Updated: Mar 2
Nobody’s asking for cards anymore, instead it’s “what’s your IG?” Social media has given us a platform to access people and information like we’ve never had before. With the right caption and hashtags, people on the other side of the world can see your vacation pics, avocado toast and yes, your night out at the club. Beyond that, social media is great for sharing your work & accomplishments and we’ve all heard a story of somebody who made it big off of a video that went viral.
Not so far back in the day, a career portfolio was a leather notebook that people carried to interviews to sell themselves for a job. Technology has made it possible to digitize your work and share it instantly with anybody. Everybody should have a career portfolio. Regardless of your industry or your level within an organization. How else will you articulate what you’ve done?! It’s not just a best practice for artists or creatives - EVERYBODY needs one. I’d expect a portfolio from a creative. Take makeup artists for example. I follow some makeup artists on social media because of their portfolio. MUAs post before & after pics of their portfolio and then they generate business because of it. Real estate agents are another example. A career portfolio is key if you work in a corporate job like marketing, accounting, or sales. You can include highlights of campaigns that you’ve worked on or process documentation you created.
Having a career portfolio will differentiate you when you’re interviewing for a job. Go into an interview with some receipts. Show that you can not only talk about it, but you can actually do the work. It definitely leaves an impression, and you will stand out from the others. They might not remember all the bullet points on your resume, but they will remember seeing a policy that you created or a sample reconciliation, or a deck that you presented to your executive leadership team. You’re doing next level things - I can guarantee you every candidate is not coming to an interview with a career portfolio. It still blows me that people don’t bring hard copies of their resume - the assumption is that, “I applied online for this job and I had to upload my resume.” Your resume could have been sent to the main office in Chicago but you’re interviewing for the job in Atlanta. Even if that’s the case, in most cases the person you send your resume to is NOT the person you’re interviewing with. You send your resume to HR and interview with the hiring manager - although they may have gotten your resume from HR they may not have printed or in the process they format may have gotten messed up. You might also find that there are MULTIPLE interviewers so that alone is reason to bring a hard copy. EXTRA copies.
Timeline is the New Portfolio.
In today’s terminology your career portfolio may not be a physical portfolio or folder - it can be your timeline. Let’s be real, most of us spend more time than we should on social media so why not use it to showcase what you can do? Beach side and foodie pics are cool, so is using your timeline to elevate your brand and position yourself as the go-to person in your field. Keep in mind there’s only show much you can share on IG or a 140 character Twitter post. You should also ensure that your career portfolio is current and easily accessible - you never know when you have to slide your resume or a work sample to somebody real quick.
So what should you include in your portfolio? Start with the basics:
Career walk - show a timeline of your career and highlight key project, awards, accomplishments
New graduates may want to include transcripts or a list of relevant courses
Letters of recommendation(s)
Prior performance evaluations - this is very valuable. Performance reviews are conducted by your manager so this is feedback from a person who is directly familiar with your work and habits.
References. Be careful with this one - usually employers wait until you’re in the offer stage when calling references but I’ve known it to be done prior to. Just make sure that the people you list as references know that you have listed them as a reference so they can be prepared for that call if it comes.
Copy of your license if you’re a CPA or hold other professional credentials
How to Build Your Career Portfolio.
I learned so much about myself as I built my career portfolio. I have things from the beginning of my career. I specifically kept annual performance reviews so I could look back on those days. Just to see my professional growth, see things that my manger would say I was great at and what I needed to develop. It’s a great feeling to look today at those things and how they’ve evolved. To see myself on paper early in my career reminded me of where I’d been and fueled my motivation for where I want to go. On the midyear review episode of The WERKin’ Mommas podcast I shared the actual reviews and reflected on what my manager said about me TEN years ago. Crazy!
Yes, Side Hustles Count
In the era of “side hustles” and the gig economy it’s also easier to get freelance work with a career portfolio. Freelance jobs tend to move faster than a corporate job. The job posters are looking for things to get done quick and fast and will use your career portfolio as the fastest way to determine whether you are the right person for the job. I do freelance technical writing and blogging for mid-market businesses. I didn’t realize how big the demand was in the ghostwriting space specifically for accounting and finance. Business owners want to show their expertise to clients by publishing blogs or courses about their services or an area of focus for their company. I’ve written articles about bookkeeping tasks, controller’s responsibilities, the CPA exam, AP automation, leadership, and career advice. More often than not, clients have asked for my portfolio or work samples prior to hiring me. Because I was ready for it, I could send it to them within minutes.
That’s the other thing, make sure you have access to your career portfolio at all times. Using services like Dropbox or Google Drive ensures you have on-demand access to your career portfolio. The days of “I’ll get it to you when I get to my laptop” are over. By the time you send yours that client may have received a bunch of other submissions and now you’ve fallen to the bottom of the list because of your slow turnaround time. In the fast-paced world we live in there’s no reason you shouldn’t have access to these things in an expeditious manner.
I challenge you to start today and create your career portfolio. Elevate yourself above the competition and leverage your experiences and accomplishments to land that big job or client. Even if you don’t check all the boxes for a job you want, having a career portfolio is proof of what you can do - saying what you can do it great. SHOWING what you can do is even better.
I’d love to see your portfolio when you’re done. To get done you have to get started. Let’s go!
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