Best Practices: Portfolios

Electronic or hard copy? As much as possible or selected? Specific or general? Simple or complex?

Whether you’re an experienced professional or a fresh-out-of-college individual, if you’re looking for a job, you need to be able to showcase your work. The method by which you do so is your portfolio.

One of your first questions might be, should I go electronic or stick with the tried-and-true hard copy? The answer is you will need both. Some potential employers prefer electronic and some prefer something they can put their hands on; some may expect both. They may preview your work on-line, then expect to see something physical when you come in for an interview. Sometimes it’s difficult or even impossible to see how a project actually turned out if you’re just looking at a screen. So, be prepared, have both.

Utilize the strongest and best illustrations of your work. This is not the time to provide a scrapbook of everything you’re ever done. Be selective. Use your most unique projects. If you’re just starting out, then you may not have much to show, so make a point of carefully presenting what you’ve done to give you a reason to talk about what you’d like to do.

Modify your portfolio based on the job for which you’re applying. For example, if your potential employer is in healthcare, then move any projects in the healthcare industry up front so you can talk about your experience in that particular field.

And be specific about what you want to do. If you’re a graphic artist who has also dabbled in photography, make a decision. Do you want to be a graphic designer or a photographer? Your portfolio should concentrate on your one best marketable talent. So, if graphic design is what you’re looking to do, just provide your graphic design work and leave the photography for FaceBook or Instagram.

Try to be timely about showing your work in your portfolio. Unless you completed a high-profile project for a national brand or company, show your work in reverse chronological order. Keep it fresh. Update it regularly.

Provide a little background on each project you showcase: what, why, where, who. Provide a title and a brief explanation of the client’s needs and how you met those needs. If you have definitive numbers about how a particular project was effective, i.e. “increased sales by 25%,” by all means use it. If it won an award, list that. Keep it brief. But this will illustrate how you heard the client’s requirements, then responded creatively and appropriately.

Feel free to let your personality shine through.

Okay that all sounds great if you have physical, as well as electronic, samples of your work. What if you’re an email marketing or social media expert? Print out your email campaigns and get screen-grabs of your social media work. Creatively put them together, both electronic and hard copy, to form a portfolio.

Are you a designer? Get help writing some copy from a copywriter. Are you a copywriter? Get some help from a designer to jazz up your page design.

Lastly, keep it simple and make it easy. For your electronic portfolio, make it easy to navigate. Don’t over-design or try to be cute. Keep it professional, attractive and creative. Have fun!

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