May 25, 2018

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Career Portfolios: Telling Your Lifework Story

The professional career portfolio is a terrific new tool that savvy new economy workers should have in their arsenal of career management strategies. Simply stated, a career portfolio is a place to assemble records and products of learning and work to help an individual gain new work opportunities.

As we described in our introduction to career portfolios in the last column, the concept of a portfolio to showcase skills has been around for a long time. In recent years, however, career portfolios are being used much more commonly in the world of work such as in the following examples:

As a marketing and self-promotional tool for job seekers to use in interviews or for the self-employed to present to prospective clients.

  • As a career planning tool for workers in transition for self-discovery and self-evaluation to assist in identifying transferable skills.

  • As a performance appraisal and promotional tool for workers currently employed within an organization.

  • As a tool for students to track and record their learning experiences, to identify transferable skills, and to use for job search while in school and after graduation.

  • As a prior learning assessment tool for assisting people to gain credit and recognition for their non-formal learning experiences.

    Given these applications, there are lots of varieties of career portfolios. Here, I'll focus on how to develop a career portfolio for marketing and self-promotion for job seekers. When used as a "talking point" in a job interview, this kind of portfolio can be a powerful tool to showcase the job seeker's skills and accomplishments.

    One of the best resources to help you or your clients start developing a career portfolio is "Creating Your Career Portfolio: At A Glance Guide" by Anna Graf Williams and Karen Hall (Prentice Hall, 1997). This practical guide outlines a step-by-step approach to creating a portfolio. Here's an outline the authors offer of what can be included in a career portfolio:

    • Your Work Philosophy
      A brief description of your beliefs about yourself and the industry.

    • Your Career Goals
      For the next two to five years.

    • Your Resumé

    • Skill Areas
      Information on skills and experiences related to the job seeker's industry. Should include Skills Sets, Work Samples and specific Letters of Recommendation related to relevant skills.

    • Works in Progress
      List of activities and projects currently in progress.

    • Certifications, Diplomas, Degrees or Awards

    • Community Service
      Work samples, brochures, programs, photographs, letters of recognition related to community service projects.

    • Professional Memberships and Service
      Any information pertaining to membership and activities in relevant professional associations.

    • Academic Plan of Study
      Information about courses taken towards academic qualifications and a statement of goals around professional development.

    • Faculty and Employer Biographies
      Brief descriptions of people who have "signed off" any projects, work samples or assignments that you have included in your portfolio.

    • References

    In addition, the authors outline specific directions on how to assemble and organize these materials into a professional "presentation package" - a zippered, three-ring binder that includes clear plastic sheet protectors, tabbed dividers, and printed labels. They also offer lots of hints on how to use the portfolio in a job interview, at a performance review and when seeking a promotion.

    The popularity of career portfolios has paralleled the emergence of the new economy, as more and more people make their living in a variety of work alternatives. The career portfolio is a tool that all workers need to prove what they can do in this dynamic new world of work.

    -Joan Richardt
    CareerLife Consulting Services
    Career management consultant specializing in training, Internet applications and program development

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