Create a professional portfolio to impress potential employers and develop your personal brand. Use these tips and tricks to secure your dream position!

How to create a professional portfolio for any industry

Last weekend I had coffee with two lovely ladies who asked for some advice on developing a professional portfolio. I must admit - I got a little excited about it! A portfolio can be such an amazing tool for showing off your mad skills and cementing your personal brand.


Personal branding is something that I have touched on before and it is becoming more and more important in this competitive job market. Having the qualifications is no longer enough to score that sweet job. Employers these days are looking for candidates with strong values, a brand that aligns with their business and a willingness to hustle, baby! Your portfolio is the perfect way to demonstrate that you have those three things. Not sure where to start? That's why you have me! Here are some awesome tips for creating your own professional portfolio.


"Why do I need a killer design? Isn't my experience enough?" In short, no. This may sound harsh, but I have had so many candidates rock up to their interview with a dog-eared folder with plastic sleeves full of old certificates and written references. I have to say, I am just not even compelled to look. Before you click the X in the top right corner - hear me out.

I know what certificates you have. I've got your resume and I have probably even read it given the fact that I invited you for an interview. What do I want then? I want you to impress me. Do something different. Stand out from the crowd. Show me that you want it and that you deserve it. I'm like a freaking bower bird - colourful stuff catches my eye. Perhaps you are wondering if I am the exception to the rule? Maybe. But probably not. I am friends with heaps of recruiters and hiring managers and I just know that after a full day of staring at boring black and white resumes, they could do with a bit of joy in their lives. Be the person to bring them that joy!

"So how do I achieve this killer design, Becca?"

Well, you can use photoshop or something fandangle like that. Me? I don't have the inclination to learn. That's why I use Canva. My sister introduced me to Canva when she was creating my bridal shower invitations and since then, I fancy myself a bit of a designer! Canva is so ridiculously easy to use and has awesome functionality - you can create just about anything! Including a stunning professional portfolio.

  • Start with an A4 document and create a simple but stylish header image. This is going to be the header you will use across every page of your portfolio - consistency is key! If you are feeling a little daring, you can add something on the footer as well. Just don't go overboard. You want this thing to be classy, not gaudy or overwhelming. Think of it as a frame for your content. An accent or embellishment.
  • Add your content. Any hard copy documents can be scanned and included as an image. Testimonials can be created in Canva to fit within your design. Photos can be framed and examples of your written work can be copied straight into a text box. Just remember to use high-quality images and keep it as simple as possible.
  • PDF the finished product and then you are ready to go! No joke. It is that easy. Sure, you can spend heaps of time fiddling around in Canva trying to make sure that everything looks perfect, but you can also create something pretty special in a very short amount of time.

Build your professional portfolio (and your personal brand) with @Canva!

Click to Tweet


Have you noticed how I always break up my blog posts with headings, lists, bullet points and images? I do that because text is boring. When you are preparing your portfolio, consider that a whole folder full of text is not going to excite anyone. For that reason, I suggest using some of these different content ideas to break up your text and make your portfolio more appealing!

  • Testimonials: Create these on an A4 page, preferably with images of the people who gave you the testimonial - like I have done in my bio page. The photographs break up the text and bring more reality to the statements on your page. Make sure that the branding of your testimonial page matches the rest of your portfolio.
  • Written References: Written references are longer than testimonials and are generally in the form of a letter. Often these are provided to you in hard copy, so you will need to consider how you will brand them to fit with the overall aesthetic of your portfolio. One option is that you can scan the reference and insert it as an image into your portfolio design template.
  • Examples of your work: This is where you can include pieces of work that you yourself have created. There are so many options of things that you could include. Just remember to make sure that you should never use confidential documents in your portfolio. If there are confidential details included in a piece of your work, but the document itself is not confidential, then you can black out the parts that aren't to be seen. Here are just a few ideas of things you could include:
    • Policy writer – You could include examples of policies that you have written, or descriptions of these policies.
    • Administrator – Reports, letters or samples of projects that you have delivered.
    • IT Consultant – Information about projects you have worked on, screenshots of programs that you have developed or outlines of presentations that you have created.
    • Trainer – Outlines or excerpts of training packages that you have created and/or delivered or links to videos of you providing training (with the participants' permission).
    • Photographer – Photographs that you have taken and/or edited.
    • Artist or other creative – Actual pieces of work or photographs of pieces of work that you have created.
    • Architect/Industrial Designer/Interior Designer/Engineer – Examples of designs you have created or drafted.
  • Materials advertising your work: This could include Posters/Flyers/Brochures/Tickets or other imagery. These are visual items that tell a story. Perhaps you created them yourself or had input into the design. Perhaps they showcase the work that you did by advertising your event or piece of work. Again, here are just a few suggestions, but the options really are endless:
    • Marketing or Advertising Professional – You engaged with a designer to create this collateral. It could be business cards, flyers or some other form of advertising.
    • Writer – The cover of your book or presentation.
    • Performer – A poster or flyer advertising your performance.
    • Events Manager – Invitations, tickets or flyers for an event that you coordinated or managed.
  • Certificates and Qualifications: As I have mentioned, you want to keep your portfolio as consistent as possible, so I would suggest scanning your certificates and inserting them as an image into the portfolio page you created in Canva. Sure, the size will be reduced somewhat, but as long as the text is readable, this won't matter. In this case, the aesthetic is more important.

There are so many different things that can be included in a professional portfolio. This is just a start. Think of anything that you are proud of that you might want to show a potential employer. Think of work that you have done that was particularly convincing. What have you done that showcases your abilities? The important thing here is that your portfolio doesn't have to be perfect the first time. You can always add to it as you develop your experience.


Remember that dog-eared presentation folder I talked about? Chuck it. If you want to use a folder, get a nice one. With shops like Officeworks, Typo and Kmart all offering affordable stationery ranges, you should be able to find something that is professional, modern and reasonably priced. If you want to splurge, try Kikki-K.

Now, if you want to go all out and absolutely smash the very thought of those $1.99 presentation folders with their flimsy plastic sleeves, then I have the solution for you. Professional printing and binding. There are lots of different kinds of presentation books that you can have made up at your local printer. If you are a photographer or other type of creative, then there is nothing stopping you from ordering a hard copy, bound photo book to show off your material. This would look great on your coffee table when you aren't using it - #justsaying.

For anyone else, a spiral bound document will be perfect. Have it printed in full colour and bound together with a really powerful cover (that you can also create in Canva!) and voila! A super professional portfolio that is sure to impress your potential employers! Shop around and depending on the number of pages, you should be able to complete your portfolio for less than $20. $20 well spent if you ask me!

Only got $20 in yo' pocket? Consider upgrading your professional portfolio!

Click to Tweet

So what do you think? Are you going to start compiling your own portfolio? Leave a note in the comments to let me know which ideas you will be implementing. You can also tweet me pics @PopYourCareer! Best of luck!

Becca xo

P.S. Want to save paper and create your portfolio online? Check out my post on Going Digital: Creating a Personal Website.


About the Author


Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.

Check Out Our Latest Articles

What are employers for your screening job candidates?
Two women standing together looking down at work on a desk. Text overlays the image reading "what are hard skills and how can they help your career?"