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Understanding Your Professional Portfolio

Dedicating time to understanding your professional portfolio may not be anyone’s idea of a fun way to spend an evening or a chunk of the weekend. But if you think of it as an investment in your career – hint: it is! – motivating yourself to carve out some time every so often becomes easier. Meanwhile, the process can help you to better understand where you’ve been and where you want to go, and how to appropriately focus your efforts.

At first glance, the resume of an independent contractor may appear pretty similar to that of a permanent employee. But key differences in a professional portfolio can signal to a potential employer that a prospect may (or may not) be the right fit based on the type of role. If an organization needs a contractor for a two-month project, for instance, it’s likely they’re seeking a candidate with a flexible schedule, the ability to onboard quickly and, in many cases, specialized skills for a particular set of duties.

You’ll want to give careful consideration to these factors when updating your own CV, and possibly even maintain two separate resumes – one for contract roles and another for permanent positions. Here’s how to begin framing up those separate professional portfolios:

Ask yourself: What do I want? Don’t make the mistake of putting the cart before the horse on the road to your next gig. Whipping up an all-things-to-all-employers resume and waiting for the offers to come rolling in misses the point of curating a resume to target the positions you want. Are you interested in contract work? Perm positions only? Specific roles within your field? Figure it out and update your resume accordingly. Professional portfolios are not one-size-fits-all.

If you’re open to all roles, that’s fine. Just be ready to tweak (and, in some cases, overhaul) a general resume for every new opportunity you want to pursue. Understanding your professional portfolio and its nuances may seem like a lot of work, but it’s time well spent – and certainly more productive than firing off a basic portfolio that lacks the elements needed to catch the eye of your preferred employers.

Consider your recent roles. If you’re a CPA with experience working with retail clients in an accounting firm as a permanent employee, congratulations: You already have a strong foundation on which an employer can build if they’re looking to hire contingent labor for similar work. But you’ll still want to indicate why and how you’re a fit for contract work. Maybe you’ve always wanted to work with a certain company and this opportunity is your way in. Perhaps you want the flexibility to travel a few months every year. Find ways to spin these as positives for the company in the background section of your resume.

If you’re an entry-level professional or someone with experience looking for a new niche, you may need to be creative in explaining why you’re the right candidate for a specialized gig. But the idea is the same: Think of the job from the perspective of the employer. Why are your abilities or experiences valuable in this gig role? What do you bring to the table that will appeal to the company for this particular position? Employers typically want contractors they can plug and play, who will be instantly productive and who don’t require a great deal of training or hand-holding. Explain why this is you, and try to give examples when you demonstrated these traits in past roles.

Highlight your skills. Experience often is viewed as a proxy for skills, but increasingly employers want to know exactly what you can do, rather than try to read between the lines based on prior job titles or who previously cut your paychecks. And that’s doubly true for contractors.

Because companies often hire contingent labor to fill short-term, task-oriented and project-based roles, they want to know that a prospect will be able to show up, quickly assess the situation and deftly handle the necessary work in a timely fashion. By listing projects you’ve worked on, specialized duties you’ve fulfilled and certifications or training you’ve received, you’re telling an employer exactly what they want to hear from a contractor candidate – I’m ready to walk through your doors and get the job done right away.

For more guidance on understanding your professional portfolio, check out the PeopleCaddie blog.

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