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Build a Career Portfolio to Jumpstart Your Career Search or Move Up

Now is an excellent time to reflect on your accomplishments this year.

If you are like me, you had a busy year with many projects, projects where you created products that showcased your talents and knowledge. Don’t let those products sit on your computer; build a career portfolio to demonstrate your expertise.

Here are five easy steps to build an outstanding career portfolio:

Review your calendar and to-do lists — You probably have some projects you are particularly proud of that come immediately to mind. Put those on your list. There are also projects that you were pulled into at the last minute. I remember spending a weekend building a marketing plan for a significant initiative. I was handed the assignment as I was about to walk home. It was intense, and I created a good product in 16 hours that weekend. I made sure to put that product in my portfolio. Spend a couple of days going through all your files, so you don’t miss anything.

Choose the top three products that you are especially proud of — Of course, you will have more than three products in your portfolio. However, lead with the strongest ones that feature your best skills. In my experience, people will flip through the first few pages of your portfolio before they put it aside and ask questions about it. Start strong to create good first impressions.

Determine what skills you want to highlight — If you are thinking of a career change, a properly organized career portfolio can help convince employers that you are ready to move in a new direction. For example, I highlighted the relevant transferable skills when I wanted to move from a government paralegal to an information technology project manager — skills such as my strong writing ability and proficiency in giving presentations. I also emphasized my technical skills to make the case that I could make the career transition.

Use the CCARI story framework to build your portfolio stories — You’ve met the CCARI story framework in one of my earlier columns. CCARI is the acronym for Context-Challenge-Action(s)-Result(s)-Impact(s). For every product you feature in the career portfolio, use CCARI to give a brief description that helps your audience understand the significance of the product and how it helped the organization and your colleagues.

Have an Online and Print Career Portfolio — You can build an attractive online portfolio using Google Docs or Slides. Or you can use any of the many drag-and-drop website builders. The key is a well-organized site where each product is easy to navigate. You will also want a well-organized print version of your career portfolio. Again, organization is critical here. I use a binder in which my products are placed into plastic sheets and separated by tabs. Index the products by the skills you want to showcase.

Career portfolios are great for interviews because they are tangible proof of your skills and accomplishments. Career portfolios are also handy for the annual performance review and when you want to make a case for moving up in your organization. So start building your portfolio today!

Dr. Bill Brantley works in the U.S. Navy Inspector General Office as a Senior Training Specialist where he is leading the project to build the Office’s first learning portal for nearly 1,000 employees in the enterprise. He has been a program manager for the Emerging Leader Program and Supervisor Certificate Program at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He also managed the Executive Coaching and the Career Coaching Programs. Dr. Brantley was awarded the 2019 Emerging Training Leader by Training Magazine and is an IPMA-HR SCP, a Certified Professional in Talent Development, an ROI certified professional, a certified data scientist, and a Certified Professional in Training Management. He is a certified Project Management Professional, a certified agile project manager, a certified professional in business analysis, and is certified in Disciplined Agile. He has completed over 200 hours of coaching training from the Neuroleadership Institute, the American Confidence Institute, emotional intelligence coaching, and the Global Team Coaching Institute. Dr. Brantley is an adjunct faculty member for the University of Louisville (20+ years) and the University of Maryland (8+ years). He is the author of the “Persuasive Project Manager” (2019) and “Four Scenarios for the Future of the Federal Government” (2019).

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