Creating a Powerful Professional Portfolio…Even When You Don’t Have Access to Prior Work Samples

Mar 4, 2011 | Procedures, Professional Portfolio

A past newsletter article sparked a great question from one of our readers:

In the last newsletter, you encouraged your readers to set up a professional portfolio. I am new to the administrative field, and I am unemployed and no longer have access to professional documents I have written. What other documents can you suggest that I use? I am currently in school pursuing an associate’s degree, have a great resume that is getting me interviews, and have a profile on LinkedIn.. I also have been attending my local IAAP chapter meetings and enjoy them very much, and will be a member soon.  Your suggestions would be appreciated.

This is a common question I receive when I present on this topic.  It’s a very important one because this frequently causes admins to not make professional portfolio creation a priority if they think they don’t have the materials they need to get one started. But past work samples are only one component of a long list of things you should consider including in your professional portfolio, so let’s explore all of the options you may not have considered yet.

Portfolio Development

Begin by thinking about the various categories of your entire professional life that you might include:

  • Work – Professional
  • Education and Training
  • Activities and Volunteer Work
  • Personal – Interests (if appropriate)

 Then brainstorm what types of things you might be able to pull together for each category:

IMPORTANT NOTE: You do NOT need every last item on this list. This is a list to get you thinking about all of the options you may be overlooking that you may already have and could include.

  • Work – Professional
    • Resume
    • Thank you notes, letters of recommendation
    • Testimonials from LinkedIn
    • List of professional references
    • Personality type assessments and/or Strengths Finder assessments
    • Past reviews
    • Work samples from current and previous jobs (non-proprietary)
      • Class projects and educational development
      • Processes or procedures created
      • Sample forms or templates created
      • Evidence of specific soft skills (writing, leadership, communication, conflict resolution)
      • Evidence of specific technical skills (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, website development, databases, event planning)
  • Education and Training
    • Training you’ve attended
    • Course descriptions of training completed next to the certificates of completion
    • Workshops, seminars, conferences attended
    • Degrees
    • Certifications
    • Licenses
    • Awards you’ve received
    • Academic honors
    • Internships
    • Transcripts
  • Activities and Volunteer Work
    • Non-profit / Charity work (personal or corporate sponsored)
    • Volunteer work
    • Photos from events you coordinated
    • Leadership office held in professional/community organizations or on related boards
    • Community service project participation
    • Proof of professional affiliations and leadership roles held
  • Personal – Interests (if appropriate)
    • Special training or independent (self taught) learning
    • Learning a new skill (e.g. website development or Office 2010)
    • Learning a foreign language
    • Writing skills  (e.g. Showcase blog posts on a certain career topic or special interest you have, if appropriate.)
    • Personal or professional mission statement
    • Public speaking opportunities
    • Flyers or newsletters you’ve designed or written articles for
    • Research Projects
    • Travel or Vacation Planning Projects

 3 Ways to Include Samples of Your Work When You Don’t Have Any Saved from Prior Jobs

  1. Recreate it. You don’t have to have access to old work samples when you can create some new work samples on your home computer.  It may take a little time, but if you really want to demonstrate a specific skill, recreate that form, template, or document you wanted to showcase.
  2. Professional association committee work.  Consider getting involved in a professional association and join a committee.  A HUGE portion of my professional portfolio is work product I’ve created for my local IAAP chapter – event planning components, project plans, documentation of procedures, monthly meeting coordination, leadership development training, and more! In fact, I have an entire binder that showcases only my IAAP involvement over the past 11 years. A large majority of the skills I highlight with my IAAP materials are the exact same skills I would highlight if I were pulling work samples from a past job. So if you no longer have access to those work samples from your past job, getting actively involved in a professional association will not only help you generate some work samples you can include in your professional portfolio, but it will help you strengthen your networking skills and help you potentially find new career opportunities as well.
  3. Volunteer.  I’d strongly encourage you to consider volunteer administrative work for a local charity or hospital and generate some new samples that way. 


Your professional portfolio will NEVER be complete.  This is a dynamic piece that you will continually update. Every time you use it, you’ll add new elements, re-order existing elements, and remove elements that aren’t specifically supporting your purpose for using this key career tool.

The key to creating your professional portfolio is to focus on what you DO HAVE, not what you don’t have.  The fact that you have anything assembled in such an organized and professional way will impress a potential employer.  Your professional portfolio becomes a powerful “sample of your work” in itself.  It’s NEVER too late to create your professional portfolio. All that matters is you get one started – TODAY! 

To learn more about what a professional portfolio is and why you need one, click here.

© 2011 Julie Perrine International, LLC


Want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or website? You can — just as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at

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