Definition of a Portfolio

The portfolio is a marketing tool, organized in a manner that best demonstrates your ability to meet the specific job requirements. The portfolio is a collection of materials that prove your skills, achievements, and the scope and quality of your experience, training, and/or education.

Reasons for Using a Portfolio

Following are four reasons to use a portfolio:

  • It is a growing trend in many careers, such as in education.
  • A well-structured portfolio and presentation give you an edge over other less-prepared candidates.
  • It demonstrates the abilities that your resume lists.
  • Reviewing the material in your resume before the interview helps to prepare you for that interview and to improve your confidence in your skills and qualifications for the job.

Format for the Portfolio

  • A portfolio must be easily transportable; therefore, if your work samples include large objects, use photographs.
  • The container typically is a zippered case (with pages bound or unbound), a three-ring binder, an accordion file, or a box.
  • Use clear, plastic sheets to separate and protect your work samples. You also may want to use tabs to separate sections of your portfolio.

Elements in a Portfolio

  • Table of Contents
  • Description Statement for each element (purpose, audience, etc.)
  • Academic Information (resume, official transcript, test results, references, honors/awards, etc.)
  • Skills and abilities (writing samples, project samples, capstone project, etc.)
  • Professional information (state certification or licensure documentation, list of conferences/workshops, letters of commendation, list of professional organizations/services, etc.)
  • For teachers: sample lesson plans, videotaped teaching demonstration, special projects, teaching units/tests you prepared, statement of teaching philosophy, professional development plans, photos of bulletin boards you designed, information about extracurricular activities you sponsored/assisted with, favorable notes from students/co-operating teachers/administrators, etc.)

Creating the Portfolio

  • Review your skills, abilities, and past experiences to determine what you have to offer a potential employer.
  • Gather the physical evidence (elements) you have of those skills, abilities, and past experiences. That evidence may be found from class assignments, work you did for campus or community organizations, and paid or unpaid work. If you need to develop your portfolio more, consider volunteering your skills to a campus or community organization.
  • Arrange your materials. You won't use every piece for the interview; instead, you will need to pick and choose the elements that are most relevant to that particular job.
  • Review your portfolio carefully, and be prepared to tell the story of each element.

Using the Portfolio in the Interview

  • Either let the interviewer be aware at the beginning of the interview that you have a portfolio available, or wait until the interviewer asks a question about your skills/experiences that is demonstrated by your portfolio.
  • Make copies of the Table of Contents and a few sample pages to leave with the interviewer. Whenever possible, try to obtain duplicates of your work that would be available for distribution. Make sure the front page has your name and contact information. With your follow-up letter refer to your portfolio.