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Creating an Effective Portfolio


What is a portfolio?

The concept of using a portfolio originated in occupations where creativity is a necessary skill. A portfolio is a collection of items organized in a notebook, file, or a similar format. Portfolios are an excellent way to market your qualifications to an employer for an internship or full time employment following graduation. Portfolios help document work experience, achievements and skills in any field. An impressive portfolio catches the eye and helps the viewer form a good impression of you in his or her mind.

Who uses portfolios?

Employers seeking to hire persons in jobs related to art, advertising, and journalism often require a portfolio in the hiring process to demonstrate their work. For individuals with computer-related degrees, creating an electronic portfolio is an opportunity for you to showcase some examples of relevant technical work you have completed

Why make an electronic portfolio?

Electronic portfolios are typically designed as web pages. They are posted to an internet location or burned onto a CD-ROM to be used as a tool to supplement the hard-copy version of your portfolio. An electronic portfolio demonstrates to employers that you are technically savvy, and gives employers the opportunity to receive further information about you either before or after an interview. For individuals with computer-related degrees, creating an electronic portfolio is an opportunity for you to showcase some examples of relevant technical work you have completed

When do I present my portfolio?

In an interview, you can mention your portfolio during the conversation. Use it to demonstrate points you have made regarding your experience, skills, or accomplishments that qualify you for that specific job.

Where do I begin?

The essentials of a good portfolio are:

This may be as far as a potential employer ever gets, so concentrate on making these basics your best. Arrange them to have the most positive impact possible


Your resume should be included in your portfolio, as it is something that many people, especially employers, will be looking for. Feature your name in bold or make it stand out in some way. Your address and phone number should be easy to find. It is a good idea to include different formats of your resume (HTML, Word, RTF). Highlight the following:

  • Your long-term career goals
  • Your educational level
  • Institutions attended
  • Your relevant employment experiences
  • Other relevant activities

GPA may be used to weed out candidates early in a hiring search, but often in the final decision, GPA does not play a major role.


A potential employer views your transcript as an indication of your efforts to learn presented material. If your transcript does not portray a positive image of you, consider leaving it out of your portfolio.

Letter of Recommendation

Obtain the most impressive letters you can. Request letters from people who are able to comment positively on your character, scholastic ability, extracurricular activities, and professionalism. If you network effectively, obtaining good, honest letters of recommendation shouldn't be difficult.

Allow ample time for your references to write quality letters. Do not ask someone to write a letter over the weekend or even in one week. Maintain between three and seven letters of recommendation.

Optional Items That Can Be Included in a Portfolio

Community/Club Activities

  • Certificate of participation in a program
  • Evaluation written by a supervisor or other individual
  • Outline of a plan you designed to lead a program or presentation
  • Pictures of members participating in an event you helped to plan
  • Invitation/Program/Poster designed for a special event
  • Agenda describing items discussed in a committee in which you were involved
  • Records you maintained (not confidential) for accuracy
  • Special note or feedback for your help with a project

School/Classroom Experiences

  • Example of assignment with special comments from instructor
  • Actual item created through a class project
  • Report on a topic of special interest
  • Outline of a memorable presentation to a class
  • Transcripts of grades highlighting those classes you enjoyed most
  • Certificate of completion of class or assignment
  • Letter written to an individual you were required to contact for a class assignment
  • Summary of a research project you designed
  • Positive evaluation received from instructor or supervisor

Academic Recognition

  • Letter or certificate which recognizes you as a scholarship recipient
  • Letter or certificate which designates you as a Dean's List member
  • Graduation program highlighting designation as Valedictorian or special honors
  • Summary of scholarly research project and/or results
  • Newspaper article noting recognition of special honors
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Special award for participation in an event
  • Trophies/ribbons for winning or placing in a competition
  • Newspaper clippings of individual or team accomplishments
  • Pictures of team or individual participation in an event
  • Letter or commendation from a coach, advisor or other individual(s) associated with athletic achievement


  • Special recognition from a supervisor or customer for work performed
  • Employee of the month award
  • Clippings from an employee newsletter relating to you

Your portfolio is a dynamic document, are you ever done?

Your portfolio must be maintained and updated regularly. Think of your portfolio as a "living" document. It should grow and change as time goes on. As you complete new achievements and receive additional honors, make sure to include copies in your updated portfolio.

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