I’ve been seeing a lot of portfolios lately. The downturn in the economy has created an unfortunate upturn in the number of folks looking for work. My wife and I were talking the other day about all the portfolios we’d seen and came up with this list of tips that might help in your job quest.
Keep it convenient.
You’re going to be in a relatively stressful situation when you show up for an interview. Don’t make it worse by dragging along a portfolio the size of an airplane wing. You may have to show your work on a very small spot on a very messy desk. Knocking over the coffee mug doesn’t make a great impression.
Match the quality of the book to the quality of the work.
You can spend just about any amount of money possible buying a case(s) for your work. Don’t go nuts. Keep it professional, but you don’t want the portfolio case to upstage your work. I don’t know anyone who ever got a job because they bought an expensive case.
Form and function matter.
If you exclusively do online/interactive/animation/motion graphics then an electronic portfolio or laptop presentation is fine. If you do print, bring print, the real thing.
Bring concept sketches for an entry-level position.
It may be a matter of personal preference, but mid-level and senior level positions don’t need to show me concept sketches, unless you have amazing drawing skills and want to show off. Entry-level positions really require that you demonstrate that you can think visually. Please don’t go back after the fact and manufacture a brilliant build up to the eureka moment showing your perfect idea — it’s not how ideas happen and everyone can see it coming a mile away.
If you hesitate because a piece might be too worn and dog-eared, it is.
Sometimes your favorite piece has seen better days. Know when to say when. Neatness counts.
If you can’t edit it down to your top 10-12 pieces, let someone else.
Your portfolio should tell the story of you as a designer. It should be a cohesive narrative of your career, thoughts, and skills. Brief and powerful always trumps volume.
Show your strength over diversity.
Play to your strengths. Nobody is good at everything. A deep level of expertise is worth more money than general knowledge — that’s why doctors specialize.
Make sure ALL of the work in your portfolio is YOURS.
I have a friend who had someone copy his work and show up with it in a portfolio for an interview. My friend sat quietly through the presentation and then gave the interviewee his lawyer’s phone number. The Internet makes the world very small. Be honest.
You’re only as good as the worst piece in your portfolio.
Be absolutely brutal criticizing your own work. Get second and third opinions. Take the weakest piece out of your portfolio. Keeping it in shows that you can’t tell that it’s weak.
Have more than 1 copy of your portfolio.
Sometime you will be asked to leave your portfolio behind so that someone else can see it. This will happen when you have another interview the same day. It’s also possible that your boyfriend’s rottweiler puppy will be really impressed with your portfolio the night before the interview of your career. Be safe.
So, what have we missed? I’m open to suggestions.