Sept. 10, 2019
If you are a professional looking to engage with like-minded individuals as you grow a network and get hired, you'll want to demonstrate to potential employers or clients what it is that you offer. Most job seekers rely on their resumes to speak for them. Unless you are one of the few individuals who've managed to attract attention with non-standard resumes, however, you probably will continue to use a traditional one, which reveals limited details about your skills.
One way to showcase your abilities as well as the quality of your work is to create a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of a person's work that reveals that person's skills, interests, accomplishments and even personality. As you consider this option, you want to think about both content and format, and below I've discussed how to go about it.
Before you compile what you want to include in a portfolio, consider the brand you want to showcase. Who is your target audience of employers or clients? What do you want them to learn about you? To answer the above questions, start with your value proposition and break it down to its two basic elements: What do you want to do next and what do you have that can help you accomplish that? Once you have a clear value statement, be honest and identify all you have done or created that can demonstrate the skills, interests and traits you want to highlight. If you notice a gap in your skillset, you can work on closing it prior to finalizing your portfolio.
To enhance the message of your brand, consider a portfolio that makes visible what may be invisible on a standard resume. This is certainly a must when you are targeting creative careers because the products you create -- websites, art, marketing materials, designs, videos, ads -- are excellent examples of your abilities and the quality of those abilities. That said, whether you are a teacher, an interior decorator, a writer, an architect, a web or graphic designer, a chef or an analyst, you can brainstorm ideas to visualize your work for target companies. If you are not able to provide visuals of your work due to concerns about revealing proprietary information, you can focus on making visual the impact of what you did instead of what you did. Get inspired to turn all kinds of information into a clear visual and use any or all of the following to do so:
Whether you are an established professional with years of experience or a recent graduate making her first steps in the professional world, you want to avoid creating a portfolio that includes everything you have ever done. To enhance the idea of a focused and uniform theme, be selective in the information or accomplishments you share. Quality over quantity is a good mantra to have. Considering your brand, you want to include in your portfolio only information that relates to that brand; in addition, if you have several projects to choose from to highlight a specific skill, be sure to pick the one or two that best demonstrate that skill. Think about what your product is -- designs, articles, images, flower arrangements, programming skills -- and choose your strongest examples to include in the portfolio.
A website can help you keep track of your achievements and stay focused when it comes to your brand. How you approach your website depends on what you seek to accomplish. Plenty of platforms exist to help guide you through the process of designing your own website, even if you have no prior experience doing so: Wix, Squarespace and WordPress are three of the more popular ones. In terms of content, you may want to include the following on your website:
- An About Me page that introduces you and your story.
- Samples of your work (images, writing, videos).
- Testimonials from people or companies you've worked with.
- Links to social media accounts (the ones you are active on in a professional manner, for example LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter).
If you've won competitions, led workshops or presented at conferences, include images from those events to increase your credibility. Remember to focus on content that aligns with your brand. If you are just starting your career or don't feel ready to maintain an elaborate website, consider a one-page website under your name that introduces you and your value statement.
Though a blog can -- and should -- be part of your website, you could consider launching a blog only, depending on what content you'd like to highlight. A blog gives you a more active platform than a website and allows you to combine text, images, video and audio to communicate your message on a regular basis. You can create categories to show both the breadth and depth of your work, whether that work is writing, images or something else.
I've mentioned it before but I'll mention it again: LinkedIn presents a great platform to build a professional brand, engage with other professionals and explore opportunities. The resource is especially helpful if you are just starting your professional journey and may not feel too confident about creating and launching your own website or blog. Keep in mind that simply creating a LinkedIn profile is not enough; you also want to make sure you are actively engaged on the platform.
It may seem old-fashioned, but when meeting influencers for informational interviews or when interviewing for target positions, having a physical portfolio is a plus. The same principles apply to the physical portfolio as the digital one: Be selective about what you include to demonstrate desired skills and add visuals to enhance your message. When creating a physical portfolio, you may also want to include a title page and a table of contents so whoever is looking at your portfolio is able to follow along.
As you work on designing, finalizing or updating your portfolio, keep in mind that what matters most is that it presents an engaging narrative that grabs the attention of target employers or clients and communicates your value. An effective portfolio goes above simply highlighting your credentials; it enhances the unique story only you can tell. As Kindra Hall, president and chief storytelling officer at Steller Collective, emphasizes, people want to hear “the story that connects you to what you are doing or what you offer. They want to feel that no one else -- no one else without your particular life experience could have created the business, product or service you offer in the way you do it." In other words, you want your portfolio to tell your story, but you also want to make sure that the story is the one employers want to hear.
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