Portfolios: A Secret Weapon for Your Internship Search

One very powerful interview strategy that may set you far ahead of your competition is a well-thought-out, professional career portfolio.

For many individuals in creative positions (i.e., creative advertising, graphic/web design, etc.), using a portfolio is not a secret. It is a very necessary part of the job search, much like a cover letter and a resume. However, for other, less-creative positions, using a portfolio in the job search is not as well-known. Here is how this technique can be a internship-search secret weapon for MBA students seeking internships in any profession or industry:

Reasons for Using a Professional Portfolio
A strong professional career portfolio provides direct evidence of your relevant accomplishments. It provides potential employers with a "snapshot" of your achievements to date, the type of work you have done, and the type of employee you will be. A professional portfolio goes well beyond a cover letter and resume. Rather than simply telling an employer about your skills, it provides physical evidence of them.

How a Professional Portfolio Should Be Used
A professional portfolio is typically presented within an interview situation. A portfolio should be neat, clear and concise and be tailored to a specific type of position. For example, a student applying for a computer programming internship might present an example of a program he or she has written when asked about relevant programming experience. Additionally, a marketing communications intern candidate might present an example of marketing brochures that he or she has created when asked about previous marketing experience.

Contents of a Professional Portfolio
There are a variety of items that may be included in a professional portfolio. Contents selected should be relevant to your industry and internship of interest and should provide evidence of your skills/achievements to a potential employer. Example portfolio items include:
  • Letters of Recommendation from Employers/College Professors
  • Performance Reviews
  • Thank-You Notes
  • Awards, Scholarships, Grants
  • Examples of Writing: Articles, Papers
  • Examples of Projects
  • Examples of Presentations
  • Brochures/Fliers Created
  • Certificate Programs
  • Academic Curriculum
  • Web Sites/Pages Created
  • College Transcripts
  • Marketing Plans
  • Computer Program Code
Types of Professional Portfolios
A traditional type of portfolio generally consists of a high-quality, leather-bound folder that attractively displays professional documents. Plastic sheet covers may also be used for an added professional look and to help protect valuable documents.

Another type of includes an electronic or web portfolio. This may be advantageous if your employer of choice utilizes web/electronic resumes in their search for interns. In many cases, this is an advanced version of a resume that provides links to portfolio information.

In conclusion, using a portfolio can help anyone move to the top as an internship candidate. It goes beyond a cover letter and a resume by providing employers with direct physical examples of your skills and accomplishments.