Graphic image of a portfolio briefcase.What is a Portfolio?

A portfolio is a collection of artifacts demonstrating one’s relevant work experience, skills and accomplishments. 

Portfolios are often used as a resource as part of a job interview, a promotional review, or a graduate school application.

While portfolios are commonly requested in certain career fields, such as art and design, all professionals can benefit from having a well designed portfolio. 

What is a digital portfolio?

Digital portfolios are electronic versions of a traditional, paper based portfolio. 

There are several reasons why an individual may choose to create a digital portfolio in addition to / instead of a paper based portfolio, including the ability to incorporate multi-media into the portfolio, the ease of reproducing to send to potential employers, and cost savings when sharing the portfolio with employers.  For those digital portfolios that are housed on a web site, another benefit includes real-time updates, ensuring that all employers who may stumble across the portfolio are seeing a current representation of the candidates work.

Digital portfolios can be a good way for candidates to demonstrate knowledge of and comfort using specific computer programs. 

How to create a portfolio

The first step to creating a portfolio is to collect relevant artifacts of past work.  Artifacts should be current examples of the candidate’s best work.  These examples should be of real-life work that demonstrates success.  Along with each artifact should be a brief abstract describing the item, including data demonstrating the impact and reach of the item.

Artifacts can be anything that demonstrates the candidate’s relevant skills.  A few examples of common artifacts are resumes, transcripts, awards, publications, photographs of events or projects, writing samples, presentations, and letters of recommendation.  Also to be included is evidence of membership in organizations, committees, community involvement, workshops and seminars. 

Once artifacts have been collected, the format of the portfolio must be selected.  Will this portfolio be paper-based, allowing a candidate to showcase work during an interview?  Or will this portfolio be digital, allowing the candidate to share their work on a larger scale?

For a paper-based portfolio, artifact should be printed and / or mounted in a professional format to make a strong, positive first impression.  The artifacts should be organized in a way that highlights the candidate’s most relevant skills for each job.  Portfolios can range in price.  Candidates should purchase the highest quality binding for their portfolio that they can afford.  Page protectors are a good idea to ensure artifacts look their best even if used in multiple interviews.  A table of contents and section dividers can assist employers in navigating the portfolio.

For digital portfolios, candidates will need to determine if they will display their portfolio on a web page and / or if they will share their portfolio on a flash drive, DVD, or other format.  Many resources exist to assist in making an online portfolio creation easy for all levels of computer-savvyness.  Candidates are encouraged to research several resources to ensure the most appropriate online platform is selected for the individual’s needs.

Additional resources for creating online portfolios:

Freelance Switch - Build a Killer Online Portfolio in 9 Easy Steps »

1webdesigner - Creating an Effective Online Portfolio: 40+ Tips, Tools & Inspirations »

Behance - Online portfolio-building tool »

A showcase portfolio

A showcase portfolio is a mini version of a candidate’s full length portfolio that has been customized for a specific purpose, such as an employment interview.  To create a showcase portfolio, candidates would select only a few of their most relevant artifacts and other documentation that is critical for the situation.  A candidate may consider formatting this version of their portfolio so that it may be left with the employer after an interview.  If possible, a copy could be created for each member of the interview committee.

LinkedIn as an alternative to a portfolio

LinkedIn, a popular online networking site, allows users to highlight their work experience, skills, and education along with providing certain supporting documents and links in a digital profile.  Many employers are already using LinkedIn as a tool to learn about a candidates background, so creating a profile on LinkedIn could be a great way to get exposure.

With LinkedIn you can upload your resume, add a link to your professional website or blog, upload PowerPoint Presentations, upload files with, and enhance your profile with their “Creative Portfolio Display” application.