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If you’re wondering how to make your job application stand out from the crowd, this article will walk you through how to create a project management portfolio—an opportunity to showcase your unique program management experience beyond the confines of your resume or CV.

This is part of a three-part series. Be sure to check out the other parts here:

5 Steps For Creating A Project Management Portfolio

Having a professional portfolio is one of the easiest and quickest ways to show hiring managers the skills you bring to the table. You don’t even have to come up with original content. You’re simply promoting things you’ve already accomplished!

Despite knowing the benefits of having a portfolio, it’s a wonder that not everyone has one, or that more companies don’t ask job applicants to submit a portfolio. It could be that people believe portfolios are restricted to those in design, the arts, or education. How do you create a portfolio with only words and numbers anyway? 

This article will teach you how to create a digital portfolio you can send along with your resume. On the one hand, creating a portfolio is easy because you’re simply compiling things you’ve already done! On the other hand, it’s difficult because you need to go back and revisit what you did.

Step 0: Build The Story As You Go

In an ideal scenario, you’re approaching each one of your projects with a story in mind from the start. Some suggestions include:

  • Maintain a running file with the project objectives, team size, timeline, and budget
  • Ask for permission to use project visuals and artifacts, redacting any sensitive content
  • Keep tabs on the business metrics that you and your team are tracking to prove the impact of your project.

Imagine you are explaining the project to a friend, think of the things you would need to be able to do so, and try to grab hold of these data points while you’re executing the work. It will make sifting through the past much, much easier!

Step 1: Collect, Curate, And Categorize 

Regardless of whether you have the luxury of pulling from documentation you created while executing the work, or you need to recreate the details from memory, you’ll need to assemble your assets.

  • Gather the key details that you have, then curate and categorize them.
  • If helpful, do this concurrently for each of the projects you intend to include in your portfolio so that you can get a sense of how to present these stories consistently.

Step 2: Prioritize And Organize

You could decide to organize your projects in any number of ways, such as by date, relevance to the job you’re applying for, or project size. Decide on the salient information you want to communicate about each project depending on the requirements of the role you’re seeking.

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Step 3: Choose A Format

You can choose from multiple formats when creating your project management portfolio. Keep in mind, however, that many companies use automated hiring software to prescreen applicants. Including salient keywords from the job description will not help your application get noticed if the artifact you’re submitting is in a format that the computer can’t read.

For this reason, I tend to think of a project management portfolio as a supplementary artifact to help augment your already awesome application.

Possible formats for project management portfolios include:

Slides / PDF with clickable linksIncludes dashboards or other visual representations of deliverables; Can customize content based on the desired roleStatic delivery format; Hiring manager may ignore file attachments; Does not scale to a broader audience
WebsiteLooks professional; Dynamic delivery format; Hiring manager may be more likely to review a website than a file attachment; Scales content for a broader audienceCostly to develop and maintain
LinkedIn ProfileRequires minimal design expertise; Format already familiar to hiring managers; Scales content for a broader audiencePredictable format limits creativity and doesn’t help your application stand out
VideoHighlights your personality to help your application stand out; Showcases public speaking skills; Can customize content based on the desired roleCould introduce bias into the hiring process; Does not necessarily scale to a broader audience
Here are some potential formats you might use for your portfolio, along with the pros and cons of each.

Step 4: Build Your Portfolio

When building your project management portfolio, consider the business impact of the following metrics:

  • How many people were on your team? What did the team composition look like?
  • How long was the project duration?
  • What was the budget range?
  • What was the project’s business objective? (e.g., improve conversion rates, dwell time)

Don’t be afraid to use qualitative data if you don’t have real numbers. And, to give a sense of scale, percentages are typically more helpful than exact figures.

For more information on what separates a great project manager portfolio from a mediocre one, have a read here.

Step 5: Get Feedback

If possible, seek input from a mentor and/or hiring manager to get feedback on the content and quality of your portfolio. At the least, have someone review the finished product to check for spelling, grammar, and formatting errors and to verify the links you’ve included.

How To Overcome Common Project Management Portfolio Challenges

When you’re building your project management portfolio, you may encounter challenges. Here are some solutions to the most common pitfalls.

Missing Or Incomplete Project Metrics

It’s hard to create a data-rich presentation that hiring managers will salivate over if you’re operating in an environment that either hasn’t built out a data capability or where client sensitivities preclude you from sharing details. In these situations:

  • Share qualitative information, rather than quantitative information, that focuses on the impact you made as the project manager (e.g., relative changes, benefit to end-users)
  • In the absence of project details, reference business metrics that are universally understood (e.g., revenue, clickthrough rate, call times, productivity rates).

Lack Of Project Visuals

Sometimes, you worked on a cool project, but you don’t have any visual outputs to share that demonstrate how cool that project was. In this case, consider using company logos, redacted versions of deliverables, or open source images (not stock photos!) to convey the project theme or impact.

Similarly, if you built a website that is no longer live, substitute screenshots of working files, search the Wayback Machine for archival information, or design an infographic instead to illustrate project metrics.

Examples Of Project Management Portfolios

Here are some examples of project manager portfolios that hit the mark:

You can find additional examples here.

4 Tips For Your Project Management Portfolio

Here are some tips to keep in mind when compiling your project management portfolio.

1. Be Professional But Stay True To Yourself

List your achievements, certainly, but also use the portfolio to show off your personality. Your unique characteristics can differentiate you from other applicants.

2. Invest In Professional Services 

If you’ve been putting off designing a website, creating a layout for a PDF, or writing copy, consider hiring someone to do it for you. Your portfolio should do justice to your accomplishments and, if design is not your forte, don’t let that hold you back.

3. Think Like A Hiring Manager

Skim your portfolio in 30 seconds to evaluate it from the perspective of a hiring manager. Is the design compelling? Do the salient points shine through? If not, take another look to make sure your achievements show in the best light.

4. Don’t Leave Out The Drama

What made your journey difficult? What challenges did you encounter? Hiring managers don’t need to know what you’re like in fairweather projects that go perfectly. They want to know what you’re like when things are on fire and flying off the rails. Pique their interest so that they can bring you in for an interview and ask you about it.

Find tips for your accompanying project management resume here.

Looking For More?

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Sarah M. Hoban
By Sarah M. Hoban

Sarah is a project manager and strategy consultant with 15 years of experience leading cross-functional teams to execute complex multi-million dollar projects. She excels at diagnosing, prioritizing, and solving organizational challenges and cultivating strong relationships to improve how teams do business. Sarah is passionate about productivity, leadership, building community, and her home state of New Jersey.