Counselling and Career Development

Career portfolio

What is a career portfolio?

A career portfolio is:

  • a powerful visual tool that provides a complex and comprehensive view of your skills;
  • a purposeful collection to provide evidence of your achievements, efforts and growth;
  • a collection of examples of the best work that you have produced.

From this description, it should be clear that a career portfolio is not merely a resource file but that it consists of carefully and purposefully selected items, depending on the purpose of your portfolio. A career portfolio can be developed in printed or electronic format, depending on how you would like to use it.

Why do I need a portfolio?

  • You use the portfolio to write a current CV and to secure a job interview.
  • You prepare for interviews and during an interview, you are able to support claims that you make about your abilities.
  • Your career portfolio is unique documentation of who you are and why you are different from the rest; it indicates where you could make a contribution.

Why is a career portfolio effective as a career management tool?

A career portfolio:

  • highlights your abilities;
  • grasps the attention of the interviewer as you can show concrete examples of completed work or reports on activities;
  • creates a more personal atmosphere during interviews which reduce stress;
  • enables you to include authentic samples which provide evidence of your unique abilities;
  • enables you to influence the questions asked during the interview;
  • has a growth focus - it allows the portfolio developer to show how growth and development have taken place over a period of time.

What does the portfolio consist of?

The portfolio consists of two parts:

  1. a document centre where you gather information. Use an expander file or box to store certificates, samples of your work and your reflections, or store these documents online. Examples of online storage services include Google Docs and Dropbox), and a
  2. presentation file (consisting of relevant and logically ordered information selected from your document centre). Use a file with plastic pockets, or create an online portfolio. Examples of online services include Google Sites, VisualCV, Jobrary. You could also use blogging services such as Wordpress and Blogger to create your portfolio online.

What is the suggested format for your portfolio?

The contents of your career portfolio can be organised in a number of ways namely (1) chronologically according to specific dates; (2) according to specific categories or themes; (3) according to specific categories or problems or concerns; or (4) according to a combination of these three structures.

Statement of originality A statement claiming the portfolio as your own work and that all contents should please be regarded as confidential.
Work philosophy A brief description about your beliefs about yourself and the world of work.
Career goals Your professional goals for the next two to five years.
Skills areas Sections containing information on your skills & experience related to a specific area. Examples of skill areas are leadership skills; language skills (written & oral); planning skills; organisational skills; research skills; interpersonal skills; information/ knowledge management; supervisory skills; computer skills; marketing & sales; problem-solving. Each skill area may contain WORK SAMPLES: physical examples of your work, for example, reports, documents, reports. LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION: Letters of support of reference that verify your abilities in this skill area.
Works in progress A brief list of work, activities, projects or efforts you are in the process of completing.
Community service Work samples, letters of recognition, photos of projects completed, programs and brochures related to community service projects.
Professional memberships Membership cards and letters related to professional organisations.
Your CV A copy of your CV.

What are the benefits of a portfolio?

  • It motivates you to take ownership of your learning.
  • It assists you to attach value to your work.
  • It creates opportunities to learn from experiences and promotes self-reflection.
  • It showcases unique gifts and talents.
  • It increases self-knowledge and develops insight into personal strengths and weaknesses.

What steps are involved in the portfolio process?

  1. MAKE A CAREER PLAN Take time to develop and refine a work philosophy, as well as your career goals and write them down.
  2. GATHER INFORMATION Develop an attitude of documenting experiences and reflecting on it to determine what you feel about the experience, what you have learnt from it and what you will do differently in similar situations. File all your experiences and samples of work in your document centre. This will be your working portfolio. You can then compile your presentation portfolio by selecting specific items aimed at a specific audience. Include enough samples and items to illustrate your individual skills and competencies.
  3. UPDATE CV & REFERENCES Update your CV and references determine and emphasise (or obtain) the skills and competencies necessary for the job you want.
  4. DEVELOP A CRITERIA FOR SELECTING SPECIFIC ITEMS Ask specific questions to facilitate reflection: What is the purpose of my portfolio? Why am I including this specific item in my presentation portfolio? What skill do I wish to illustrate?
  5. ASSEMBLE THE PORTFOLIO AND ASK A MENTOR TO REVIEW YOUR PORTFOLIO BEFORE AN INTERVIEW Based on the feedback received, refine and adapt your portfolio.