Why a portfolio is important for your career

May 10, 2024

A portfolio can be an important tool for your career – whether you’re currently job seeking or not.

We talked to Melody Kruzic, Capella University Career Center Senior Career Counselor, to learn more about this important career asset.

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio is a compilation of work samples and professional documentation that serves as evidence of your skills and accomplishments. Many people choose to create and house their portfolio online, though some may still prefer a physical collection. 

What is the importance of developing an employment portfolio?

Portfolios are a great way to demonstrate the competencies and accomplishments you would list on a resume or talk about in an interview – they allow you to show, not just tell. Your portfolio helps you showcase your proven work to potential employers. It presents evidence of your relevant skills and abilities.

Archiving samples of your work to a portfolio is a great way to keep track of your accomplishments and document when you acquired key competencies. Having everything you’ve done in one place can also be useful to reference in preparation for annual performance reviews, professional development conversations, networking or if you’re pursuing future professional opportunities.

Remember that putting a portfolio together takes time, so be sure to keep it up to date in case you encounter unexpected situations like a layoff or a sudden change in your job.

What are some of the benefits of having a professional portfolio?

There are some fields and professions where it is common to use portfolios to present your work, especially when that work has a visual component.

Portfolios can also be helpful for fields involving independent contracting or freelancing, where work samples are shared with potential clients. Today, professionals in any industry could benefit from having an archive of their work. 

To find out if a portfolio could be helpful for you, reach out to any professional connections you may have, explore websites for associations in your profession to see how others showcase their work, and talk with faculty about current trends in your field. 

What do you put in a portfolio?

Anything that demonstrates your accomplishments and abilities should go into your portfolio. Think you don’t have anything to put in a portfolio? Think again. What major projects have you worked on recently or over the years? Select some of the deliverables associated with it, and add it to your portfolio.

Here are some items you may be able to include in your portfolio:

  • Current resume or CV
  • Diplomas, certificates, and transcripts from post-high school institutions
  • Reference letters, awards, testimonials, and LinkedIn recommendations
  • Work samples that you have created, for example:
    • Curricula
    • Proposals
    • Marketing materials
    • Spreadsheets or reports
    • PowerPoint presentations
    • Graphics or layouts
    • Database infrastructure
    • Project plans
  • Evaluations and/or performance appraisals
  • Published articles and writing samples
  • Link to blog or sample of blog post
  • Thank you notes or e-mails from clients or co-workers

Should you have a physical portfolio or an online portfolio?

Whether you go with a physical or electronic version of your portfolio depends on a number of factors, including your industry and personal preference. See what’s common with your peers. Consider which version you would prefer to maintain on an ongoing basis. If you decide to go with an online portfolio, it may still be a good idea to have some hard copy samples of your work to leave behind after an interview. Make sure you follow up with a link to your full portfolio if you didn’t already provide it.

How do you create a portfolio?

For online portfolios, you can build your own website from scratch or use a web-based portfolio builder. Just search for online portfolio websites or online portfolio builder and you’ll find plenty of options.

Using LinkedIn as an electronic portfolio could be helpful for potential employers to connect your work with your professional profile. LinkedIn often shows high up in online searches which helps build your online brand. Some other options for hosting your online portfolio include FolioSpaces, Google Sites, LiveBinders and WordPress. Some of these may have templates you can use, while others may require some understanding of HTML. Take some time to explore the functionality of different sites to see which aligns with your needs. (Capella University does not have affiliations with LinkedIn, FolioSpaces, Google Sites, LiveBinders, or WordPress)

For hard copy portfolios, you can use anything from a simple three-ring binder to a leather-bound padfolio. Use tabbed sections that identify different key competencies or showcase your work by type or topic.

Protecting your privacy is your responsibility. Be aware when sharing your portfolio of personally identifiable information included in your portfolio, such as your address or phone number. Use care if referencing academic or clinical work with protected populations; ensure you are in compliance with applicable data privacy laws, like the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

Get your portfolio ready today

Now that you know why a portfolio is important as you pursue your professional goals, get started making your own. Organizing the evidence of your accomplishments and competencies helps prepare you to have smart and informed conversations about your career whenever you need to.

Explore degree programs that can help you develop skills and competencies to include in your portfolio.

Check out ways the Capella Career Development Center helps support our students’ professional goals.

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