A Portfolio Can Make a Big Difference

P1040573resizeI have been an advocate for developing your own portfolio for over ten years now. I first developed my own portfolio after being contracted to facilitate a workshop on the topic. While I had been ‘intending’ to make one for awhile, that  workshop was the impetus I needed to finally take action and make my own. Little did I know then what a difference it would make for me!

A Professional Portfolio is an organized compilation including pictures and if possible physical samples (including pictures and newspaper clippings) of your personal and professional accomplishments, experiences, training and education. It can contain stories of life experiences, vacations and learning moments. It can be used as part of all your career development activities:

  • An archive to mine for career insights
  • A master CV from which to develop your targeted CV’s
  • A targeted version to present during an interview
  • A place to store examples and stories to use for interview preparation (we often need a little help remembering these)
  • A support tool to remind you of who you are and all you have done

It can also be a family activity! I have been promoting the use of a portfolio for children beginning at an elementary age for a number of years now as well. I developed a workshop on this for the Dutch Catholic Parents Association and I even gave some good friends kids portfolios for their birthdays. This week I heard what a difference this gift made for the seven-year-old daughter of a dear friend.

Here’s the story of Leila. Kids can be quite hard on each other as we all know and probably experienced ourselves while growing up.  Just last week Leila’s friend said some horrible things to her for no reason that she could understand and pronounced their friendship as over.  This left her feeling confused and hurt.  As she sought for answers within herself, my friend, her mom, was helping her put it into perspective. “Sometimes arguments happen because of things that we have done wrong, and sometimes it is not our fault at all. We can’t always have everyone like us who we want to have like us”, she said. Then sought for something deeper. She underscored that the most important thing is to know yourself, “then you won’t be filled with doubts and ‘I should haves’ and ‘I should be’s ”. My friend remembered Leila’s portfolio and suggested they look at what Leila wrote about herself last year and the year before during the May vacations. Leafing through the portfolio, Leila laughed, enjoying hearing her own words about herself again. She saw how much she had changed and grown, recognized what remained constant about her character and interests, and also noted what she thought she would like to improve.  She went to bed feeling strong in herself and was able to let go of the worry she felt about the situation. The next day the friend apologized and all was forgiven.

That afternoon while walking back from a school outing Leila and her friend were followed by some slightly older boys who were taunting them and said some things that were intended to hurt and tease. Leila turned around and said jauntily, “Ha, that just shows that you don’t know me at all if you think you can say that about me!” The boys had no words to respond and Leila felt proud of herself  “in a new way”, she said. What a gift for a child to have those insights and strengths at seven years old.

It’s also a great gift for yourself. Adults reading this will recognize that the themes in Leila’s story can recur at any age. My own experience is that during transition, work search and relocation, my portfolio gave me the reminders of who I was and what I had accomplished that fed my motivation to make one more contact, to knock on one more door, to send one more application and to attend one more networking event on the way towards my career goals.

I am so happy that I made that very simple start on a portfolio. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It just needs to be there. Facebook and LinkedIn can also become a sort of portfolio for you, but I think a paper version is an ‘unmissable’ tool for us all in these times of change and transition. What will it take for your to make yours?

Note: There are tips and a step by step process for developing your own portfolio in A Career in Your Suitcase, 4th edition.

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