What can I put in my portfolio from past employment?

For MANY reasons, I’m ready to move on past my first design job. I’m in no position to up and quit, so I have to do this quietly.

My question is, what can I include in my portfolio without asking permission from my current employer?

I did not sign any particular non-competing clause or anything similar when I first began working, and to my knowledge, there is nothing similar stated in my employee handbook (although I will be re-reading that ASAP). I am thinking that anything that has been readily accessible to the public should be permissible to show? By this I mean I plan on showing the greater majority of the Graphic Design work that I did while I have been employed there. I DO NOT plan on showing anything that is confidential or alludes to the manufacturing of the products I have worked on. I would say that 70% of my time spent at work is doing graphic design, so I feel it would be the best way to represent the experience I have gained since college. I do have a Bachelors Degree in Industrial Design, and I intend to seek out a job that gets back to the “meat and potatoes” type of ID work rather then a Graphic Design job.

I would focus your portfolio on the type of work you want to be doing. Showing work that has been publicly released should be fine. Good luck!

On this topic, is there a standard rule for the usage of sketches and renderings for projects that have been published/built/gone public? Speaking specifically about coming from a consultancy in the interior/retail design industry.

Is is ever appropriate/necessary to talk to your current company first? I can only imagine that would be an awkward conversation…

And what about projects that bit the dust before being realized? Is this work forever off-limits? What about if you remove any branding, logos, company colors, etc…and then present it as a “toy store” or “cordless drill concept” and not address it by brand/company name?

And finally, what is most important for a prospective new employer to see…finished products/stores/prints or all of the work that lead up to it? Do you go in with a bunch of professional photos, or examples of the down and dirty behind the scenes development work…or of course, both? I suspect both, but is there an appropriate ratio?