How to leverage your past experience for a new position

May 16, 2017

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If you are transitioning from one job to another or leaving a team environment for solopreneurship, it can be hard to find the right way to share past work and relationships under the auspices of your new environment.

Ideally, you want your previous work to accurately reflect your past roles and the expertise you can bring to new projects.

Let’s take a look at how you can leverage these proof points when you’re moving on to the next thing:

The project portfolio

Your portfolio represents your body of work and the level of expertise you’ve acquired. As you introduce yourself to new markets and new audiences, not only would it be odd to go into those conversations with nothing, it would be misleading. You certainly don’t want to—or need to—ditch past projects in your showcase. Where you performed the work should be acknowledged, but it should not determine whether a project is worth including in your portfolio.

I strongly advocate including a project profile for each entry in your portfolio that at minimum states who the client was, the services rendered, and/or deliverables created.

Project profiles can take a lot of time to create. If you already have some from your former gig, it can be tempting to use them as is. But copying and pasting project profiles from your former company’s portfolio is not an option. Linking to them from your website doesn’t work either. You will need to generate your own.

To get started, ask your former employer if you can use parts of the existing project profiles, particularly the images that can be hard to acquire or produce after the fact.

Next, rewrite the project profiles so that your role and the aspects of the project for which you were responsible are clear. Use phrases like “While I was the creative director for Company X, I…” or “As the graphic designer on the project, I was responsible for…” or “While working for Company X, my role was to …”. If you can relate the tasks or thinking you did on the project to the kind of work you’re doing now, even better.

The point is to share the project as it relates to what I know and can do. Over time, I’ll replace the examples of former work with current ones as I complete new projects.

The client list

At times, a client list might seem unnecessary. Unless you’re servicing well-known brands, a lot of people coming to your site aren’t going to recognize anyone on your list.

On the other hand, a client list can convey your level of experience and focus (mostly mom-and-pop shops? larger local companies? nonprofits?). Particularly if you are vertically positioned in one or a few markets, your client list can serve to reflect a deep expertise. A client list can also make convenient navigation to project profiles and case studies.

There are a few ways to approach listing clients you worked with in your former life.

  1. List everyone together and add an asterisk, bold, color, or otherwise style individual listings to distinguish current clients from former ones. You may also need to add a key to explain the distinction.

  2. List everyone together, but instead of styling individual client names, put an asterisk after the heading for the list.

  3. Separate the full client list into two sections, one stating current clients and the other former ones.


While not critical, testimonials can be an important and useful proof point. Depending on your situation and the relationships you have with former colleagues and clients, you might ask them for a testimonial about your specific involvement in the project or ask their permission to use an existing testimonial provided that you are clear about when and where you’d received it. Endorsements from your former colleagues or boss that speak to your skills and outcomes can be viable alternatives to client testimonials and are worth sharing with your new folks.

Your body of work will continue to evolve over time, independent of changing environments and shifts in focus. Presenting previous projects in a new situation doesn’t need to be complicated. When you’re forthright and thoughtful about connecting past and present experiences, past projects can prove your expertise just as well as current ones.

Through copywriting and design, Lisa helps conscious companies raise their brand voices so their work is visible, shareable, and actionable. She often writes and speaks about how to apply design and writing principles to real-world situations. Find her at or @paraphrasecomm.