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Create a Professional Work Portfolio: How to Showcase Your Best Projects

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

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In the digital age, it’s become increasingly important for job seekers to stand out from the crowd. This is where a work portfolio comes in — a professional and well-designed work portfolio will showcase your best work and give hiring managers something to refer back to once you’ve been through the interview process.

A work portfolio is essentially a compilation of examples of your best work, which you can share with potential employers. This will help them get to know you better, see why you would be an asset to their company, and see if you are a good fit for the position they have available.

In this article we'll cover:

  1. When you need a work portfolio

  2. Essential elements for your portfolio

  3. Online portfolios and which style is right for you

  4. Your personal brand and online presence

  5. Final checklist for your portfolio

  6. Where to get expert assistance with your online profile

Having a collection of your best work available in a portfolio is a great way to share what you're capable of with your professional network and potential new employers. This is your “greatest hits” collection of the work of which you have the greatest amount of pride. When collating your work portfolio, remember quality is valued over quantity!

When Do I Need a Portfolio?

Portfolios are not only for artists. Project managers, accountants, computer programmers, financial planners, website designers, marketing and sales professionals can all benefit from a well-organised portfolio of their best work. Your portfolio will be different for each career path, but the general idea remains the same: you want to show prospective employers that you are a great fit for the job.

Any time a visual presentation of what you have accomplished is possible, a portfolio is the way to present yourself well.

What Goes Into a Good Portfolio?

If you’re building a portfolio, you want each element of the projects represented in it to be as strong as possible. You want your work to be great, your website to look polished, and your design to be top-notch. You want hiring managers to see your work and think, “This person could really help our team.” You don’t want them to think, “Eh, they’re okay, I guess.”

Let’s take a look at each component of a good portfolio and how you can make it as strong as possible.

  • Your Work - Showing prospective employers your best work will highlight your strengths and help them to understand your expertise. You can showcase up to 10 pieces of work, so choose carefully.

  • Your Website - Make sure to build a portfolio website that is fully optimized for the web. Your website is the first thing hiring managers will see, so you want it to be as polished and professional as possible.

  • Your Design - Design is a huge part of what makes a portfolio stand out. Go for a clean, modern, professional look. Hiring managers don’t want to see a cluttered or haphazard portfolio — it makes you look unorganised.

Depending on your role and industry, an online portfolio may be the best alternative to a traditional physical portfolio of your work. Consider including your portfolio documents on your LinkedIn profile, or create a personal blog or website showcasing your best work.

Regardless of the type of portfolio you decide is best for you, there are several essentials that must always be included:

  • The best samples of work that are specific to the position for which you are applying.

  • Details of your professional experience and education, or a copy of your resume.

  • Testimonials or recommendations providing positive reviews of your work.

If you are creating a physical portfolio, be sure to invest in a quality binder to house the portfolio contents. If you choose an online portfolio, be sure to take full advantage of rich media options for displaying your work such as images, videos, powerpoint presentations and links to your live work.

Finally, remember to continuously update your portfolio to display your most recent and relevant work.

Online Portfolios

An online portfolio is the modern day version of a business card, a resume and a project showcase all in one. The information you present in your online portfolio can be a fantastic addition to your resume and cover letter for employers looking to hire you.

A lot of online portfolio websites have built-in design tools, allowing you to customize your site to your liking. This means you can use your online portfolio to show off your best work, design a site that’s reflective of your brand and tastes, and do it all without ever touching a single line of code.

Depending on your industry, great options for your online portfolio include:

  • Adding Rich Media to your LinkedIn Profile in your About Section and Employment history.

  • Creating a Blog and posting regular articles.

  • Creating a Portfolio Website using a platform such as Wix, Squarespace or Wordpress.

Creating an online portfolio is an opportunity to make something that shows off your skills and conveys your unique voice. This can also be a powerful boost for you online presence.

Testimonials can add a lot of credibility to your online portfolio. Include a few choice recommendations or reviews of your work from managers or clients. If any of your projects have been featured elsewhere or have received press coverage, mention that too.

It’s always best to run your portfolio by a second set of eyes for some insight and fresh ideas. Ask trusted colleagues or your career coach what they have to say about your portfolio’s content and visuals. Did they spot any missing information? What did they like or dislike about its appearance? Was it easy to scan the information? Even if it means making adjustments, critical feedback from your peers can help you fine-tune the details of your portfolio.

Finally, make sure to update your online portfolio regularly. Always highlight your best and most recent work. This will show employers that you’re active, working and have current experience.

Your Personal Brand and Online Presence

Today, recruiters, hiring teams, and department leaders at virtually every company will take the time to research candidates online, including a Google search of your name and finding you on social media platforms. This means you'll want to ensure your social media accounts are private or remove pictures, videos, and/or comments that may lead a hiring manager to believe you aren't a good fit for outreach.

You can further strengthen your personal brand by creating a blog, posting useful articles on LinkedIn, following the employers you admire and participating in online groups relevant to your field.

Tips for Including the Right Work

Keep in mind that you don’t have to include every single piece of work you’ve ever done in your portfolio. Carefully select your best work and focus on that. If you’ve been in the industry for some time, you’ll likely have a variety of work to choose from. Which pieces should you include in your portfolio? The best way to figure this out is to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Who will be reading your portfolio?

  • Where do you want to focus their attention?

  • What types of work do you want to showcase your specialised skills in?

  • If you’re trying to break into a specific industry, you’ll want to focus on the type of work that will help you do that. Let’s say you want to break into the marketing industry. You’ll want to showcase your copywriting samples.

Checklist for Success

Your work portfolio is your chance to show hiring managers who you are and what you’re capable of. It’s your chance to showcase your best work and show potential employers that you are a great fit for their company. And while you can’t put a price tag on what a professional portfolio can do for your job search, it does require work. Building a professional portfolio is a great way to differentiate yourself from others during the job search process. Investing your time and energy in creating a strong portfolio is a wise decision for anyone looking for a new job.

Your portfolio is a tool that can assist you in your career progression if used in effectively. Use the below 3 points to check your portfolio before you hit send. Does it:

  • Include three to five recent examples of your best work?

  • Portray an accurate picture of your personal brand - of who you are and what you have to offer?

  • Highlight your skills and experience most relevant to your desired role?

Finally, don't forget to review your online presence regularly to ensure your personal brand is represented positively and consistently on all platforms.

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