John's answer was great, but I wanted to elaborate a bit on the portfolio aspect.
I'm also starting out in UX and I don't have much experience beyond a six-month course I took. Here's what I've done to build a portfolio:
- Start a blog and post everyday.
- Contact and talk to every professional UX person you can
- Learn how to use tools that will increase your skills
- Read everything you can to stay current
The reason I started a blog was not to gain readers (although I'd be happy to have them) but to get my mind thinking about UX. Every single day I post something and discuss its relationship to UX. It's a great game, it improves your writing, and it gives you something tangible to show an employer even if you don't have any experience. I'm not here to promote my blog but for those interested: http://uxandrew.wordpress.com
I have written e-mails to just about every one of the most "famous" UX professionals in this business. Even Don Norman and Steve Krug were nice enough to send me e-mails back! It's good to know who the most important professionals are in the field and to develop a relationship with them. With Don Norman my relationship didn't go beyond "Big fan, Dr. Norman!" but with many people in my area's circle I have been able to develop really great relationships. I have mentors, and those mentors have guided me and helped me find job interviews too. A portfolio might look great, but nothing will help you more than someone who wants to help you. My "portfolio" includes connections.
I don't really want to be a coder, programmer, or graphic designer, and I don't have much use for a lot of different UX products on the market...but that doesn't mean that my future employer won't want me to know these things. As a result, I've taken the time to use, for example, Codecademy to increase my coding skills. I can honestly write on a resume that I know HTML and CSS, and even though I don't intend to use them on a day-to-day basis, at least it improved related skills. There is no substitute for experience, but education is as close as it gets.
Read everything you can, because UX professionals are hired for their minds/methodology. My advice here is to develop an RSS feed and show others what you're reading. My website includes an "inspiration" section (http://www.andrewzusman.com) that includes a laundry list of my favorite blogs/books. The reason I did this was to show future employers that my mind was in the right place. It isn't exactly a part of a "portfolio", but it helps to show you're serious about UX and not just dabbling.