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Well designed resumes and cover letters are essential job search tools; however, once you secure an interview, a portfolio makes the greatest impact for showcases achievements, abilities, skills and credentials. I’ve found few college students or even mid-level managers take the time to create and maintain an employer-ready portfolio. Here are must-include elements and tips to ensure your credentials are highlighted more effectively than those competing for similar jobs.
- A simple black binder works well. You don’t need to spend much money, just use a clean ½ or 1 in binder and page protectors. Online portfolios are a bonus, but for interviews, a tangible portfolio remains a must have item.
- Be sure to include a typed executive summary page and table of contents which section dividers. You should also provide context and a brief typed description of your role with each of the work samples you provide (Did I mention typed!? Hand-written examples are sloppy).
- Include samples of written work appropriate to your discipline. For public relations or integrated marketing you should include writing samples such as: press releases, alerts, features, newspaper clippings, newsletter articles, flyers, brochures, posters, etc. If using a copy of a newspaper article or newsletter feature, a clean photo copied version with the masthead is appropriate…just be sure to cut straight lines…sloppy mock ups show you don’t pay attention to detail.
- Public relations or marketing plans you’ve created for class projects or real clients (be sure you remove any confidential information) showcase your ability to work through the strategic and creative process in business.
- Research. This might include a competitive analysis, media audits, sample SWOT analysis or other examples of how you have conducted research for strategic purposes.
- Evidence of social media work. Include social media screen grabs. These might be from client work, a professional or personal blog or web site, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook posts from internships, volunteer work or student groups. Also include analytics.
- Digital, graphic design, production or editing work samples. These might include broadcast or online video you’ve produced, directed or edited. In addition to a CD, include screen grabs so employers can easily refer to the work and skills you are illustrating.
- Reference letters (ask professors, internship supervisors, former employers), certificates of appreciation and kudos emails. Copies of positive praise for a job well done. Evidence of association memberships, awards or certifications showcases your leadership abilities.
- It is essential the portfolio be free of typos and grammar issues. Make sure it is neatly organized and include a few stand-alone copies of your best work samples to leave with employers.
- Links to an online version of the portfolio where employers can see your work samples and further review your credentials. This link should be on your resume and is a great thank you note item.
Your portfolio should illustrate strengths, professional attributes and abilities that will position you as the strongest candidate for your dream job. Keeping your collection of portfolio elements up to date and flawlessly compiled will ensure you are ready for any opportunities which arise.
Lorra M. Brown is an assistant professor of public relations/professional communication at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. She serves as the M.A. in Professional Communication graduate program director, communication internship coordinator and advisor to the Student Public Relations Association. She is a frequent contributor to PR Daily. Prior to her faculty position, she held senior positions at Ogilvy Public Relations and Weber Shandwick. Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lorrabrownPR