When applying for a job, it’s essential to stand out from the crowd and to demonstrate that you are the best person for the job. The most effective way to do this is by providing concrete examples of your achievements. Don’t just state that you are a great chef or a great salesperson – show us.
And turn it into a story. Tell us about the time that your client’s computer crashed and you stayed up half the night to identify and fix the problem. Tell us about the time there was a power cut half an hour before you were supposed to serve dinner to 500 people. Describe the wine tasting and culinary day trip you developed and marketed to international tour operators.
It’s a story with a hero – YOU – and action – the problem you solved – and a happy ending – satisfied customers.
Seeing is Believing
Now take your storytelling one step further by not only telling us what you can do but by showing us. It’s standard practice for artists and designers to maintain a portfolio of their work. You can too.
Think of it as a scrapbook providing a visual presentation of your accomplishments. And there is no limit to the types of material that you can include – from a physical object to a project description.
Chef – include a recipe, a menu or a photograph of an award-winning dish.
Software programmer – provide links to an open source project, an online forum or a wiki that you set up or participated in.
Hotel salesperson – include an advertisement for a successful sales campaign or the itinerary for a travel agent familiarization tour.
Be sure to demonstrate your leadership, teamwork and problem-solving abilities.
Chef – provide examples of how you mentor new members of your kitchen staff.
Software programmer – explain how you customized the software to meet a customer request.
Hotel salesperson – describe how you doubled your hotel’s share of the tour market in under four years.
Include examples of your extracurricular accomplishments as well: the agenda for a church conference you helped organize or a newspaper article about your fundraising efforts for a children’s playground.
Include information about awards you have received as well as letters of recommendation.
Your portfolio can assume various different formats. It may be a binder or a website. I include short descriptions of several key projects in a sidebar on my two-page resume.
Whatever format you choose, it should be attractive and well organized. Provide a cover page and possibly a table of contents. Make sure the formatting is consistent. Introduce each example with a short summary paragraph outlining its relevance. Keep it short and easy to understand.
Depending on the circumstances, you can attach your portfolio to your job application or bring it to the interview.
It’s Worth the Effort
Yes, it will take time to assemble and maintain your portfolio. But it’s worth the effort:
You will have demonstrated that you are sincerely interested in this career opportunity and have taken the time to prepare for it.
You will be well prepared with concrete examples to use when responding to interview questions.
You will have demonstrated the full depth and range of your abilities, which may put you in place for unexpected career opportunities beyond the specific job you originally applied for.
For more information on writing your resume and applying for work, see my earlier posts:
Writing a Killer Resume
Want a Job? What do you have to Offer?
And stayed tune for upcoming posts:
Identifying and Describing your Strengths and Accomplishments
Cover Letters that Really Work
In the meantime, send me your questions about resumes and portfolios. I’ll be happy to answer them – either privately or in the comments section.