n. pl. port•fo•li•os
- a. A portable case for holding material, such as loose papers, photographs, or drawings.
b. The materials collected in such a case, especially when representative of a person's work: a journalist's clippings, a photographer's portfolio; an artist's portfolio of drawings.
Who Should Have a Portfolio?
Portfolios are required for a number of industry sectors in creative careers such as the following.
- Illustration, Graphic Design, Animation, Design, and Other Applied Arts
- Drawing and Painting, Sculpting, Jewelry, Ceramics, and Other Fine Visual Arts
- Art Direction for Advertising, Television, and Film Production
- Theater Design
- Writing, Editing, Journalism
- Public Relations
In other careers, portfolios are not required but are a common practice and highly recommended as a way to showcase your accomplishments and demonstrate what is described on your résumé. Portfolios are often used, but not required in other career areas such as:
- Music Composition
- Screenwriting, Playwriting
- Student Services in Higher Education
- Events Planning
In careers where portfolios are not commonly expected, it is still a good idea to collect evidence of your skills and accomplishments and have it ready to visually show your personal traits, experience, training, mission, goals, knowledge, skills, and education. In these cases, the portfolio can be thought of as a powerful marketing tool.
Creating Your Portfolio
Each industry has a different set of standards as to what should be contained in a portfolio and how it should be displayed. What is appropriate for an artist or designer would not apply to a writer or events planner.
Below is a list of ten general guidelines that are appropriate for starting a portfolio in any area.
- Save originals and copies of your work. Collect them in a folder or drawer to begin.
- Scan and save as much work as possible in an electronic format for inexpensive reproduction, to upload onto a website, or to email to a potential employer.
- Purchase a three-ring binder, leather case, or other container appropriate in size for your work that will easily allow you to collect your work and save it. Your binder should make it easy for you to insert and remove each piece of work as needed.
- Purchase sheet protectors or other plastic covers to protect your work.
- Decide what you want to put in the portfolio based on the targeted company and the skills you want to emphasize. Tailor your choices to fit each employer. A portfolio is not your entire life's work, just your best and most appropriate work for the job at hand.
- Include coursework, co-curricular activities, certifications, awards, photographs, and other appropriate samples to best exemplify your work.
- Be organized and consistent in how you present each piece. In some cases, a table of contents and tabs for different sections is a good way to organize.
- The portfolio should include a neat place for copies of your résumé and a business card, CD, DVD, or any other material to make your portfolio complete.
- Be prepared to discuss what you have included in the portfolio. Why/when was it done/made? What was your specific role in its preparation? What, if any, results/notices/responses were obtained or achieved with it?
- Create a "leave behind," or something that you can leave with the employer. This may be a simple set of color copies on 8½ × 11 sheets, or a separate folder, box, binder, or case that reflects the nature of your skills.
For specific information about portfolios in your area of interest, please refer to faculty in your major, the Career Center library, and online resources. Portfolios should be reviewed by faculty or professionals in your field for feedback before you present them to potential employers. Be prepared to make changes in your portfolio over time as you add more work and polish your presentation. Much like a résumé, a portfolio is an on-going project that is never "done."