Student Success Centre

Portfolios

A portfolio is a collection of papers and artifacts that can be arranged in a variety of formats to help communicate your worth and potential to employers. It contains visual representations of your skills, abilities, and accomplishments. The portfolio is both a product and a process because it helps you and employers assess you suitability for a particular job.

Why Use a Portfolio?

Things To Remember When Making a Portfolio

1. Consider what type of job or opportunities you are looking for.

  • For example, your portfolio’s contents and looks may be different if you are applying to a bank versus a summer camp. Just like your other self promotional material, résumé and cover letter, consideration needs to be given to who you are marketing yourself to.

2. Gather together all the items that best represent your value.

Gather together all the items that best represent your education, experiences, skills, extra-curricular activities, characteristics & attributes, accomplishments, etc. Anything that you have kept from past experiences can be pulled together to display in your portfolio.

  • Education: Lab reports or term papers; academic certificates, diplomas, degrees, and awards; transcripts; syllabi or course descriptions
  • Experience: Works in progress or completed; reports; records of your involvement (at Western, in the community, etc.); professional memberships; photographs of you working in a job(s), or pictures that will reveal something you have organized or created.
  • Skills: Reports or other materials/documents you have created; performance evaluations that include highlights of your skills and accomplishments; skill or interest summaries that you have received from completed self assessments.
  • Extra-Curricular Activities: artifacts that show involvement and/or accomplishments in volunteer, athletic, social, or leadership capacities (i.e. clubs, student government, newspaper/radio, intramurals, competitions, etc.).
  • Characteristics & Attributes: Letters of recommendation from past supervisors, professors or coaches; letters of appreciation and thanks from people you worked with; performance evaluations that include comments from your direct supervisor indicating your traits or how you were a valued member of their team.

3. Display your items in a way that is easily viewed by an employer.

  • You may use a binder or a leather folder or you may have your portfolio on a web page or in a photo album. Be creative and know your target market! There are 3 traditional formats: chronological, functional, and thematic.
  • Chronological:  information is presented in reverse chronological order – it demonstrates ongoing growth and development of your skills and accomplishments over time. Consider the following sections:  Work Experience, Education, Awards and Certificates, Special Skills, and Accomplishments.
  • Functional:  information is organized into skill sets or categories – it highlights experience and accomplishments in specific areas. Consider the following sections:  Research, Organization and Planning, Communication, Problem-Solving, Leadership, Teamwork, and Community Involvement.
  • Thematic:  information is based on abstract themes and can show how a project has progressed from start to finish. Consider dividing a large topic into a number of subcategories that reflect the progression of the project. Thematic examples may represent, for example:  Workshop Design, Program Planning, Mentorship, Entrepreneurship, and Event Planning.

Tip: Most portfolios are presented with tabs that are labeled for easy browsing.

4. Use your portfolio strategically.

  • It is not appropriate for every situation, but when used correctly it can be one of your most powerful and effective job search tools. For example, use your portfolio in interviews to reinforce a point you have made. Selectively choose items to show a potential employer (material must be targeted!). It is a good idea to keep a ‘master portfolio’ – one that contains all your paperwork and artifacts – and, from this, select the items that are most relevant to each job you interview for.

Items to Consider Including in a Professional Portfolio

Artifacts Pertaining to Formal and Informal Education and Training

  • Brochures describing training events, retreats, workshops, clinics, lecture series
  • Degree, certificate, license of mastery or completion
  • Grants, loans, scholarships secured for schooling
  • Samples from classes (papers, projects, reports, displays, computer samples)
  • Samples from personal studies (notes, binders, products)
  • Syllabi or course descriptions for classes and workshops
  • Standardized or formalized tests
  • Teacher evaluations, transcripts, report cards

Artifacts Pertaining To People Skills

  • Items showing people and leadership skills (names of committees you chaired, projects you initiated, mentor programs, proposals, documents)
  • Planning Samples (summary of steps, instruments used such as surveys or focus groups)
  • Problem solving illustrated with various artifacts (figures or pictures showing improvements in products, services, profits, safety, quality, or time)
  • Employee training packets, interview sheets, motivational activities

Artifacts Demonstrating General Work Performance

  • Attendance records
  • Details of community service projects
  • Job descriptions and descriptive material about organizations worked for (annual report, brochure etc)
  • Logs, lists or charts showing general effort (phone calls received, extra hours worked, overtime, volume of e-mail, case load, transactions completed, sales volumes)
  • Letter of reference, employer evaluations and/or reviews
  • Records showing how your students, clients, or patients did after receiving your services (evidence showing your impact on the lives and performance of others such as test scores, performance improvement data, or employment and promotion)
  • Samples from participation in professional organizations, committees, work teams
  • Surveys showing satisfaction by customers, clients, students, patients, etc.

Artifacts that Demonstrate Functional Skills

  • Writing abilities as demonstrated in actual samples of your writing (memos, reports, or documents)
  • Evidence of public speaking experience (membership in Toastmasters, photograph of you at podium, speech outline)
  • Posters, photos, reviews of performances or events (dance, drama, music, story telling, conferences)
  • Data gathered (graphs, charts, tables you helped to produce, testing results)
  • Display or performance materials (objects, illustrations, posters from displays)
  • Computer related projects (database designed, desktop publishing documents)
  • Formal and technical documents such as grant or loan applications (include proposal cover sheet or award letter), technical manual

Artifacts Illustrating Technical Skills

  • Paper documents or replicas of actual items including: forms, charts, print outs (such as medical chart, financial statement or budgets, reports, marketing plan, customer satisfaction plan, evaluation sheet, budget plans, spreadsheets, charts)
  • Performance records (keyboard timing scores, safety records, phone logs, complaint logs, pay stub with hours worked highlighted, any record showing volume, amount, total time, response time, turn-around time, dollars or sales figures)
  • Technical directions, manuals, procedure sheets for specialized work, use of equipment, and detailed processes. This could include: sample pages from manuals, illustrations, technical drawings, blueprints or schematics, photos from workplace, schematics or directions for tools or equipment, operation sheet
  • Photos, video, slide show, or multi-media presentation
  • Actual item which can be handled in various ways: displayed in person one at a time or part of a display you set up