Stand Out with a Professional Portfolio

Stand Out with a Professional Portfolio

By: Kathleen Iverson

Imagine you apply for a job or promotion and the interviewer asks, “What did you learn during your graduate studies at Roosevelt University?” While other applicants struggle to recall theories, projects, and coursework, you rely on your professional portfolio, a collection of your most important work from graduate school, to demonstrate your portfolioexpertise. In today’s knowledge economy and competitive job market, it is more important than ever to validate competency. The ability prove that you can do what you claim you can do is powerful.  A portfolio can add life to a static resume and provide a competitive edge to those applying for “stretch” positions.  Whether a career changer applying for a first job in a new field or an experienced professional seeking a promotion, a well-designed portfolio can boost your potential as an applicant. If two candidates interview for the same job and one candidate has a quality portfolio, who do you think will get the job.

In a survey of more than 300 employers, the majority said that a portfolio is desirable to ensure that job applicants have the knowledge and skills required by theyorganization (Hart Research Associates 2013).

Here are just a few demonstrated benefits of portfolios:

  1. Offers proof that you can do what youclaim you can do.
  2. Academic work is be organized and collected in one place, ready for future job interviews, performance evaluations, or certification.
  3. Portfolios contribute to a variety of desirable learning experiences: reflection, constructivist knowledge building, and lifelong learning.
  4. In academic settings, portfolios facilitate assessment by offering multiple examples of expertise a rich snapshot of learning.
  5. Portfolios can generate self-efficacy and confidence in the learner as a tangibledepiction of knowledge, skill, and ability.
  6. A portfolio increases your visibility and will, quite likely, set you apart from other applicants in the job market.
  7. Portfolios are thebasis of a more developed LinkedIn profile.
  8. Portfolios are flexible. Once you have your initialportfoliocompleted, you can add to it as you take on new projects and develop new skills.

Students in our TRDV 499 course will create a professional portfolio to use for career planning, a job search, or discussions with employers around competency and skill.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you used a portfolio in the past in a job search or to document job skills? If so, what type of portfolio (hard copy or digit) did you use and how did you develop it?
  2. How do think a portfolio might benefit your career?


Hart Research Associates. (2013). It takes more than a major: Employer

Prioritiesfor college learning and student success. Liberal Education99(2).

McCready, T. (2007). Portfolios and the assessment of competence in nursing: A

literature review. International journal of nursing studies44(1), 143-151.



  • Dr. Iverson, you are completely right about not having the rights to share past work as well. Most of my work was considered confidential and I have signed many NDAs during my career. I generally have to redact the client’s information when sharing past work. I verbally share who I worked with but don’t leave pieces of work behind with their names on it.

  • Thank you for your thoughtful comments. It was interesting to hear about two different approaches to the use of our portfolio. I am excited to see your web-based portfolio develop Karolyn and I agree, it will be a very useful tool in marketing your consulting skills. Sarah, I agree, there are times when you might include a portfolio in your LInkedIn profile, but it must be something you are completely comfortable in sharing. One other aspect to consider as you develop work-based exhibits is to make sure you are not sharing information that the companies you worked for do not want you to share. I know an engineer who was fired for revealing proprietary information about a “secret” project he was working on in his LInkedIn profile! So always best to check and get a written release for work-based assignments.

  • Karolyn Rubin (Szymanski)

    As a TD practitioner and owner of training and organization development consulting companies, professional portfolios have opened many doors that otherwise would have remained closed by clients seeking my services. Typically, during the courtship stage of client engagements, establishing an opportunity for an appointment to discuss business opportunities is the easy part. It takes persistency and tenacity to build rapport and trust with clients in wanting to know more about your services. The difficult part is keeping the client engaged and interested. Every client I’ve entered into an agreement with has asked to see samples of my work that aligned with a similar project scope they needed prior to entering into a formal consulting agreement. Typically, I have emailed hard copies for clients to review. Hard copies are also nice to use during in person meetings with clients. I always include the scope of project summary statement (industry of client, stakeholder’s need, and how the training or organization intervention was chosen to solve the client’s need), the project itself (excluding any proprietary or confidential information that were not deemed public or when expressed authorization by the client was not given to share their information), and a conclusion statement (recapping the outcome of results for that client’s need). Follow up conversations and being available to address any questions clients may ask after reviewing my portfolio have led me to doing business with them.

    I’ve since evolved and have begun to create an e-portfolio that represents to exhibit my projects. What is exciting about this web-based portfolio is that clients will be able to access it as they need to, promote my consulting services by embedding links to my portfolio on e-marketing materials, and posting links of my e-portfolio to social media sites such as LinkedIn.

    Whether your portfolio is a hard copy or digital, portfolios help future employers or clients take the guesswork out of the equation of their decision-making process to either hire or agree to do business with you. Portfolios transition the conversation the intended audience would typically ask during an interview of “Tell me what you know and what you’ve done” to “Show me what you know and what you’ve done”. It tangibly represents your capabilities, experiences, and expertise as a TD practitioner.

  • I am a proponent of compiling your work into a portfolio to showcase your skills and expertise. I have never used a portfolio in a job search before; however, I have brought samples of my work on job interviews.

    In my past industry verbal and especially written communication skills were a top attribute to possess. I found that bringing samples of my written work (client proposals, POVs, case studies, performance reports, etc.) were a great way to provide examples around my competency of a specific skill or job duty. It also is a great conversational piece during an interview, especially one that is less structured (like when a manager gets pulled in the last minute). I also have worked as a hiring manager before and always enjoyed with applicants fresh out of school would bring samples of their college work to interviews because I liked to hear about what they had learned in school!

    I’m not sure if I would feel comfortable permanently showcasing my T&D portfolio on LinkedIn. I think I will probably add relevant coursework to my LinkedIn profile and resume along with any related projects I’ve worked on to optimize my profile with industry-specific keywords. After getting the interview, I would then bring the portfolio as a talking point, similar to how I did in the past. If a job specifically asked me to submit one for an interview, I would comply in that case.

    I think since I am a career changer, a portfolio will benefit my career. It will serve as a tangible asset I can explain during job interviews showcasing my understanding and application of theories and practices I have learned while at Roosevelt University in the T&D Master’s program.

  • I haven’t used a portfolio in the past but I did create one in my undergrad program. It is a very good tool to have to demonstrate your ability and skills that you can bring to the table. I look forward to creating one in TRDV 499.

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