Portfolio Tips


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A laughing man with an open CD caseOver the last few weeks, I’ve worked with the internship committee on helping our interns update their resumes and begin a portfolio. A resume and portfolio should complement each other like peanut butter and jelly. A resume will help you get your foot in the door for a face-to-face meeting but a portfolio gives you an opportunity to really showcase what your experience is. It can truly set you apart from your competition and putting one together is not an easy task. Over the last few years I’ve received some great tips from my mentors that I will share with you here, and hopefully learn some news ones from you.

Before I share the tips, I want to stress the important of targeting the company with whom you are interviewing. Look over their client roster and services they offer. Are they creative or conservative? Are they traditional or one step ahead? By using your portfolio to target the prospective employer, you’re being strategic. It also means you did you’re homework and took the time to learn about the company. Now onto the tips:

Writing samples. This is a no brainer. Employers want to see that you can write coherently and also keep the reader’s interest. Choose your *best* writing samples. Pick samples that are within the same areas of the company’s clients. If they work exclusively with finance clients, they may not be as interested in your pitch about the new “must-have” hair product for women. However, at the same time be diverse. Include collateral projects, clips and bylined articles. Danielle’s portfolio includes both for-profit and not-for-profit clients. She also trys to strike a blanace between business-to-business and business-to-consumer content.

Edit. Some of my best placements have come from pitches that I wouldn’t consider my “best” but they’re still included. But as you’ll see in my next tip, the reason they’re included in the portfolio. Go over every writing sample in your portfolio with a fine tooth comb. Don’t change the content, but double and triple check for grammatical errors or how you can make it stronger.

Show rationale. When I discussed these tips with PRBC, Danielle reminded us of the importance of organization. Employers want to see great placements but they also want to see the strategy and rationale behind it. Organize a portfolio so that its easy to understand the strategy/tactics behind the placements. For me, that means including all writing samples that helped secure my placements. If you can, Danielle suggests taking it a step further and include planning documents. If that isn’t possible, write up a couple of paragraphs summarizing the planning and executional phases of the project.

Don’t be afraid of color. This may sound trivial but on an interview it’s important to show your personality. When I graduated from college my portfolio was a stark white or a sleek black. The colors of “professionalism.” However after going on a handful of interviews I wanted to change it up a bit. My portfolio is now an orange like the color of sherbet. Did people notice? Actually yes, so I believe it made a difference. (Note: this plays into the “target” employer tip. If you’re interviewing with a conserative company that might not work as well.)

Include items outside of client work. I wasn’t so sure about this tip, since a lot of us loathe hearing about ‘personal branding’. But on an interview it’s important to show you are well-rounded and the one time you can talk about your skills without sounding full of yourself. In the back of my portfolio I have select blog posts that were linked to other industy leading blogs or that created a solid conversation through comments. It shows you’re not afraid to voice an educated opinion and showcases your professional perspectives. I learned that I’m not the only one who has recently updated their portfolio to reflect this. (H/T to Danielle)

Leave a copy behind. I’ve heard many people say it’s too pricey to leave it behind but so what? Not all clips need to be color copies or if it’s really that much of a burden create a digital version. This allows those you’ve interviewed with share it with their colleagues. (Via Cog)

I would love to hear from the community on how they put together a portfolio. What would you add and how does it change after many years of being in the industry?

*Many thanks to Danielle and Cog for adding some of their thoughtful tips.

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