates and employee of the month awards.


The Benefits of Creating A Portfolio

The benefits of having a portfolio make investing the time to create it worth it. Actions do speak louder than words.

Many times, interviewers hear every person say the same thing — they are the best person to hire and they want the job. Often, there is little separating most of the applicants — so what they look for are the stars, the dream candidates who make it obvious they are a perfect fit for the job.

One way interviewers used to spot a great applicant was to see who invested the time to learn about the company and craft a custom resume. But a lot of people have caught on to this, and the Internet and word processors now makes it easy to do some quick research and create a tailored version of your master resume before an interview.

Looking for something special.

So now, interviewers are looking beyond your basic company knowledge and work history to focus on what you can realistically do for them in the future. And the best indicator of future performance is the past work you have done.

Showing them what you can do with a portfolio lets them see how good you really are, and eliminates any question about you exaggerating. The confidence it takes to let your work speak for itself, as well as being honest about your skill level, is impressive and makes you stand out. And the care and effort you put into selecting and arranging the best examples of your work is something a good hiring manager can quickly see during an interview.

So if you are walking into a job interview empty handed, you are missing a great opportunity to prove you are the right candidate for the job.

But even if you never show your portfolio in an interview, it is still a good idea to create one. Spending the time to create a portfolio means you are very prepared to answer any interview question about your experience, skills or past work. Also, when you see your body of work, your confidence goes up and that shows in the interview. And it is a great tool for refreshing your memory while you are in the waiting room and keeping your spirits and confidence up while job hunting.

But one of the best benefits is giving you some time in an interview to gather your thoughts. Somewhere in just about every interview, a question is tossed at you to see how well you deal with uncertainty. Often it is about some skill or experience that was not mentioned in the job ad.

The minute it takes you to find the example in your portfolio that speaks to that issue gives you a chance to think through what is behind the question and organize what you want to say. And having just the right example to answer the question tosses the question back to the interviewer, who usually expects the person interviewing to be stumped or unsure of what to reply.

In interviews, words are cheap and people often either over or under represent what they can do. Examples of your work turn your interview into an opportunity to show potential clients or hiring managers where you excel and exactly what they can expect if they hire you. And that often means the interviewer can reach a level of comfort about bringing you on board that few candidates can match. And that could just give you the edge in an interview and mean you get the first offer.


What You Put In A Portfolio

Your portfolio should be built around five major basic items …


1 – A copy of your complete master resume. You can refer to your master resumewhen you get asked questions about the extent of your experience or need to refresh your memory. It is also a great way to show the level of your skills, the breadth of your skill base and the depth of your experience

Often, hiring managers are looking for people who can grow along with the company, or people who have more than the minimum requirements listed in the ad. So having this list on hand shows them you have lots of untapped potential and sets you apart from the rest of the people being interviewed. And you never know when you will mention a skill they can use but never expected to find.


2 – Real examples or representative samples of your work. These clearly show you have done what is on your resume and show your level of skill and quality. Unless you are working on secret or confidential tasks, you can include real examples of your work, including …

  • writing samples such as white papers, press releases, newsletters, advertising copy, scripts, memos, and reports
  • finished product examples in the form of photographs or real samples
  • service testimonials such as client references, documented success stories
  • design samples such as brochures, code flow diagrams, and conceptual sketches
  • performance reviews (great ones only!) and letters of commendation from previous bosses
  • copies of training and award certificates (if you were employee of the month, you definitely need to include the picture and paperwork here!)


3 – A brief list of your accomplishments. This list highlights all the special things you have done, especially those which fall outside your normal job responsibilities but show what a valuable employee or business owner you would be. For example, you will want to highlight …

  • what you did and how much money, time, or effort you saved
  • when you took action to avoid a disaster
  • problems you solved or defused
  • when you helped another department out
  • when you went the extra mile for a client or boss. For example, when you spent the weekend working or stayed late into the night to meet a deadline
  • examples of when you demonstrated company or personal values, such as high quality, promptness, keeping customer commitments, being discrete, or staying under budget


4 – A list of all your features. Often, we can do more things than our past jobs have given us the opportunity to do. But because you have not actually done them, they do not belong on your resume. So if your skill level has outgrown your current job, you want to list here the things you could do successfully. This is a short list of the …

  • activities and responsibilities you have already successfully mastered that you can do right now
  • tasks that you could easily do and succeed at if you had the opportunity to do it
  • activities you could tackle with some training and guidance and that you are very interested in growing into in the next 3-9 months
  • tasks that would be a stretch that you would really like to do in the future. (Again, this may be just the thing that matches how the manager sees the job growing. And it is a great way to signal not only that you want to grow and advance but how you want to do it.)


5 – A short list of the ways you can benefit your employer. This is a list of how a company will benefit from hiring you. Often, it is hard to express exactly who you are and why you are a dream candidate. So, if you have ever been asked that question and did not know how to reply, this section is just what you need.

Here you list all the things it is hard to express and still appear humble in an interview …

Once you have all this assembled into a three ring binder or portfolio case, you need to know how to decide when and how to use it in an interview.

Using Your Portfolio in an Interview

Definitely take your portfolio along on every interview. But do not open and show it if it does not feel right. In instances where the job is clearly not a fit, or you feel the interviewer will be put off or overwhelmed, you will want to keep it discreetly tucked out of sight.

If you are feeling very confident, have your portfolio clearly in hand when you meet the interviewer. Perceptive ones will ask what it is if you lay it on the edge of the desk at the beginning of the interview. You can even mention you brought it along in case they wanted to see samples of your past work. Then it is up to the interviewer to decide when and if they want to see it.

If you are not sure, you can pull it out only if you need to illustrate a particular point. For example, you get a question about your experience and you have an example which clearly illustrates it. In that case you can open your portfolio and give the interviewer something to look at as you talk.

However, once you bring out your portfolio, you need to be prepared for the interviewer to flip through the entire portfolio. This can create a great opportunity to talk about all your experience and skills. But, be aware that a great portfolio can change the entire mood and rhythm of an interview. The hiring manager can become so curious about your portfolio and what you can offer that time flies and you miss out on hearing a detailed description of the job or being able to ask questions to see if you are seriously interested in it.


An awesome work portfolio is a rare win-win interview tool. It gives you an unexpected edge in interviews and lets the interviewer get a much clearer idea of what you can bring to the company. And it might even mean that you end up interviewing for more than one position or get called back to interview with other departments or divisions in the company.


Reinvent Your Career would like to thank Manifest Your Potential where this article first appeared.

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