It’s never too early to start creating your own portfolio. Whether you’re a freelance web programmer or a student of journalism, you should be working on a portfolio where you collect the best pieces you’ve produced. But if you don’t have a portfolio yet, don’t worry; you can start working on one right now.
Now, why would you want to start growing a portfolio? The fact is that most people don’t have any kind of portfolio until they start actually working in a permanent job and producing results. But the best thing about having a portfolio is, it can tremendously increase your success in getting a job of your preference, and it is an indispensable asset if you’re an entrepreneur.
One of the primary roles of a personal portfolio is to show off your skills. Interviews are, after all, occasions where you are welcome to flaunt your skills and virtues. But the unfavorable thing about written skill descriptions is that they are only descriptions, and anyone can fabricate good qualities about themselves. It is only natural for an employer to be skeptical when he sees an assertion along the lines of “I have practical knowledge on how to design modern Web 2.0 layouts with Photoshop.” But with a portfolio that includes printouts of some of the website layouts created by the interviewee, the interviewee can give the employer an exact definition of what she is capable of producing. This tactic completely penetrates the employer’s skeptical defenses, therefore successfully justifying the skill descriptions.
Now, there are three main characteristics that all good portfolios (ought to) possess: focus, best works, and diversity. Here we’re not going to be looking at the exact contents of a portfolio, but I will be showing you how a portfolio should be organized.
- Focus. Every portfolio needs a focus. If you bring all the works you’ve created in your life—drawings, poems, websites, dessert recipes—your portfolio will be diluted and lacking coherence. It is obvious that if the job is about designing websites, the employer will have little interest in how creative a cook you are. So you should only include material that is relevant to the job you’re applying for.
- Best works. This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway for the sake of emphasis: Include your best works. It’s quality over quantity. And keep in mind what the company is looking for. Don’t feel bad to hide your weaker works. You might also want to ask others to help you handpick the best ones. If you’ve received any awards or prizes for your works, you should never forget to mention them.
- Diversity. I know I said quality over quantity, but you shouldn’t also fail to show the employer that you can produce different types of works. Diversity doesn’t mean that you unload a thick stack of works on the employer’s desk—you can choose to focus on three works that show variety.
Having a good personal portfolio to back the skill descriptions on your résumé is an invaluable addition to the résumé itself and your cover letter. Depending on the type of job you apply for, you can have an advantage over your competitors by providing visual proof of your achievements.
I will now let you develop your own portfolio. Remember, even if you’re a beginner you should start saving some of your works right now. If you tend not to produce anything functional or otherwise complete, take your mentality one step toward practicality and begin working on personal projects that you can potentially add to your portfolio.
I would be happy to see what you’ve created, so please post your works in the comments. Thanks! And good luck!