When you’re ready for that next career move, and are preparing for job interviews, you will be asked to describe your past projects and their respective successes and failures. Rather than speak off-the-cuff, try creating a portfolio of your projects to bring along with your resume. Stripped of any confidential materials, you have the opportunity to showcase the scope and scale of your work. Learn how to promote your project planning work for that potential next position.
What a Project Manager Portfolio Looks Like
Paper or digital? That is the question. If you prefer bringing a hard copy, try a wire coiled book (ideally at least 3” thick, but this will depend upon the amount of experience and examples you have) that include the best of your best work. You want to take this extra step of doing a wire coil and not just GBC Binding or 3-Ring Binder because it takes the perception and professionalism up a notch that shows you are serious about the work that you do as a project manager.
Or bring a tablet with a PDF or interactive web portfolio showcasing your work. You could mirror the screen on a larger screen for a presentation feel, or share the tablet across the table with the interviewer and guide them through.
Whichever you choose, make sure you control what they see and guide the conversation through each page/screen.
The cover can be as simple as your name and any credentials you have (PMP for example) and the word Project Portfolio elegantly placed beneath. Or, you can spend a little time and money and have the cover designed professionally for a paper portfolio.
Stay away from putting dates or other words on the front cover that will allow the portfolio to become outdated quickly. For example, if you put a date on the cover and 18-24 months past, this will quickly call into question the relevancy and timeliness of the content inside the portfolio.
Include a Table of Contents
Finally, the inside should include a table of contents put together using the divider tabs that you can find at any office supply location. It can be as few as 6 tabs or as many as you would like depending upon your level of experience. Each tab should highlight a functional area where you can provide examples of your work.
Let’s say you are an expert at Time Management, Communication, Project Planning, and Risk Management. Include these in your table of contents and then include examples that support each area of expertise.
It’s All About “You”
By the way, when it comes to your portfolio, it doesn’t need to stick to any particular format or methodology of project management. This portfolio is a reflection of YOU and what makes you unique. You could include some elements of project management but then also include a section on Business Analysis, or Effective Meetings, or Problem Solving or any other skill set you would like to highlight.
What Should Be Included in Your Project Manager Portfolio
What should you include in your project management portfolio? Stories. That’s right, stories. You need to begin compiling a list of deliverables, artifacts, and examples that will allow you to tell a story during an interview.
Here’s an example. You may have compiled your own special version of a Lessons Learned spreadsheet. It is based upon your unique experience, history, and exposure to other lessons learned spreadsheets you have worked with over the years. You’ve tweaked, revised, updated and molded this spreadsheet so that it is nothing less than perfect. You now have a story to tell.
“We had very similar projects that would run through our shop. The problem was that every time a new project would come in we just seemed to make the same mistakes over and over again. We would look at each other in despair and wonder whether this was the first time we had ever done a project like this before (even though we had done it hundreds of times in the past).
So, what we did to solve this problem was put together a Lessons Learned spreadsheet that every agreed to update and own.
Now, this was no ordinary Lessons Learned spreadsheet, it includes [list special features here]. What was the result? We were able to reduce the amount of time it took to get a project done by 30%, which allowed us to do more work in less time and increase our sales by 20%. Not bad for implementing just one little sheet of paper!”
You should have a similar story for every deliverable, report, and example you have included in your project portfolio.
How to Present Your Project Portfolio
Now that you know how to make your portfolio, how do you present it at an interview? When the time is right and the interviewer asks you a question along the lines of “what type of experience do you have?” you drop this heavy volume of project management goodness on their desk and wait for the heavy thud. This is why you want it to be at least 3” thick! You then flip to the table of contents and ask them what area would they be particularly interested in hearing about.
You have now accomplished two things. First, you know which area they are particularly interested in or where their company needs help. Second, you have taken control of the interview by bringing it into your domain of expertise.
From this point out, you have minimized the one-off questions that may cause you to stumble by not knowing how to respond. The rest, as they say, is history as you entertain them with story after story of how effective you are as a project manager.
Stand Out from the Crowd
By the way, if you go on an interview with just a resume and a couple of references…shame on you! Times have changed, the game has changed, and the challenge of making you stand apart from the competition has changed as well. An awesome project portfolio can make all the difference when it comes to getting your next job.
The next time you see an artist’s work on display at a gallery, think to yourself “I can do that!” Get started on your project portfolio today. At the very least start putting a stack of examples of the work you have done in the past together. This will get the process (and your creative juices) flowing and next thing you know you’ll be relishing the heavy thud of your project portfolio as it hits the desk of the interviewer.
Here’s something to include in your Project Manager Portfolio . Your company has the problem of not knowing the status, risks, timelines, and resources available for the multitude of projects that are going on. You found ProjectManager.com, tried a free 30 day trial and realized this would solve all the problems your company was experiencing. The result? One central repository and hub of project management information that allowed everyone to know exactly what was going on with every active project!