A professional portfolio is a showcase of one’s best work, crafted to be confidently presented to prospective employers. For a writer, a portfolio should be composed of the writer’s best-written, most-polished material. This post was written to aid anyone new to compiling a professional portfolio and focuses on writing professions. Tips in this post are based on my personal research into creating a portfolio ready for public scrutiny.
As a soon-to-be English grad, I’ve been tasked to create my own professional writing portfolio. A recurrent tip that came up in my research is one’s portfolio should tell a narrative. Forbes puts it this way, “Each page is a story — a challenge you saw and overcame to the best of your ability” (2017). If this bit of advice is accurate, then when compiling your portfolio, one should be aware of the story each work of theirs tells readers. Is the overall narrative cohesive and within the same genre (so to speak) or is it disorganized with a bunch of plot holes (again, so to speak)?
How to Jump-Start Your Professional Portfolio + Narrative in 4 Steps
As I’m new to compiling a professional portfolio, I did a lot of research of various “expert’s tips,” and I’ve narrowed down the main elements of portfolio creation into the below four steps.
Step 1: Narrow down your target profession
For some people this step might take some groundwork, such as searching job posting websites within their area of expertise or educational background. As an English major, I was surprised to discover how many positions I qualify for, from marketing specialist to content strategist to, the obvious: technical writer and editor.
Step 2: Curate, curate, curate
That’s the mantra to run home while choosing material to include in your professional portfolio. As with a professional resume, portfolios should be curated per the set of skills advertised for a specific profession. As such, a creative writing portfolio full of supernatural romance novellas excerpts would not be suitable for a content strategy position. The goal of zeroing in on a target profession is to aid in your crafting of the best narrative your portfolio should tell for the desired profession.
If you are interested in marketing yourself to different professions in your field of specialty, curating more than one portfolio might be necessary, such as a portfolio for copywriting and another for marketing. The copywriting portfolio should, for example, be more textually dense than a marketing portfolio, which might include graphics and be more blurb-centric than text-heavy.
Step 3: Don’t stop at presenting past work, also list your skills and other relevant information about yourself
According to Clarke University, Iowa, a portfolio should contain a statement of originality, your work philosophy, career goals, resume, and a skills section (Clarke.edu, 2019). Here’s a breakdown of each of the above-listed items, as according to Clarke.edu:
- Statement of Originality: a one-paragraph declaration of your work’s confidentiality and that none of your material should be reproduced.
- Work Philosophy: somewhat self-explanatory – this is a short statement of your perspective of the industry you are applying to and beliefs about yourself.
- Career Goals: your 5-year career goal projection
- Resume: a link to your resume – perhaps as part of a portfolio website or a link within a portfolio PDF
- Skill Area: a section that lists your most marketable skills for your target profession
Step 4: Refine
Some items you select for your portfolio might be years old or months old, either way, they might need a bit of sprucing up. As time passes away from our work, we can become our own fresh pair of eyes, and most of us can see flaws in material we haven’t looked at in a while. Consequently, taking a moment to clean-up or rework material before sending it off to prospective employers is a good practice. Sloppy work can be the difference between landing a job and being passed over.
So those are the four steps. Now it’s time to put it all together: find your desired job, curate your portfolio to tell the narrative befitting your desired profession, include pertinent job-application details, and refine your work. If you’re part of the writing niche and your portfolio is in ship-shape for presentation, I recommend posting your portfolio on JournoPortfolio.com (pictured above).