Communicating your awesomeness to potential employers effectively is one of the most challenging parts of acquiring a job. Yes, you can tell them how great you are, verbally detailing all that you have done in your schooling and prior work experience to prepare you for the opportunity you hope they give you, but often it is better to show them instead. A good career portfolio provides you a medium through which to show your smarts and skills. If you are hunting for a job now -- or plan to be hunting for one in the future -- investing time in creating a top-quality portfolio will certainly pay off.
Compose a letter of introduction. Focus this letter on your skills and your career aspirations. Keep the letter short, making it no longer than one typed page. If it is longer than this, your portfolio viewers will likely tune out before reaching the end -- they are busy people, after all. Above all, edit this letter profusely. This is the first impression your portfolio viewer will get of you, so a misused homophone or error in verb tense could spell disaster.
Include your resume. Place a nicely formatted, exceptionally edited resume right behind your letter of introduction. If you are applying for positions in more than one field, create several resumes, each tailored to a different industry. Show your preparedness by placing several copies of this resume in a sheet protector, allowing potential employers to take a copy of the document if they wish without leaving this vital spot in your portfolio open.
Add an army of recommendation letters. Never underestimate the power of a glowing recommendation. Ask impressive people with whom you have worked or studied to pen letters that tell of your strengths. Place these letters in your portfolio.
Provide work samples. You can make much more of an impact on potential employers by showing them what you can do instead of telling them. If your work is of the written variety, place copies of these writings in the portfolio. If your work doesn’t take a paper form, include photos of projects you have completed. Add cover sheets including very brief summaries of each project you include if you feel that these explanations are necessary. If not, skip this step and allow your work to stand on its own two feet.
Customize your portfolio for each job opportunity. Particularly if you are applying for positions in more than one industry, turning some pre-interview attention to your prepared portfolio is a must. Remove any extraneous contents that don’t pertain to the job for which you are applying, as more is not always better. Leave only the most compelling documentation of your skills and examples of your work to ensure that these shining examples of your appropriateness for the position get the attention they deserve.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.