Five years ago I took a Career Pathways course that discussed the value of having a career portfolio. I had heard of portfolios before but always thought they were for artists and photographers – not for public servants.
A portfolio is a living and changing collection of records that reflect our accomplishments, skills, experiences, and attributes. It highlights and showcases samples of some of our best work, along with life experiences, values and achievements.
The course inspired me to take stock of all I had been involved in since I joined the public service. I gathered up evidence of my formal and informal education, work experiences, skills and competencies, as well as community and volunteer accomplishments.
My former manager completed a career portfolio and she was able to use it for a Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR). The program looked at all of her experiences and converted them to competencies which resulted in University credits towards her Master’s degree.
If you have a spare moment, take some time to reflect on your career. What are the activities, projects, tasks you would consider to be a success? Did you ever do something you were so proud of or excited about that you wanted to tell someone about it? If so, you should put evidence of these experiences aside in a safe place. When it comes time to apply for your next job opportunity, you won’t have to give much thought to how you meet the required experience, abilities, competencies and personal suitabilities – you will have everything you need for your “tell me about a time when you demonstrated [specific competency]” interview questions right at your fingertips.
Besides my ad-hoc portfolio, I also keep a standing summary of my accomplishments. I have developed a habit of updating my Portfolio Trello Board and LinkedIn profile each time I take on new roles, complete projects and obtain new skills. Realizing that an online presence will be essential in the job market of the future, I purchased my jodileblanc.ca and jodileblanc.com domain names in preparation. When I decide to transfer my hard copy portfolio to online, I won’t have to worry that someone with my first and last name was one step ahead – $20 a year well spent.
So if you are inspired to create and/or update your own portfolio, here is a list of potential information to include:
• Letters of reference
• Lists of accomplishments
• Samples of work
• Courses and Certifications
• Evidence of specific skills (e.g. writing, public speaking, leadership, event management)
• Have you ever…
o implemented a new system or procedure
o suggested a new product or service that was implemented
o created an efficiency in your work and/or made any improvements
o identified a problem that was resolved
o given a client exceptional service
o taken on an assignment that was not part of your position
Regardless of purpose, portfolios support and make tangible the characteristics you want to say about yourself in a cover letter, a resume, or a face‐to‐face interview. A ‘skill’ is a learned ability to do something well, don’t underestimate the number of skills you possess as it will help you gain an accurate picture of all your experiences.
We have social media timelines (twitter, facebook, google+) that show our life experiences chronologically. Doesn’t it make sense to capture more than a 1-2 page resume of our career achievements?
This article was originally published in Canadian Government Executive in October 2013 and has since been updated.
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