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Why Job Seekers Need a Portfolio

Resumes, cover letters, job applications and interviews: Together, these make up the bulk of interactions that take place between job seekers and recruiters in the sourcing and hiring process. 

But today, career portfolios are making their presence felt, and not only in the fields where they're traditionally used. Professionals in a diverse array of industries are beginning to see the value of creating a career portfolio to bolster their professional stories and gain an advantage in the recruitment process. 

What is a career portfolio? 

A career portfolio is a collection of documents and projects that job seekers can use to verify the experience and skills they claim on resumes and cover letters, according to the University of Manitoba Co-operative Education Program’s Career Portfolio Guide. 

Think of it like this: Your resume is a pared down list of accomplishments and past experiences. Your portfolio is what adds life and color to it—showing instead of simply telling. It builds on the foundation provided in your resume, by giving specific examples of your work. It also shows potential employers what results you've earned in your previous jobs or internships. 

Why you should have one, even if it's not common in your industry 

Knowing what a career portfolio is should make it clear why you should have one, even if you're in a field where potential employers don’t always expect it. 

Portfolios are a fairly common tool for artists, designers, architects and writers to help them show off their work to prospective employers or clients. But as Manitoba’s "Career Portfolio Guide" explained, professionals in other spaces, particularly business, are starting to use them too, because: 

  • It's an attention grabber, especially if the interviewer wasn't expecting it. 
  • It gives much more substance to the bullet points and short sentences on a resume.
  • It makes you more credible when you can show what you've done rather than just telling someone about it. 

So what goes in a portfolio? Anything, really: Certifications, awards, work projects, class assignments, volunteer work—it's all fair game. Anything that helps you illustrate your skills and how you've used them to contribute in the past has a home in your portfolio. 

How keeping your portfolio up to date can set you up for future job search success 

Don't look at your portfolio as a short-term investment, something to be done for your current job search and no further. By continuously updating it with your most current work samples, you'll keep yourself primed for the next job hunt and each one after that. Here are some ways in which a portfolio can benefit you as move on in your career. 

  • You'll always be prepared for new opportunities. You never know when your next big opportunity will come around, but you don't want to be caught off guard when it does. Keeping your portfolio current and ready allows you to quickly gather everything you've done and prove that you're the right fit for whatever comes your way. 
  • It's a great career planning guide. According to Metro News, you should use your portfolio to gain a comprehensive idea of what you've done in your career and where you should go next. For example, if you see that most of your projects have been internal, you'll know that you could widen your range by aiming to do more client-facing work at your next job. 
  • It makes self-assessment easier. If you have a lot of experience under your belt, it's not always easy to remember the details of everything you've worked on in the past. Use your portfolio to examine all you've done and to identify any gaps in your skills