Develop Your #HR Skills with a Career Portfolio


No matter where you are in your career, it’s important to regularly take inventory of your skills and develop learning action plans. A new way to think about learning action plans is the idea of creating a “portfolio.”

Debra Cohen PhD talks about using  career portfolios as a way to develop HR competencies in her book  “Developing Proficiency in HR: 7 Self-Directed Activities for HR Professionals”. Think of career portfolios like an artist’s portfolio. It’s the place where an artist keeps their work. In this case, we’re the artist and our portfolio tells us what we’ve accomplished and what we’re still working on.

Career portfolios are  a very practical and flexible tool that can be personalized to fit your career development needs. Here are three ways to personalize your career portfolio:

  1. Format: Your career portfolio can be housed wherever you wish – online, paper, or maybe even in a planner or journal.  
  2. Content: Depending on your goals, a career portfolio can focus on accomplishments, current learning, or future development.
  3. Self-awareness: A career portfolio would be an appropriate place to keep assessment results, reference letters, or thank-you notes.

As human resources professionals, we know It’s important to keep your resume up-to-date. A career portfolio would be a great tool to help with that. Or if you’re considering a job search, a career portfolio might be a place to compile information for review prior to a job interview. At annual performance review time, a career portfolio might be a good way to highlight accomplishments from the year.

In her book, Cohen identifies a list of documents that can be included in a career portfolio along with a worksheet to keep inventory. The worksheet could be especially helpful since it can be tempting to just toss everything into the portfolio. Then, after a while, there’s this huge file full of stuff and the value has diminished because it takes too long to find information.  

Cohen also recommends keeping the portfolio manageable by creating an archive. “You don’t need to discard older documentation altogether; you can store it in a portfolio archive. Consider whether you are trying to show an evolution of skills or what’s relevant to your current career level or aspiration; for example, you may decide not to include transcripts late in your career. You may want to show an evolution in some areas and not in others.”

If you don’t already have a career portfolio, this might be something to consider putting together. You can start by reading Deb Cohen’s book “Developing Proficiency in HR” to get some ideas. This book would also be relevant to share around the office. HR’s competencies include communication, critical evaluation, and leadership…so we’re talking about skills that translate to many jobs. Every business pro should have a career portfolio.





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