Remember show-and-tell time in grammar school when you'd bring in something and tell everyone about it? You talked with excitement in your voice and explained every detail. Everyone knew what you could do and understood your passion for doing it. A career portfolio can achieve that for you in a job interview.
What goes in your career portfolio?
It starts with a table of contents that contains the following sections:
Mission and vision: State how you can help your future employer — how you can add value to the company and department where you will work.
Resume: A succinct overview of the valuable expertise and experience you offer a prospective employer.
Accomplishments/testimonials: Testimonials from annual performance reviews, letters of reference, recommendations from your LinkedIn profile, and/or paraphrases of positive comments made by your manager, co-workers, customers, suppliers and/or peers. If the testimonials are long, use a one- to two-line compelling portion that showcases your value.
Awards: Only include work-related awards.
Work samples: Include a brief, compelling description of each sample.
Education and professional training: Include college degrees (or credits earned) and job-related training and certifications.
Volunteer work/community service: Identify any significant volunteer work you've done (including your title and the name of the organization) and how your contribution helped to serve the community.
Work references: Should include three work references, one of which is a manager. Include the name, full address, home phone number and home e-mail address of each individual.
How do you package and present your portfolio?
You can put everything in a 2-inch, three-ring binder with a clear plastic sleeve in the front where you can insert a cover page with your name and a relevant graphic (e.g., for a teacher, depict a teacher in a classroom). Inside, you can include your content within the sections described above and use labeled, tabbed index dividers to separate the data. To protect your work samples, insert them into clear, three-hole, plastic page protectors.
You also can create a free career portfolio website using an easy-to-use tool like LeadYou (www.leadyou.com). With LeadYou, you can create a menu containing the eight section labels and click on a menu item to view its contents. LeadYou lets you enter content for display (cut and paste from sources you already have, such as a Word document) and upload work samples that viewers can see online.
After you build your career portfolio website, you'll be given the Web address so you can include this link in your cover letter, resume and other correspondences. Research shows that HR staff and recruiters are more likely to click on a link to view job seeker information than they are to download an attached file providing the same data.
Another option for a career portfolio is to create a comprehensive profile on LinkedIn (www.linkedin. com). This includes a short and compelling summary, your resume and work samples you can upload and display with the SlideShare application available with LinkedIn. With SlideShare, you can display one of your full-sized work samples, inside the SlideShare viewer. The viewer has buttons to let you easily page forward and backward through the file. Select your hottest work sample for this prized position.
You can use both your career portfolio website and LinkedIn profile during a telephone prescreen interview to set yourself apart from the pack. When an interviewer calls you to schedule a prescreen interview, just suggest he/she be at a computer when calling back because you would like to share some key, strategic work samples.
When do you show your career portfolio to interviewers?
You can show it during the telephone prescreen interview and during a personal interview. When the interviewer calls you to schedule the prescreen interview, just tell him/her to be at their computer when he/she call because you want to show them some key, strategic work samples. You can also show it during in-person interviews as well. And even if you've shown it to one person before, you might have to speak to others who have not seen it. Always be prepared to show relevant work samples to anyone you meet.
What do you do if you've never saved work samples?
You can re-create a brief facsimile of one or two of your work samples. Second, you can go back to your previous employers and ask them for a couple samples you can use in your job search. If you have a work sample that contains sensitive data, such as customer names and sales figures, you need to take these out. Clear the final version with your previous employer(s) before sharing it.
Can your career portfolio help you get a better salary?
Absolutely. Work samples shared during an interview prove your value. When negotiating salary, you can remind employers of the things you shared and use those proofs as evidence to support your request for a higher salary. You've got nothing to lose by trying.
How do you ensure you have time to share your career portfolio in an interview and ask any questions?
To guarantee you get the 10 to 15 minutes you need for the presentation, ask the interviewer in advance to reserve that amount of time for you at the end of the interview. If you don't state this need, the interviewer may use all the time, and you'll lose a valuable opportunity to distinguish yourself from other candidates.
Larry LaBelle is president of Training Tamer Inc., which provides comprehensive training, coaching and support services for job seekers, H.R. staff and hiring managers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Training Tamer, visit www.trainingtamer.com or call (813) 924-8404.