Do You Really Need a Portfolio in College?

The thought of a portfolio usually brings to mind creative careers and books of photographs or work samples. You might not think you need one outside of the arts, but you could be reducing your marketability if you don’t have one. It turns out that portfolios can be enormously valuable in any field. Here’s why. 

Self-Marketing for a Competitive Edge

For a competitive edge in the job market, many positions require portfolios. Most include a resume, performance reviews, personal and professional references, any rewards or recognition in the applicant’s field, and a professional biography. You may also want a 30/60/90-day plan of what you’ll do if you secure the position, evidence of community service, proof of any continuing education completed, and samples of your work.

This is the perfect opportunity to promote yourself and show potential employers why hiring you is in their best interest. The effort will certainly make more of an impact than a flimsy application with an attached cover letter.

Easy Reference for Job Interviews

Consider the benefit of pulling out a professional portfolio during a job interview and turning to the page you’re referencing. Instead of just talking about how much a client enjoyed your work, you can point to the letter of reference they provided or pull up photographic evidence of your work. It will, of course, depend on the field in question as to what you include, but imagine how impressed an interviewer will be when you can back up your remarkable qualifications in real-time. 

Self-Advocacy for Raises and Promotions

A portfolio isn’t just useful when entering the job market to secure a position. It’s also important to keep updated throughout your career. You’ll want to have it handy when it’s time to ask for a raise or apply for a promotion. It can be a wonderful tool to show a current employer why you deserve more money, better benefits, that cozy corner office with your name on the door, or your workplace equivalent of a salary upgrade. Keeping your work achievements updated is a great way to advocate for yourself in your career.

Create an Impressive Professional Portfolio

You may already see that a portfolio can give your career a boost, but you may not know how to get one started. First, collect your documentation and make sure to present each piece as professionally as possible. Organize these documents into categories to make your information simple enough for anyone to follow. You can even add a table of contents and page numbers to make navigation easier. You’ll want to make sure you present it all professionally in a visually appealing binder or portfolio case with convenient reference tabs. 

It’s important to create a digital copy of the portfolio as well as copies of the physical one for ease of distribution. Have a master copy on hand to keep updated, but make sure to customize individual copies for each position. You’ll want to create a separate digital file for each job application. 

The process may sound labor-intensive, but keeping everything organized and updated as you go will make sure your portfolio is ready when you need it. You never know when you might decide you’re ready for a job change or promotion. It could even help if you decide to go back to school for a new career or to earn a postgraduate degree. 

Portfolios aren’t just for artists and engineers. Anyone can have one, and they’re a wonderful way to get a leg up on the competition. If you don’t have yours, consider getting started on one today!