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Water Cooler

Information and insight about your career and the workplace at large
September 2005

News and Views

Boredom can be more stressful and damaging than overwork, writes Washington Post staff writer Amy Joyce. A survey by Sirota Consulting LLC showed that busy workers are happy workers: those with "too much work" rated their job satisfaction at 57 out of 100, while those with "too little work" rated their overall job satisfaction at 49 out of 100. Experts speculate that when employees have work to do-even too much work-they feel valued by their employers. Yet a stunning 55% of American workers feel disengaged and under-employed. More

Putting together a presentation? Consider telling a story instead of using masses of PowerPoint slides. According to professional speaker Vincent Kituku, stories are a wonderful way to connect with a group of people and trigger new ideas. Stories can be even more powerful if you find ways to encourage audience members to pick them apart and explore the parts of the story that are relevant for them. Encouraging group discussion of these various viewpoints multiplies the power of your anecdote. Details

Deciding whether to stay at home or return to work is one of the hardest decisions for a new parent to make. Are both you and your partner returning to work following maternity (or paternity) leave? Then consider these suggestions from the experts at iVillage. Tips for easing the transition


What is your work worth? provides a free Basic Salary Report and Initial Salary Analysis. Or you can purchase a Personal Salary Report, which provides a customized analysis and negotiation guide to fair pay. Check it out

NEW: WaterCooler Professional—The Miniseries

In 2005, "Making It Work for You" evolves to "WC Professional," a miniseries of action steps to being your own mentor. Follow this 12-month plan and by January of 2006, you'll have taken a big step towards being your own best advocate in the workplace.

September: Create a portfolio to highlight your accomplishments and supplement your résumé.

If you've ever taken a creative writing course, you've heard this famous advice: Show, don't tell. These words are good career advice, too.

Demonstrating your capabilities and representing your expertise in a visual, hands-on way through a portfolio can get you better assignments, demonstrate your potential for a promotion, or be the "ace in the hole" that nets you the new job.

It's true: whether or not portfolios are advantageous may depend on your career track. Graphic designers, writers, and some publication management professionals often find it helpful to show potential employers samples of their work. Yet even professionals in other careers, such as project management, training, and public relations, have also found portfolios surprisingly useful.

Portfolios demonstrate concrete evidence of your impact on a project, especially if you take a "before" and "after" approach.

And, says Sally Zakariya, an editor at The American School Board Journal in Alexandria, VA, "A portfolio can be useful for documenting your productivity when [your company is] downsizing or if there is concern about budgets."

WaterCooler (WC) Personal: Seven Steps to the Perfect Portfolio

If you're shy, like I am, a portfolio makes a great prop. This is one instance in which your work truly can speak for itself.

The best way to make this happen is to choose a one-line statement about yourself or your work that your portfolio can represent. Select samples that support your focus and that help you achieve your objective, whether it's getting a particular job, documenting your accomplishments during a job performance review, or showing your impact on a project.

To create your perfect portfolio, follow these steps:

    1. Think of your goal and select five to seven samples of your best work that relate to that goal.

    2. Be creative when considering samples. For instance, consider including a brochure that advertised a program you helped develop. Talk about the contributions you made to the project.

    3. Decide whether your portfolio will be digital, hard copy, or some combination, then choose a suitable "container"-a web page or site, a binder with clear plastic sleeves, a zippered "envelope," etc.

    4. If you're making a hard copy portfolio, make extra copies of your samples-you may want to leave them with the reviewer.

    5. Decide how to organize your samples. Some possibilities: type of product, category, impact, chronology.

    6. Decide which supplementary materials, if any, you'll include: résumé? letters of appreciation? published profiles? certificates? publications?

    7. Give it the editor's eye. Is it professional-looking? Is it focused around a key message? And does it further the objective you have in mind?

Now that you've created a portfolio, how do you present it to the reviewer? Should you send it ahead of your meeting, or go over it in person so that you can answer questions and provide context? How long should you spend showing it? How should you talk about the contents? And what if you've gone to the trouble of creating a great portfolio, but there doesn't seem to be a graceful opening for talking about it in the interview?

These and other questions are addressed in Chapter 7 of Mentor Me:A Guide to Being Your Own Best Advocate in the Workplace. Get your copy today.