Beyond the Resume: Using a Portfolio to Showcase Your Skills and Experience

Beyond the Resume: Using a Portfolio to Showcase Your Skills and Experience was originally published on Ivy Exec.

When you’re applying for a job, you’re probably used to submitting a standard set of materials: a cover letter, resume, and LinkedIn profile. But you might be missing a component of the package that can make you stand out: a portfolio. 

We’re already familiar with portfolios in many contexts. For instance, a photographer compiles samples of his best work to show to potential clients. A contractor shares testimonials from satisfied customers to demonstrate your home renovation project won’t collapse in a week. 

So, a portfolio is essentially a way for you to demonstrate your past successes with evidence a reader can see. Even at its most detailed, a resume is mostly about telling, not showing. While every job applicant should talk about their “wins” in a resume, a portfolio lets you show those wins to hiring managers. 

In some industries, the portfolio has long been commonplace. These include product managers, business analysts, writers, creatives, and developers, to name a few. 

But even if your industry doesn’t require a portfolio, it can still benefit you to create one, said Fearless co-founder Tom Scott. 

“Some ‘may’ not need portfolios, but I believe everyone can benefit from creating a mini-deck or portfolio in your search,” he said.  

So, let’s say you want to create a portfolio as part of your application package. Where should you start?


❓ Where to house your portfolio

Your first step is deciding where you want your portfolio to “live.”

Like everything else in job applications these days, the portfolio is a virtual document on a website. 

So, your first step is deciding if you’re willing to pay for your portfolio space or if you want to use a free website version. For instance, some portfolio builders charge a monthly fee for “next-level” hosting options, while others charge an annual fee to register a domain name. 

Forbes Advisor has ranked some of the most popular website builders available.


❓ What to include in your portfolio

Your portfolio should demonstrate your successes and your cultural fit at the company to which you’re applying. 

It should also discuss and demonstrate your unique value proposition as an employee. 

“What is your unique capability? What are three ways you’ve generated success with your unique capability? Is this relevant to the job [you are applying for]? Tell the story about how you’ve generated repeatable success,” said executive coach Bianca Jeanty.

 So, every portfolio should include the following:

1⃣ A personal statement or biography of who you are. This is where you discuss who you are as a professional, highlighting significant roles and accomplishments, your background, inspiration, and career goals. 

2⃣ Evidence of success. This evidence will vary considerably from industry to industry, but think about what you could post on your portfolio to show what you’ve done. For instance, if you’re a data scientist, you might post several reports for which you were the lead author. Or you might include charts, tables, articles about you, images of projects you’ve designed – the list goes on. Look at other industry professionals’ portfolios – like these web developer samples – for ideas.

3⃣ Challenge, Action, Result in organizational structure. You don’t want to simply post all of your accomplishments without context or explanation. Jeanty suggests that you want to organize your “evidence” into Challenge, Action, Result (CAR) structure so your portfolio reader can better understand your successes. “Your first bullet should address the challenge of the project you worked on. The second question should address the action taken to solve the problem. The third bullet addresses the result, whether short-term and/or long-term,” she said.

4⃣ Testimonials. One of the most important aspects of a portfolio is testimonials from colleagues, supervisors, or clients. Ideally, you’ll already have these and can simply add them to your portfolio. If you don’t have quotes from your references, consider writing to former clients asking them for (ideally quantifiable) successes that came from the work you did for them. Or you can write to former supervisors to inquire if you can post snippets of performance reviews to your portfolio. 

While there are many successes you might want to include in your portfolio, you don’t want to overdo it. Like in all application materials, brevity is your friend. It’s important not to overwhelm hiring managers, as well as maintain mystery about some of your qualifications. 


❓ When to use a portfolio instead of a resume

More often than not, employers will ask for resumes and portfolios from candidates.

This is because the content in both documents dovetails into a complete profile of the candidate. 

“While it might seem like the two are competing against one another, they actually work together. A well-crafted resume highlights your skills and experiences, while portfolios provide visual evidence of what you can do and how you do it in practice,” FairWork explained.

So, ensure the content in your resume discusses the same “wins” you share in your portfolio. For instance, if you discuss how you increased your previous company’s revenue in your resume, you could post a trade article written about your innovative methods on your portfolio.


Creating a Portfolio as Part of Your Application Package


Some industries will certainly expect you to create a portfolio and submit it when applying for jobs.

However, even if a job doesn’t require a portfolio, you should still include a link in your resume. Portfolios provide proof of what you discussed in your resume.

If you’re ready to start creating a portfolio, start by identifying your proudest career moments and building out from there. Also, look for samples in your industry and from those who hold similar jobs so you know what’s expected in your field.

By Ivy Exec
Ivy Exec is your dedicated career development resource.