6 tips to keep your professional portfolio up to date

I’m a big fan of collecting evidence for my professional portfolio as a weekly task. It’s all too easy to move onto the next piece of work without pausing to reflect on our achievements. Plus, when you get to the point of applying for the next role, you can’t always remember everything you have accomplished.

I know this is going to sound like a geeky post. But here are my 6 tips to keep your professional portfolio up to date.

Learning the hard way

I wasn’t always as fastidious about this. Early in my career I had 3 redundancies in around 18 months.

On the second one, I was told at 4pm on a Friday afternoon (yes, really!). I had the option to work my months’ notice or leave there and then. They gave me some time to think. I called 3 recruitment agencies and told them I was back on the market. Then I collected copies of the cuttings I had generated and other work produced in the 6 months I was in the job.

I left by 5pm. And didn’t return.

Fortunately, I only had content to gather for a 6 month period. Had I been there longer, it would have been trickier. I learnt the tough way that a ‘collect as you go’ approach is the best way.

my top 6 portfoilio curating tactics

1.     Get copies of those cuttings. I started my career in a print media dominated age and have myriads of hard copy cuttings. Every time I had a corker I would go out and buy my own copy of the newspaper or magazine. This meant I had a shiny original to go into my portfolio.
2.     Take your own photos at an event. Record the details that mattered and the crowds that came. This matters even more if you don’t use an official or professional snapper. It’s also good to get a snap of you at work to show how great you are in action.
3.     Squirrel away the printed items. I’ve done so much print in my career from staff bulletins to annual reports. As soon as they are delivered from the printers I put a couple of copies aside for me. This means I have good copies before they get sent out.

Forward planning

4.     Save everything in one place . Have a hard copy portfolio where everything goes and / or one electronic file where you store things. If you’re meticulous and always save your work in one place with accessible file names, you’ll find it easy to access when you need it at short notice.
5.     Keep a ‘headlines’ notebook. I have a notebook reserved for capturing headlines around topics. This is the book I also use for preparing for and attending interviews. It has headings related to possible interview questions. Examples include ‘think of a time when you used creativity to solve a problem’ or ‘give an example when you had to win someone over’. Therefore I write one sentence instances as they happen as an aide memoir.

This helps me a) to record triumphs or when I conquered adversity; and b) have a ton of examples ready if I get tongue tied at interview. I can easily flick through the notebook and be reminded of great examples that had slipped my mind. It is incredible. But good too.

6.     Tie your work objectives into your CPD [continuing professional development] plan. This will help to keep your focus on what matters to you to move your career forward.

Celebrate each achievement

The point of all of this is that you can record – and celebrate – your achievements as they happen. Particularly during the early part of my career I found it helpful when attending interviews to take along some really powerful press cuttings or a jazzy brochure to support what I was saying. This enabled me to demonstrate specific examples of work I had produced. Plus it showed that I was organised and could attend an interview well prepared. Key skills that are useful in any field, not just public relations.

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