Skip to main content
Co-operative Education
Special Projects Assistant

empty
Indiana jones in a maze of books
When I began my interview adventure, I didn’t understand what a portfolio should look like or what is included.

Like Indiana Jones experiencing a Co-op adventure, I’ve been collecting valuable artifacts from school projects to work assignments.  Tumbling through papers and projects, taking those strategic steps from classes into Co-op, and pushing my way through dense webs of average papers, I discover the treasure – work worthy to be in my portfolio.

With all the adventures I am undergoing, there should be some organization of my collections.  But how?  A good rule of thumb when putting together a portfolio is to make a sandwich – put the strongest items of the portfolio first, have the weakest in the middle, and then finish with the second best samples.

Here are some possible layouts: considering I have several oversized published articles, I find it very hard to include them in a regular-sized binder.  To compensate the size, I ended up folding my writing samples in half, glued them to loose-leaf paper, and fastened it with a binder.  Typically, display work samples in plastic sleeves for protection and presentation.

Larger work pieces need to be in a separate portfolio created to compliment their size.  Portfolios bigger than letter size are acceptable; however, if I want the employer to have minimal struggle handling my portfolio, then I will make it letter size.  If it were necessary for me to create an oversized portfolio, I wouldn’t worry about the size because it shows diversity in my work.  On the other hand, I printed my visual designs to letter size in order to have them in plastic sheets.  Although the employers won’t experience the full effect of the design, it makes it easy for them to carry my portfolio and take quick glances at it.

These are the basic portfolio necessities:

  • 3-ring binder

  • Plastic sleeves

  • Table of contents with corresponding tabs

  • 10 – 20 pages are sufficient for a strong portfolio.

There are several methods of putting together a portfolio, but here are two suggestions that appear to be the most commonly used:

  1. By subject:  organize samples by topics including academic knowledge or work experience, such as independent study, lab experience, or internship.

  2. By skill or technique: order the items according to skills and knowledge. For example, separate portfolios by skill – my writing and design samples are in different folders.  I only display the portfolio relevant to the job description.  Moreover, if the position requires teamwork, public speaking, computer and communication skills, organize the portfolio depending on those skill areas.

When I thought I was finished with my portfolio, I failed to notice that there is a lot more to do than simply putting it together.  When employers look at my work, they will not understand the context behind my samples, which means that I have to write a small synopsis of each portfolio piece.  This will include the rational behind its creation, the tools used, and how the skills used applies to the potential position.  It is important to have explanations of your work in a portfolio because the employers are unaware of your roles in the previous jobs.

If I really want to impress an employer, I can’t be a mess like Indiana Jones; instead, I’ll bring extra copies of work to the interview.  Sometimes they like to handle your artifacts displayed in the portfolio; and since some of samples are originals, it would be best to hand out copies.

The organization of a portfolio is clear to me now.  When I began my interview adventure, I didn’t understand what a portfolio should look like or what is included.  But as I have been researching and collecting ideas and advice from people hidden deep within cathedrals and mountain tops, my portfolio is becoming much stronger and ready for the work world to see.  The same will happen to you once you begin working on the details of a portfolio!

Co-operative Education
Special Projects Assistant

You Might Like These... Career Exploration, Networking, Portfolios, Social Media, Professional Development

a flatlay of a person using an ipad to browse images
Can Blogging Help You Land a Job?

Some job seekers looking for possible ways to edge out competition are using weblogs (or blogs) to create and maintain a positive online presence. Blogging might help you land a job – but before you open a blog, we offer some information about blogging and a few tips on what you can do if blogging intimidates you.

animated man being pulled down a hill an @ sign, underneath the words "take control of your reputation"
Enhancing Your Online Reputation

Your resume and cover letter impressed them… Your interview dazzled them… and you’re confident that your references will sing your praises. But, what else could factor into an employer’s assessment of you as a potential employee?

a flatlay of a work station featuring an ipad
How to Make a Successful E-Portfolio

A student’s e-portfolio is a chance to wow employers by showcasing their creative and detailed work. To do this, there are specific elements that can make the difference between getting the right kind of attention and getting overlooked.

You Might Like These... Portfolios

the author's portrait
You Get Out What You Put In: Portfolio, Contacts, Resume

Moving through your work term, it is valuable to consider what you will take from your co-op experience that will benefit your future career. Kimberly Blair recommends keeping three things in mind: portfolio, contacts, and resume.

Picture of portfolio
Print and Digital Portfolio Tips for Every Job Seeker

Whether you’re looking at event planning or public relations, a portfolio can be a significant, helpful resource in your job search. Here are some tips on creating and organizing your portfolio, whether in print or digital format. 

an interviewee shaking hands of the two interviewers
4 Tips on Showcasing Projects in Interviews

Why talk about your work when you can show it?  Good portfolio pieces will help set you apart from other candidates. Here are some important tips from Co-op students, coordinators and employers on showcasing your portfolio during interviews.