CAREER DEVELOPMENT / JUN. 25, 2014
version 4, draft 4

How to Develop a Personal Portfolio

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A personal portfolio is somewhat different than a career portfolio in that it is designed to showcase a more personalized tone rather than a professional career-minded one. A personal portfolio is an expansion of your resume. Rather than summarizing your experience, the portfolio serves as a source to provide “evidence” of your experience and accomplishments. A portfolio offers the opportunity to showcase your skillset, both in the classroom, work environment and your community. It is utilized in conjunction with your resume. This article will share steps on how to develop a personal portfolio.

Step # 1 Decide on the Proper Format to Use

For your personal portfolio, you can opt for it to display in print or electronic format or utilize both together. The information that you include in both types of formats is the same. However, it depends on how you want to utilize the format and who your target audience is. If you want to take the more formal approach, then utilize the print format. For example, a good rule of thumb is to have your portfolio in both formats. This way you have two options available for any type of situation that arises. If you are applying for a position at a high tech company, they may be more partial to receive an electronic version of your portfolio. If you are applying for a volunteer or internship position at a local community center, a more formal print version may be better suited to such a situation.

Step # 2 Ascertain the Timeframe to Prepare Your Portfolio

You need to realize that creating a proper portfolio will take more time than writing your resume. Your personal portfolio will always be a work in progress as you will continually add to it throughout the years. If you are a high school student and preparing your portfolio for college admission, you’ll want to cover the last four years of HS. If you are a college graduate and trying to find employment, your portfolio should focus on the four years in college or university. As you advance in your career, your portfolio will focus less on your schooling and more on your work experience.

Step # 3 Understand the Process Involved

This process may seem overwhelming. However, it can and should be a fun experience for you. Your portfolio needs to be a compilation of information as well as examples of your work and skillset. As you begin to gather and organize the data to include in the portfolio, separate everything into piles:

  1. Education
  2. Work Experience
  3. Community Involvement
  4. Personal Information

In separating your data into these four key areas, you will save time as you create the portfolio. This part of the process can take the longest amount of time. After you compile all of your data and begin to assemble it into a portfolio format, it is also important to have a mentor or neutral party review your portfolio information.

Step # 4 Completion of Compiling the Data

This last step is where you will compile all of the information into its final format. Keep your reviewer abreast during this process as well. He or she should also review the final portfolio product. The main categories are as stated above: education, work experience, community involvement and personal information. You should list these four categories on a table of contents page and have subdivides in the portfolio which will make for easy reading for the prospective employer etc. Some of the following documents can be used in the portfolio. Remember, that these also depend on where you are at in your life stage—high school, college or university, or career age.

  1. Current Resume
  2. Report Cards
  3. Academic Transcripts
  4. Academic Awards
  5. Community Awards
  6. Recognition Certificates
  7. Internship Activities
  8. Personal References
  9. Evidentiary Documents (participation in activities)
  10. Newspaper articles or features (re: accomplishments)
  11. Photographs, writing samples, graphic designs and other samples of work
  12. Letters of recommendation from teachers, professors, coaches, supervisors and clients

Your layout should have a professional appearance and remain consistent throughout the portfolio. For a more personal tone, you can get creative with the cover design. However, if you want to remain more formal, do not have an ostentatious cover. Simple is best. The inside cover or front page should include a well-written cover letter. Kristine Tucker from Work.Chron.com offers some helpful portfolio cover letter examples. The second page should include your table of contents. Another way to make the portfolio more user-friendly is to have page numbers on each page for easy navigation.

Resource to Create Personal Portfolios

If you are opting to create online portfolios in conjunction with your print and electronic formats, Espresso Work is a great online resource tool to check out. You can showcase your achievements and easily send it to prospective employers. One caveat is that there is a minimal cost to utilize this service and it shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for a print or electronic portfolio.

If you follow the simple steps outlined in this article, you will have an easier time in developing a personal portfolio. Take the time to think before beginning and decide on the proper format for your portfolio needs—print, electronic or online. Consider the timeframe involved in creating such a portfolio and act accordingly. Understand the process and follow these steps so that you don’t get sidetracked and hinder your educational and career goals. Compile the data in an organized and professional fashion and be sure to have a trusted friend or advisor review your portfolio.

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