Career Portfolio – Interview Secret Sauce

I have a friend who is a self-employed consultant.  A few years ago, over coffee, she complained that she would not have a clue as to where to start if she wanted to get a “real job”.

I suggested that she create a portfolio.  She thought portfolios were only for artists or other creative types.  Not so.

A portfolio (fancy binder with plastic sleeves and dividers) is an excellent vehicle for organizing and presenting your experience.  It can have sections that show your work, education and other credentials, volunteer activities, hobbies, thank you notes, awards and really, anything else that is relevant to the way that you do what you do.

Just the act of gathering the information together and putting it all in one place can be a pretty powerful exercise.  It’s something that you can do over a couple of weekends and then add/change revise every year.

My friend took that suggestion to heart and created what she called a career scrapbook. She had it in her car for a while and then it took up its place on a shelf in her office.

Last week she applied for an actual job and found herself staring down the barrel of an interview.  Not just any interview but a panel interview in a formal, government type organization.  She dusted off her portfolio, added a couple of items, reviewed the rest of the material and then focused on her outfit.  She felt confident and ready.  (I should point out that she was eminently qualified for the job.)

At the end of the interview, she was asked if she had any questions.  All of hers had been covered in the discussion but she told the panel members that she had brought her portfolio and asked if there was anything they would like to see.  The senior person raised her eyebrows and came to have a look.

She looked at the table of contents, saw the “Thank You” section and flipped right to that part.   She nodded and smiled as she read the cards, notes and emails.  It turns out that the adjudicator actually knew two of the people who had sent notes and that lead to a much less formal conversation where my friend got one more opportunity to show what she knows and why she has been so successful.

She left the interview, with her portfolio tucked under her arm, feeling very good about herself and her experience.  No offer yet……..but I’ll keep you posted.

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4 Comments

Filed under career change, Interview, Job Search, Resume

4 responses to “Career Portfolio – Interview Secret Sauce

  1. Emily Brown

    I have a huge binder portfolio that I created during and after completing my B.Ed. Now I am wondering if, like a LinkedIn profile that is current and informative, an online portfolio might be a better way to go. The link can be added to your resume, and interviewers will be so much better informed about who you are and what others think about you and your work.

    • Laura Machan

      Emily,

      I think there is a place for an online portfolio for sure. But there is value to having something concrete at a face to face interview as well.

  2. In an interview, when they asked, “How would your colleagues describe you?” I showed my page with quotes from colleagues about specific ways I’d helped. Great theatre–it makes the interviewer lean in, and SHOWING is better than TELLING.

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