No Work Samples? No Problem!

Jul 15, 2024 | Procedures, Professional Portfolio

Original article updated 7/15/2024.

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 great question, and one that I receive a lot. When admins don’t think they have the materials they need to create a professional portfolio, they’re hesitant to start the project. Work samples are incredibly important, but they are only one component of a long list of things to include in a portfolio.

Here are some portfolio items you may already have on hand:

  • Resume
  • Thank you notes
  • Letters of recommendation
  • LinkedIn testimonials
  • Professional references
  • Personality type assessments and/or Strengths Finder assessments
  • Past reviews
  • Previous training
  • Course descriptions of completed training, as well as the certificates of completion
  • A list of workshops, seminars, or conferences attended
  • Degrees
  • Certifications
  • Licenses
  • Awards
  • Academic honors
  • Internships
  • Transcripts
  • Non-profit/charity/volunteer work (personal or corporate)
  • Leadership offices
  • Community service project participation
  • Personal or professional mission statement
  • Research projects
  • Travel or vacation planning projects

You don’t need to include all the items on the list. If you don’t have something (or it’s not relevant), it’s fine to leave it out. Having something is better than nothing, and your professional portfolio will always be a work in progress. You can easily add, remove, or change anything at any time.

How to Include Work Samples When You Don’t Have Any

One of the most important parts of your professional portfolio is your work sample section. This is where you can impress your executive or a hiring manager because these sample demonstrate your skills.

Some examples of work samples include:

  • Processes or procedures
  • Sample forms or templates
  • Photos from events
  • Evidence of specific soft skills (writing, leadership, communication, conflict resolution)
  • Evidence of specific technical skills (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, website development, event planning)
  • Class projects and educational development

But what if you don’t have access to prior work samples?

This is something that many admins struggle with – whether it’s because they didn’t save them, or because they don’t have access to them anymore.

If this sounds like you, here are some tips that can help.

  • Recreate your work samples. If you create something once, you can create it again. The skill doesn’t disappear with the physical proof, so recreate the template, checklist, or document that you used in a previous job and add it to your portfolio.
  • Join a professional association. The work you do for a professional association counts just as much as the work you do for your employer. Whether you’re planning events, coordinating meetings, or serving in a leadership capacity, you should include those skills in your professional portfolio.
  • Roll up your sleeves and volunteer. Unpaid work is still work. Volunteering for a hospital, charity, or other local organization is a great way to get new samples for your portfolio.

Every admin needs a professional portfolio to help showcase their skills, demonstrate their abilities, and prove their value to their current or potential organization. Don’t let your lack of work samples hold you back. It’s never too late to get started!

© 2024 Julie Perrine International, LLC

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Julie Perrine 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, Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures, and Prove Your Skills! With a Powerful Professional Portfolio.

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