In most professional experiences you create a work product and depending on the circumstances, it can be sampled to demonstrate a level of expertise with your skill set. According to a recent survey on skill sets, a sample of work is regarded as the most effective way to validate a skill. For many professions, providing a sample of work is a requirement; here are a few examples:
- Students provide relevant coursework, such as papers, projects, and presentations. Because they lack employment experience, providing samples of coursework might be the best way to deliver content to potential employers; it is worth being selective by sharing only the best, most relevant pieces of work.
- Writers and researchers provide writing samples. They should share their work, whether it is in published form or as an excerpt. Saying you have a writing skill needs to be validated by someone actually reading your work.
- Web designers provide links to websites they created. A web designer must leave an impression of being tech savvy. Someone validating the skill of web design has to review a portfolio of websites.
- Graphic designers provide a portfolio of their concepts. Graphic designer should share a portfolio of their creations; someone validating the skill of graphic design is going to want to evaluate creativity directly.
There are of course many other examples of professions that produce a work product that should be validated. The biggest impediment in providing a sample of work is if you do not own or have copyright privilege to it. For example, I designed a proprietary application while working for a previous employer so I cannot share that application to demonstrate my programming capabilities. In this case, I would rely on a reference and an explanation to validate my skills in building the application.
If you are seeking employment, the most common venue to deliver a sample of work is during an interview. However, it is possible to share a sample of work in all possible mediums on your professional website so you should take advantage of this functionality; why take the extra effort of going to an interview, when the decision is going to be based on a sample of work. In addition, you provide content that you might not have been prompted to submit and in most cases, it is better to provide as much content as possible.
If you are not seeking employment, it is still worthwhile to share samples of your work. You establish credibility with your ecosystem (the people and businesses you interact with) and it is a big personal brand booster. Simply providing other forms of media to supplement a textual profile significantly improves your first impression