University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources

The Career Portfolio

by Rosie Barry

One of the newest trends in the job management process is the career portfolio. A relative of the familiar artist's portfolio, the career portfolio is a convenient way to store and share tangible materials from your career. Increasingly, job applicants at the University are taking a print portfolio to an interview or emailing an electronic portfolio to a hiring authority following the interview. And, the portfolio can be used in a variety of ways beyond the job search.

A visual representation of personal information about your career, a career portfolio usually includes a resume, samples of work, letters of reference and thanks, appropriate certificates, and personal statements of goals, values and mission.

Why it will help you?

An excellent way to summarize your career, the career portfolio also makes it possible to reflect on your work. It's easy to forget the many projects you've completed over the years and keeping a copy in your portfol io will help you review your work history. This can be helpful in deciding what portion of your work has been most satisfying for you.

The career portfolio can also help you to prepare for a performance review. Prior to the review, think about any goals or standards that have been established for your performance. Collect materials that show how you have met or exceeded expectations on those goals. Bring them to the review to help your supervisor see outcomes of your work.

The portfolio will also provide hiring authorities with tangible examples of what you've done in the past. Job candidates usually bring a print portfolio with them to an interview and point out appropriate items during the interview. They may leave an abridged version with the hiring authority after the interview.

How to get started

There are three basic steps in creating your portfolio:

  1. Think about what message you want to provide,
  2. find samples to reflect that message and,
  3. plan how to present the information.

As a first step, do some self-analysis and review the jobs you have held and your career to date, including volunteer assignments. What experience do you have and how does it reflect what you have accomplished, what you know, who you are, and what skills you have? Relate all of this to the kind of position that you desire.

With this in mind, think about the kinds of work samples, letters from supervisors, and other documentation you have that will reflect or "prove" all of this.

Finally, think about how to best present these important elements in your portfolio. Your portfolio is telling a story about you and your career. How you present it is as critical as the organization of a novel.

If you find that you have too much material to get started, identify the key pieces that you want to include and build from there.

Electronic Portfolios

Electronic portfolios provide a place to store information, which can be emailed as needed to hiring authorities or networking contacts. The University's e-portfolio system allows you to create specific folders of information that you can use to send selected items to others within or outside the University community.