A Word About Work Portfolios

Ronald J Raty


Many students creating a portfolio of their work for the first time are confused about the purpose of the portfolio.  Most classes I teach require a submittal of a portfolio.  This paper is written to clarify what I am expecting to see, not only as an instructor but also as an employer.  You will be creating a work portfolio, not a class portfolio.  This is the portfolio you will eventually take with you to a job interview to impress your potential employer.


The portfolio is a collection of your best work, generally 10 to 20 samples, and should demonstrate your diversity of skills.   The work portfolio content should not be limited to a specific class, so those students having a portfolio from a previous class are encouraged to use it, and add work from this class to it.  Students with drawings, photographs, or graphics from other classes, interests, or hobbies, are encouraged to include examples of that work in the portfolio also.  The portfolio should include more than just drawings from this class, but should represent your life experience that you will be bringing to the job.  Photographs of works that are not 2 dimensional are acceptable.  If you worked as a welder on a ship, include a picture of the ship. 


The portfolio case should be a hard cover professional looking binder that securely holds the drawings, either in sleeves or mounted to backing sheets.   Inexpensive portfolio binders with sleeves are available at the book store.    Quality used cases are commonly found at second-hand stores, and affordable cases are available at the office supply stores or craft stores.  Many students have created wonderful portfolios out of photo albums.  Think of your portfolio case as the frame that displays your work.  You will want the best frame possible to show off your work.  Doing anything less than the best will tell the employer that you don’t always do the best you can.


All drawings or photographs in your portfolio should be visible without having to remove them from the binder or a sleeve.  Do not punch holes in your drawings, they deserve more respect than that.  A common theme used throughout the portfolio can tie the contents together and demonstrate your creativity and sincerity.


Some students create electronic portfolios.  You can use an app for tablet or lap top, and use it to display your work.  These make wonderful portfolios, because they demonstrate your ability to use advanced technology.  But make sure you give the proper impression with your electronic portfolio, a face book page is not a portfolio.  Nor is a folder of random pictures.  It has to be organized.  As a last note on electronic portfolios, do not use websites that require the interviewer to enter passwords or register or are otherwise difficult to access, they won’t bother and neither will I.


Your Portfolio will be reviewed by the instructor to determine how well the student presents their work and how well the work ‘shows’ as a whole. If the student were using this portfolio to present their abilities during a job interview, how well does the portfolio communicate the student’s abilities and personality?  As a potential employer, what does your portfolio tell me about you?   Think about what an employer is looking for when they review your portfolio during an interview.  They aren’t trying to measure your technical skills and abilities; if they didn’t think you were technically qualified they wouldn’t be interviewing you. The fact that you are at an interview says they think you can do the job.  What they want to know now is all about you and your personality.  Will you fit into their organization, will you get along with the rest of the team.  Are you creative, do you think outside the box, are you able and willing to learn new skills, are you responsible, are you diligent, do you have high standards of quality?  A portfolio gives the interviewer a graphic picture of who you are, and you want to make sure that picture is appropriate.


The Portfolio will be graded using the following criteria:

·         Organization

·         Completeness

o   Cover page

o   Resume

o   Drawings

o   Other documents

·         Quality of the drawing contents

·         Overall Appeal and Professionalism  (Any personal flourishes that add interest to your portfolio will be graded as “Overall Appeal.”) 


The following web sites have additional information.

·         http://www.quintcareers.com/job_search_portfolio.html

·         http://www.manifestyourpotential.com/work/take_up_life_work/8_get_hired/how_to_create_awesome_work_portfolio.htm

·         http://dolphin1.net/network/dolphinsong/portfolio.htm


Here are some common comments I have when reviewing portfolios from an employer point of view.

  1. A quality binder is a must.  If you have a make-do binder, then your employer will assume you will provide make-do work.  You probably won’t get the job.  I'm still not real keen on the plastic portfolio binders, and I particularly dislike the cheap 3-ring binders.  I know the book store sells them both and they are cheap, but they seem very make-do, not permanent or top quality. 
  2. You need a good title page that includes your name and the title of your book, i.e. “Portfolio”.  Look in any book, and you will see a title page.  Your’s should be no different.  A basic lettered name on the cover page or on the front of the portfolio will seem over simplified.  You should do something here that shows a little more effort and creativity.  Lack of effort here tells me you are trying make-do.  Better to have nothing than something sloppy.  It is best to have something that shows your creativity.
  3. It is a standard these days to have a resume in the portfolio.  Be sure to include one.  I won’t read the resume or review the contents, but I will check to make sure there is one.  If you haven’t created a resume, then just include a sheet titled “resume” as a place holder.
  4. The drawings should be oriented so bottom of the drawing is either at the bottom of the portfolio, or on the right hand edge.  That is kind of a standard.  If you don’t do that, they look upside down. 
  5. The portfolio contents should be presented in transparent sleeves.  Don’t just punch the pages and stick them in.
  6. If your portfolio is organized by sections (hand drawings, cad drawings, GIS maps, photos, awards, letters, etc.)  You might consider putting tabs on the sections and maybe even a table of contents so viewers can go straight to the section in which they are interested.  Or alternatively, you can modify it for each interview so the portions of interest are right up front.