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How To Use A Project Management Portfolio To Nab A New Job

A project management portfolio is a useful tool to expand on your resume and demonstrate your mad skills as a project manager. But, once you’ve created your portfolio, how do you use it to get the gig—whether that’s your next job, your next project, or that long overdue raise?

In this article you’ll learn:

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

What Decision Makers Are Looking For In A Project Management Portfolio

In the previous parts of this series, we covered a lot of ground on the project management portfolio topic from your perspective as a project manager. Now, it’s time to dig even deeper and consider your audience. In many cases, you will be using your portfolio to land a new role or a new client.

What are some of the things they’re trying to suss out?

  • How much do you understand digital?
  • Do you have experience at the scale that we need to work at?
  • What is your management style? Do you roll up your sleeves, or do you steer from afar?
  • How do you handle conflict, issues, escalations, and the not-so-fun side of project delivery?
  • Can we trust you with clients?

Of course, your portfolio might not simply spell out answers to these questions. If it did, then there’s no reason for your audience to believe your claims. Instead, your portfolio needs to tell a story that demands a deeper conversation.

Preparing Your Portfolio For The Application Process

Reviewing your portfolio from your audience’s perspective is a great first step to help you land your next opportunity. Now, you’ll want to prepare your portfolio for the application process. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Tell a story. If people wanted to read a list of accomplishments, they could consult your resume. Your portfolio should tell the story of your career as a project manager in a digestible format. Review the examples you’ve selected and the order of the presentation and double-check that it would make sense to a decision maker.
  • Tailor the content in your portfolio to match the job description. For the most part, your portfolio will be a static document that doesn’t change wildly from application to application. But, you will want to show a decision maker that you understand the job duties. Use your portfolio to showcase examples of skills that may be harder to represent in a single bullet on a resume (e.g., negotiation, stakeholder management, problem solving.)
  • Align your resume and portfolio for consistency. The two documents should not be copies of each other, but they should tell a consistent story. 
    • Are you listing the same set of experiences?
    • If you’re sharing metrics or statistics, do they match? 
    • Does the portfolio augment the information in your resume with useful details?

How To Tailor Your Project Management Portfolio Based On The Opportunity?

In addition to preparing your portfolio for the application process, you’ll want to tailor the contents based on whether the prospective opportunity is an interview, a new project pitch, or a raise or promotion.

How To Use Your Portfolio In An Interview?

Picture your typical job interview. You throw your CV into a dark hole, then you might get a screener call from a recruiter, then you go through a barrage of interviews where people get an hour (at most!) to figure out what you’re about.

You are susceptible to wasting that precious face-to-face (or Zoom-to-Zoom) time having surface-level conversations that don’t allow you to differentiate yourself. 

To avoid this trap, treat your portfolio as a pre-read for the conversation. Purposefully leave some questions unanswered to create a bit of tension and draw out your audience’s need to know more. For example, sharing some cool visuals along with a set of impressive project metrics can spark curiosity—and conversation.

And don’t forget that your portfolio might also be a post-read. After your meeting, your decision maker may revisit the portfolio to see examples of what you discussed. They may even use your portfolio to convince others on their team to support their hiring decision.

How To Use Your Portfolio To Pitch A New Project?

Pitching a new project is similar to interviewing for a new job. You throw your proposal into a dark hole, you receive clarifying questions via email or phone, then you might get an opportunity to spend an hour or two presenting your proposal and answering questions from people who are trying to figure you out.

Structure your portfolio to align with your planned pitch, and vice versa. For example, if you want to be seen as a collaborative servant leader, say that in the stories. In this way, you can refer to this experience naturally without sounding stiff and contrived (something like “My style is more servant leader than bull in a china shop. The best example of that was the agriculture project I included in my portfolio where I…”)

How To Use Your Portfolio To Advocate For A Raise Or Promotion?

You can also use your project management portfolio to advocate for a raise or promotion. Get in the habit of updating your portfolio after each successful project you deliver, and you’ll have a ready-made presentation to share with your supervisor when it comes time for performance reviews.

Keep in mind that your supervisor likely also needs to advocate for you with their superiors. Sharing the portfolio with them makes their job easy—instead of writing up a review from scratch, they can simply forward along the file with a sentence or two of added endorsements in their own words.

Keep in mind these do’s and don’ts when using a project management portfolio to advocate for a raise or promotion:

Do Do Not
  • Emphasize outcomes (e.g., number of projects delivered, hours/dollars saved)
  • Use client testimonials or kudos
  • Highlight your unique contribution (e.g., without your leadership, the company would have had X% higher turnover)
  • Showcase training or areas where you sought outside knowledge to improve your performance
  • Justify a promotion based on hours worked—for salaried positions, hours don’t matter if they don’t translate into outcomes
  • Explain that you need a raise for personal reasons, like needing to make rent
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    By Sarah Hoban

    Sarah is a project manager and former strategy consultant with 10+ years of experience leading cross-functional teams to execute high-risk multi-million dollar projects. She excels at diagnosing and prioritizing project problems and building and maintaining strong relationships to improve how teams do business. Sarah is passionate about productivity, leadership, building community, and her home state of New Jersey.

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