How to Build a Professional Portfolio

Fashion designer on job interview
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Once you've identified an internship or job, the common practice for applying is submitting your resume and cover letter. The resume is a professional document that briefly describes your previous educational and professional experiences. While the cover letter will compliment the resume by including information about specific experiences and interests that match up with the company’s job description.

When drafting a cover letter, it's important to show the company that you are familiar with their mission statement and other information included on the company's website.

By creating a professional portfolio, you will be providing the company with even more information and specific examples of your work. An impressive portfolio can often catch the interest of employers, which is your goal when applying for any internship or job, and then hopefully make them want to call you in for an interview.

How to Make a Professional Portfolio

  1. Creating a professional portfolio begins by collecting examples of your work. These examples may include evaluations, reports, surveys, specific materials you have designed for a college course or previous employer, graphs, press releases, artwork, examples of spreadsheets, etc., that you designed to complete certain projects or to improve the flow of the work. If you are currently completing an internship, be sure to include some of the work you are doing right now. The information you collect to include in your portfolio primarily depends on the type of job you are looking to get. If you are interested in graphic design or art, your portfolio should be put together with specific examples of your artistic work. Teachers can put together exceptional portfolios by highlighting projects they introduced in the classroom as well as the lesson plans they created for the class. Portfolios are a great chance to show your creativity and the nice thing is that no two portfolios are alike.
  1. Including photos of yourself working on specific academic projects or in previous internships or community service work will help the employer to see you in action. Sometimes these visual pictures can say a thousand words and don’t often need any explanation. If you are currently completing an internship or volunteering for a company, be sure to take some photos to keep your portfolio current and to show employers what you're doing right now.
  1. If you have previously worked for prestigious and successful companies, be sure to include information about them – such as new products, annual reports, brochures, press releases, and newsletters to further impress the employer by them just knowing that you played a part in helping the company achieve success.
  2. Any correspondence that you have received in the past from teachers, professors, previous employers describing your hard work and professionalism should definitely be included as part of your portfolio. Having professionals in the field commenting on the outstanding work you contributed to any project can make a real positive impact on any employer. Be sure to include an example of the outstanding piece of work (college paper, artwork, lesson plan) so they can actually see it and evaluate it for themselves. I understand that students sometimes feel that this may be inappropriate and feel uncomfortable bragging about their work, BUT it’s important to understand that if you don’t highlight your successful experiences no one will know and nobody else will.
  3. If your area of expertise includes computer technology, writing, etc., where you can demonstrate your skills through the work you’ve completed online, be sure to include the links to showcase the work you have done. Some students will include a DVD or CD attached to a plastic sleeve on front or back cover of the portfolio.
  1. List but not least, you want your portfolio to look professional. Creating clear, concise documents that are organized well will let the employer know that you are serious about the job. Be sure to always keep copies of your work and make sure that you keep updating your portfolio so that some of the examples of your work are recent which can also illustrate the growth you’ve made over the years. This is important to do even after you’ve gotten the job. Down the road, you may be in the job market again looking for a new job and the last thing you want is to only have an outdated portfolio that needs to be re-created from scratch.

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