What if you had to go to court in a lawsuit and prove that you had actually performed the responsibilities on your resume? While that's not likely to happen, when you go for an interview your potential employer is going to want to see evidence of your work. These are your artifacts - your official exhibits as to how well you perform your job.
So, when you say you're a great project manager and describe how organized you are, how you pay attention to detail, and how your projects always come in on time and under budget your employer will probably want to see how you accomplish these amazing feats. You would be surprised how many times I interview someone and ask them for some examples of their work and they say "oh, I don't really have any examples", or "I can't really show you anything because it's all proprietary". Really, you don't have any examples of scope documents, project plans, work breakdown structures, risk mitigation strategies, performance monitoring, etc.? You're just going to wing it and talk about how you did these things? How can I possibly tell how you think, document, manage, and report progress without looking at one or two actual examples?
Needless to say, the candidate that comes prepared to an interview with a professional portfolio of their work and is prepared to walk me through a couple of real examples has a huge advantage over the candidate that shows up empty handed. In fact, I will posit that having a portfolio should be a minimum requirement when you apply for a job. Walking through a project plan or documentation you've prepared let's you practically exhibit how you think and organize yourself.
As you're doing your job you should always be thinking about what artifacts you want to preserve to potentially include in your portfolio. So, keep copies of your work, especially those artifacts that you're proud of and that really show off the caliber of work you do. If you're worried about confidentiality, black out identifying text or substitute place holder text. You can also consider developing a new artifact which displays your skills in the same way as the original work product but does not reference any privileged or confidential information. This should be noted in the description of the artifact. In some cases you can ask your employer if they mind if you keep certain artifacts for your portfolio. Likewise, if you receive accolades for something you've accomplished save the email or memo to include in your portfolio.
Make notes on the artifacts you save that highlight what is especially noteworthy. For example, if you're a purchasing agent and you developed a spreadsheet or report to improve visibility of future spend that shortened delivery times and helped to improve cash flow make a note of that and stick it to your spreadsheet artifact so you can highlight that when you discuss it. The important thing is to start now and continually update your portfolio as you go. If you ever get laid off you may not have the opportunity to go back and retrieve information or you may not remember all of the details.
So, get ready for court and start populating your portfolio today. You know you will need it.
This discussion is presented in collaboration with Rob Main, co-founder of Apojigo (http://www.apojigo.com). Apojigo is your own personalized Web space for presenting your professional Profile and Portfolio.