Blow your own trumpet for a change

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The Independent Online
Historically, artists, writers and designers have used portfolios to market their talents. Now the portfolio is moving into other areas. Already popular in the US, the idea is growing worldwide as the perfect complement to the CV.

Your portfolio is for artefacts not facts. It can contain certificates, references, samples of work, employee evaluations, statistics or newspaper clippings.

In his book Portfolio Power, Martin Kimeldorf suggests that you use clear A4 wallets inside a ring binder. Items should be categorised into sections such as learning, communication and persuasion abilities, managerial or leadership skills and information gathering. They should be displayed with a title and a caption. Care should be taken to be consistent with type style and positioning throughout.

The Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD) introduced portfolios five years ago as an obligatory part of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme for its members.

One such member, Carol Yapp, is taking a career break from her job as Personnel and Training Manager for a PR company and admits to being sceptical at first. "My biggest problem is with authenticity. Anyone can include a glossy brochure and say that they were responsible for it."

Ms Yapp agreed that the professional portfolio can be a useful recruitment tool, but feels that the British are not comfortable with what might be considered "showing off". Nevertheless the idea is taking off in a number of areas as other professional bodies begin to insist on members keeping records of their CPD.

Now that Ms Yapp is returning to work she can see how useful the portfolio can be when applying for jobs. "It triggers my memory and provides hard evidence that I can do what I say I can." Marion Versluijs has recently compiled her first professional portfolio. "All the career books say that stock-taking is the essential task before action plans can be developed," she said. "Starting the portfolio was like opening a filing cabinet and finding the right shelf for each item."

Ms Versluijs's portfolio is arranged in reverse chronological order. Each category is divided into learning, working and lifestyle. She borrowed this idea from What Colour is Your Parachute?'s author, Richard Bolles's "Three Boxes of Life" idea.

Finding the motivation to start compiling your portfolio must be on a par with sorting out 10 years' worth of holiday photographs. Mr Kimeldorf suggests that you start by throwing samples and artefacts into a box as you find them, taking the time to categorise them as you go. By detailing information about when, where and why each item was created, as well as the reason why it is important, is a good start. Then you should note the item in a running list of contents.

It took project manager Claudia Foster one uninterrupted morning to put together her portfolio. "Now that I have examples of all my work in one binder, I feel more secure in my abilities and less anxious about how to convince a prospective employer about them," she said. "It contains about 20 sheets, one book and two manuals."

It is just as important to consider what to leave out as what to put in your portfolio. More than 20 or so items is not recommended. When you take your portfolio to an interview tailor it for that vacancy. Keep extra items at home for other purposes. When you visit the bank manager for a loan or to present a business plan, you won't need the same artefacts as when approaching a potential client.

`Portfolio Power', by Martin Kimeldorf (Peterson's, New Jersey. pounds 13.99 including postage within Europe.) `What Colour is Your Parachute?' by Richard Bolles (Ten Speed Press. pounds 17 including postage within Europe.)