Creating a Professional Portfolio

As you wrap up and reflect upon your service year, it is important to move forward with more than just feelings of nostalgia and AmeriCorps pride. Whether you are continuing your service, heading back to school or entering the work force it’s smart to create a tangible resource that identifies and celebrates your growth and experiences from the past service year.

A great way to do this is through a professional portfolio—a collection of information, records and resources that both summarizes your year and will serve you in the years to come. Take a look at the ideas a below and create your own portfolio!

 

INFORMATION TO INCLUDE:

  • A brief description of your VISTA position. You won’t be using your “elevator speech” to introduce yourself or your current VISTA position anymore, but you will still need to have a snappy and specific explanation for future work or service interviews.
  • A brief list of your VISTA responsibilities. Think about the way your position was described when it was posted as an opening. Go beyond “building capacity” and “creating sustainability” to concrete tasks that you were responsible for. For example: recruit, train and coordinate volunteers; perform programming evaluation; develop and implement educational curriculum; facilitate community outreach efforts.
  • A brief list of your professional competencies. Consider the transferable skills you have acquired this year through trainings, workshops or on-the-ground experience. For example: grant writing experience; marketing and communication proficiency; website content development capability; public speaking and meeting facilitation skills. 
  • A brief list of any certificates or awards. If you have earned formal credit for your experience or skills sets or have received official recognition related to your service, include it. Just make sure to include the date of the certificate or award and the organization that you received it from. For example: Certificate in Volunteer Management (Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration, May 2013); ESL Tutor Training Certificate of Completion (Minnesota Literacy Council, November 2012).
  • A brief list of professional accomplishments. Review your progress reports and write up a succinct inventory of your major accomplishments. Be intentional about writing these achievements in a way that will make sense to someone who is not necessarily familiar with your organization, national service or field-specific jargon.

 

RESOURCES TO INCLUDE:

  • Examples of your work. Include electronic copies of any tangible examples of projects you contributed to, curriculum you developed, websites you designed, grant proposals you wrote, etc. Don’t include entire projects, but identify specific pieces or pages that illustrate your abilities without requiring a lot of explanation or context. Along with each example include a title or heading, the date produced and any critical contextual details.
  • Any formal evaluations of your work. Maybe your Supervisor wrote a short paragraph in your mid-year evaluation form that acknowledges your skills, or you have a copy of a performance review implemented by your organization. As long as you ask permission to keep and share this information, this is a great asset to your professional portfolio.
  • A list of professional contacts. For future job applications and references you will likely need to provide the phone, email or address of previous employers. For national service, this would mean your host site, Supervisor, or your VISTA Manager/Leader.

 

THINGS TO REMEMBER:

  • Now is the best time to create a portfolio. Three years down the road you might not remember critical details of your experience the way that you do right now. Consider the time and energy that you spend creating this portfolio right now as a concrete investment in your future.
  • You will not share this portfolio as is. You will never give a potential employer a full copy of your portfolio; rather you will selectively choose specific points and sections to present. With this in mind, format your portfolio in the way that makes the most sense to you (hard/electronic copy, etc).
  • Give yourself options and flexibility. While you don’t want this portfolio to be a filing-cabinet for everything you have ever worked on, it’s impossible to know right now what you might want or need in the future. Keep electronic copies of your projects and resources and you can always be selective and pare them down later on.
  • Provide credit where credit is due. It’s important to acknowledge what you have produced in partnership or when you have worked as a team, but this is also the perfect opportunity to proudly identify all of the hard work that you put in over the past year and to collect and celebrate all that you have accomplished as a VISTA!
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