In today’s competitive environment, you need to develop a range of effective and eye-catching strategies that can give you the edge over your colleagues when promotional opportunities arise. A well-presented résumé and letter of application, and a successful interview, are of course very important; but a carefully prepared professional portfolio can also help you showcase your skills, experience, and accomplishments. Gain that extra advantage by considering these helpful ideas…

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1. Understand the purpose of a portfolio.

A portfolio is a tool that allows you to ‘prove’ your experience, skills, and achievement in the tough competition for management positions – as architects, designers, and similar professionals have found over the years. But, as well, the very act of compiling your professional portfolio:

  • allows you to evaluate your work and reflect on what you have accomplished, how others have responded, what you have learned, and what gaps there are in your professional experience
  • demonstrates an approach to problem-solving and decision-making that research suggests are essential assets of a highly effective administrator
  • encourages you to survey the big picture of your personal professional development over a long period of time
  • permits you to develop a fairly accurate representation of yourself as a manager. Do you like what you see? If not, how can you change for the better?

In turn, an interview panel should find clear evidence to support your application for promotion, including:

  • examples and illustrations of your accomplishments in abbreviated form
  • the breadth and depth of your experience
  • proof of your ability to perform as a manager
  • a high level of personal organisation and presentation
  • evidence that you know how to select the appropriate materials for a particular purpose.

2. Devise a suitable structure for content.

Consider how you can give structure to your content and logically present your documentation. For example, you may decide to divide your portfolio into, say, five sections:

  1. Personal development
  2. Knowledge of, and competence in, management
  3. Professional development
  4. Community service
  5. Notes and acknowledgements.

The search for content can then begin.

3. Assemble your content materials.

Begin by including everything you can think of in each section, e.g.

Personal Development: Résumé; a short autobiography revealing how your professional life has developed to the point where pursuit of a career in management is a logical step; a list of short- and long-term goals; a statement that describes your values and beliefs; a statement of leadership style…

Knowledge and competence: Documents that provide evidence of experience in management tasks and initiatives such as committee leadership or membership; participation in interviews; samples of professional letters, newsletters, or reports; central- or regional-level involvement; projects initiated; proof of having collected data and made decisions based on analyses of data…

Professional development: Samples of writing for journals, newspapers, newsletters, reports, submissions; a conference presentation; abstract of research or study completed; evidence of attendance at conferences, workshops, or study groups…

Community service: Evidence of awards and honours; memos requesting your services; news clippings; descriptions of voluntary actions; certificates of appreciation from agencies or community groups; proof of professional involvement in activities beyond the company – for religious, service, or community groups…

From this weighty collection, delete material that is not relevant to the overall picture you wish to present. On the other hand, if your collection is a little thin, it’s vital to begin the process now and to add to the portfolio over time. A good portfolio is not compiled overnight.

4. Attend to its presentation.

A portfolio is not a scrapbook filled with thank-you letters, memos, and newsletters. It should reflect a successful career. It should be a well organised, attractively presented collection of professional material of which the possessor is proud. One suggestion is to present the portfolio as a solid, white ring-binder with transparent sleeves for insertion of your material. These page protectors keep the material clean, eliminate the need to punch holes in precious documents, and allow for easy additions and deletions.

5. Know when to use it.

Consider this manager’s approach :

“I carried the portfolio with me to the interview and placed it on the table next to me. I did not refer to it until the end of the session, when I was asked whether I had any questions or additional comments to make. Explaining that I had brought along my portfolio and would like to leave it for a few days, I said, ‘If you have any questions, or want more information about me, it is all in the portfolio.’ This strategy also gave me the chance to return to the office in a few days to claim the portfolio and touch base again.”

It’s important to be subtle and strategic. And remember, the same collection of materials may not always be appropriate for every interview. Include only those items that best represent your qualifications for the position you are applying for at the time.

6. Update the content regularly.

The challenge now is to maintain and update your portfolio. But you’ll find it easier once you have the foundation in place.

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