Here’s a concept that I’ve been thinking about recently. As you may know, I like to think about things the way Feynman thinks about problems — I have specific problems in my mind that I keep in my working memory and then I try different approaches from different fields that I am interested in or that I read about and see if they yield anything interesting. Well, for the better part of my career and due to my work in consulting, we are constantly having to apply to proposals and one of the things that we always have to do is provide our experience. After applying to so many proposals, I just figured that there has to be a better way of either presenting your work experience or project experience or a completely different way that nobody has thought about because of the limits of rules and RFPs and such.

Rather than just thinking about proposals and bids, I thought that this approach might also work for when you are applying to jobs in general. Now I’m not an artist myself or do I even consider myself an expert in them but I do know that when you apply to art or design school or when you are applying to those types of jobs, you need to have a portfolio. A portfolio is basically an artist’s resume — it’s a listing or showcase of the work that you have done (art, paintings and other creative works that you have crafted from your hands). When I first learned about the concept, I thought about how interesting but necessary it was to have a portfolio. I also couldn’t imagine how artists with no creative works would apply to schools or design positions; they have a blank canvas that forces them to create. They are forced to be creative, imaginative and tactical.

As I now move through my career, sure, I have 5+ years of management consulting experience but what I am most proud of is my portfolio. Now again, I’m not an artist so I don’t have almost any creative works but I am most proud of the things that people can point to and see that I have manifested through my own mind and hands — my books, my speeches, my online courses — these are the things that I have put out into the world and that people can see, interact with and provide feedback on. I like my project experience as well but that is one of the ways that I differentiate myself — by producing things that are tangible.

Give it some thought. What’s your portfolio look like? Do you have one? The world is looking for you to start things. Can you use the concept of a portfolio to differentiate yourself in your field where people typically do not have portfolios?