Portfolios are helpful tools for nearly all professionals when seeking job opportunities, looking for advancement, and furthering their education.
Why a portfolio?
A portfolio shows you off. It collects into one place all the information you could need or want as evidence that you have done or can do something. A photographer will show off a portfolio to a potential client as a demonstration of ability. A salesman will show a company portfolio to prospective customers. When I apply for jobs, I have detailed information handy for filling out forms, including work addresses, dates, salaries, etc. When I interview for jobs, I bring it with me as evidence, such as previous jobs, grades, or schooling. If I’m asked a question about work relationships, I can physically reference a letter of recommendation written for me. It’s my way of getting ready to answer questions about myself and my work.
I find that portfolios are mostly either for others to look at or for you to reference. In any case, they contain much more content than you would typically give someone when applying for a job or at an interview.
What does a portfolio contain?
Every profession’s portfolio will contain different items.
When I worked as a teacher, my portfolio contained my teaching philosophy statement, examples of curriculum I had created, before and after lesson plans I updated, and mini lessons complete with all physical materials so I could do a teaching demo if needed. My husband is in the army band; his portfolio (or “I love me book” as they call it) contains all his orders, awards, education, military training, enlistment contracts, etc.
As a new health professional, my portfolio now contains awards, transcripts, letters of recommendation, articles (yes, I will include this one!), and more. I will give all the fine details of my portfolio later in this article. If I were going to be a health care educator, it would look like a mashup of my teacher portfolio and health professional portfolio.
What format should I use?
There are three main ways to format your portfolio:
- Unpolished physical copy. This is strictly for you, but can be used to physically show other people. When you do it this way, you can hand write notes in it or cross things off. It still serves the purpose of a body of evidence you can reference, and you can control what others see.
- Polished physical copy. This is for you to hand to someone or drop off, with the intent of them to peruse, look through. It should only contain things you want others to see, done in a professional manner.
- Online. This allows you to show off online. You can link to it in your professional profile or send it to prospective employers.
Right now I have an unpolished physical copy and am in the process of creating my online portfolio.
How should I format it?
Whether it is online or in print, it should make sense and be easy to find the information you need.
My teaching portfolio tabs were: CV, letters of recommendation, awards, lessons, demos
My health care portfolio is divided into: CV, transcripts, job information, awards, letters of recommendation, articles
How can I make mine better?
Honestly, it involves extras. How can you show yourself off as a student? Write your school papers with an eye toward getting published, and try to publish them! Create presentations with the intent to give them at conferences, print out the presentations (6 to a page). Include poster presentations you made at school, and again, try to submit them to conferences.
Can I please see your portfolio?
Sure thing! Here are all the nitty gritty details, including some pictures: