'But I'm Not a Creative!' You Can Still Create a Portfolio to Move Your Career Forward

If you have a "normal" job, the professional lives of your creative friends may sometimes look cushy to you. They're occasionally busy, yes, but there's also a direct link between their talents and their output. Consider the portfolio.

How luxurious creatives' lives must be, with their tasteful outfits, cool jobs, and portfolios bursting with examples of just how well their past work has turned out! The creative's portfolio is the essence of "show, don't tell."

You envy creatives sometimes. All your professional accomplishments are summarized as bullet points on a resume or LinkedIn page that only gets attention when you're looking to switch roles.

The Non-Creative's Portfolio

There is an obvious way to get past your portfolio envy: Create one of your own. Videos, social media, and software tools are now rich supplements – and even replacements – for resumes. More specifically, they are powerful ways to help you demonstrate your skills and competencies.

Comfortable on camera? Love talking and thinking out loud? A well-scripted video can showcase your personality and your work. Are you a social media butterfly? Post examples of your work – scrubbed of any sensitive information, of course – with short narratives as case studies. Make sure you tag them. Do you have a thoughtful, multimedia mind? Consider setting up a free blog that you can use as your online portfolio. This will give you the space and capacity to post about work you've done, projects you're working on, processes you've improved – anything that's relevant. Don't feel pressured to update your "blog" regularly, unless you do want to turn it into a blog. It's meant to be a portfolio, after all.

Looking to make an intracompany move? If your company has an intranet, show off your work on the intranet under your employee profile. That way, whether you're networking internally or gearing up for an interview with a different department, you'll be able to link to your intranet portfolio and demonstrate how proactive and company-focused you are.

The idea of building and maintaining a portfolio is not new. Your mindset may change as a result of building your portfolio. Having a portfolio – the act of curating your accomplishments and showing off your skills – helps keep you ready to talk about your accomplishments in a natural way. It also helps tighten your career story for yourself and for others: what your skills and competencies are, how and why you focused on the competencies you've grown, what projects you've done, and what types of projects you're looking forward to.

Some organizations are already portfolio-friendly. Some of the universities in my company's circle are fans of "experiential transcripts," which combine the informative elements of a transcript (what you learned) with the power of a portfolio (samples of your work). The idea of the experiential transcript originally came about because of a competency assessment and tracking function, but has since expanded to include the possibility of online portfolios, including intranet-hosted ones.

What to Put in Your Portfolio

Assuming you're not a creative, you may be wondering how to build a portfolio of your own. Chances are you already have examples of work you've done in the past. Dig them out and organize them: Put them in a folder, on your employee intranet profile, or on a free blog. Again, scrub any sensitive information before you post content online. Use screenshots.

What skills and competencies do your portfolio pieces demonstrate? Don't limit yourself to hard skills. Are there any stories you can tell about the process of completing each project? What insights do those stories give about you? About your process? About the project? About best practices around projects of this type? By the time you answer those questions about each of your portfolio pieces, you'll have not only an inventory of hard skills, but also a list of soft skills and stories to go with each project.

Once your portfolio is in place, you'll have the stories and evidence to demonstrate your skills and support your narrative as you take the next step in your career.

Managers, take note: You may match with the next high-potential contributor for your team by seeing examples of their past work and how their skills supported that work.

Mimi Li is the business development lead at SkillNet Software.