In order to understand the purpose of a portfolio, we need first to understand why employers need portfolios—and why they exist. Simply stated, a portfolio is an example of your work that shows off your skills, demonstrates your creativity, and showcases your talent. When you're looking for a job as a freelance writer, illustrator or designer, or any other type of creative professional, employers will want to see examples of your previous work so they can gauge whether you are capable of doing their jobs. Employers will also want to know if you're capable of doing their jobs better than anyone else, and that's where putting together a portfolio can give you an edge over other candidates. Make sure to include its most important parts: career summary, your skills and abilities, work samples, accomplishment and awards, and references or testimonials.
What turns out to be most important is to show your process and thinking behind each project. It really doesn't matter what you call them—sketches, thumbnails, mood boards—it's all about the visual documentation of how you got from the initial idea for a project to your final product. If you want, you can even make those documents public on your personal website, Behance, or other platforms. Having a few high-quality samples at the end of your portfolio is also important because it shows your ability to finish projects and the quality that you can deliver.
Here are other important points that your portfolio should have.
Most of us can be so accustomed to our daily routine and the tasks that we do for work every day that we don't realize how unique our job could be to someone else. One of the highlights of your portfolio should be your career summary. Here, it is essential to highlight your relevant work experience in your field and your specific responsibilities, tools used, and skills developed during these experiences.
Skills and Abilities
When you're trying to determine what to include in your portfolio, think about what you want to get out of your job search. If you're looking for a new career or a change of pace, it may be helpful to showcase the skills that you've acquired in your current and past positions. Here, you would have to highlight relevant and marketable skills that your target companies or clients would need. For example, in graphic designing, you may want to include technical skills such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and other software. On the other hand, it is also essential to highlight your soft skills to give more credibility and another layer to your expertise. After all, beyond your actual skills, what makes you more valuable is your work ethic.
Include your best work. Choose projects that show off your skills. For instance, rather than submitting a full-length paper from a class project, choose the paper that most clearly demonstrates what you learned from the class or what you did well with the project overall. It also helps to break down your process and tell some sort of story.
Including a diverse range of work samples in your portfolio is important to show that you can do a variety of things, but it's also important to present samples in the most effective way possible. It can actually help to include your weaknesses—the pieces that are the least representative of your skill set—right alongside your strengths. You may want to start with one or two pieces that really showcase your ability, but then follow up with some weaker ones. It gives you an opportunity to explain why those pieces aren't as strong as others, while also showing how much you've improved over time.
When you show your portfolio to a potential employer, it can be tempting to hide a less-than-stellar project by including only your best work. But if you do that, you're only going to end up with an employer who knows your good work and not your bad work. And how will you know how much more you need to improve?
Accomplishments or awards
It further establishes your expertise when you have accomplishments or any form of awards under your belt. Still, the purpose of a portfolio is to demonstrate how well you execute a given set of skills. So as much as it may hurt to weed out some of your accomplishments or awards, it's important to pinpoint which achievements are most relevant to the job or industry that you're applying for and then focus on those.
These are important if you have them! If you worked on a project with someone else, make sure that person is willing to vouch for your work ethic, skills, and abilities. Have them sign off on it or try to deliver it through other mediums such as video.
References are the most helpful when they come from people who have worked closely with you in a previous job or internship. They can talk about what you've done really well, where you could improve, and why they think you'd be great at this next job. Testimonials on the other hand are great to include in your portfolio even if they're not directly related to the job you're applying for because they show that people trust you.
You're your own best advocate in a job search. You know what you're capable of, what you're passionate about, and what you want out of your career. It's important to keep that in mind as you build up your portfolio.
Portfolios are more than just portfolios. They are a reflection of who you are as an individual. They reflect your personality through your art. And when people look at them, they have to decide whether or not this person is someone they want to invest in—whether or not he or she is a creative they want to hire or collaborate with. Now using these 5 things as a basic outline, try to create a draft of the things you would include in your portfolio.