A digital portfolio is your opportunity to put your best foot forward - a representative sample of your work that, demonstrates through language and image, your greatest strengths and accomplishments. Today's digital portfolios are used by a variety of job seekers as a way to demonstrate to prospective employers their particular skills, achievements and professional goals.
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Why are portfolios important?
In some ways, your portfolio is more illustrative of you and your work than the resume and cover letter. It should be:
- Easy to Navigate
If you want your portfolio to speak effectively to your abilities, it is important you choose the right platform to build it. For example:
- If you are a Web Designer, you will want to create a custom website to showcase your personal design and development capabilities.
- If you are a Designer or Photographer, you can use a platform that offers templates and galleries for showcasing images such as Squarespace or Wix.
- If you are a Marketer or Writer, you will want to choose a platform that has excellent blogging tools such as Strikingly or Wordpress.
- And lastly, if you are a Video Producer, Editor, or Motion Graphics Artist, you will want to choose a platform that can support your reel such as Vimeo.
Many of these sites not only provide you with tools and templates, but also with easy ways to tag your content with metadata to ensure your pages are found by search engines. This will help improve your visibility online and potentially gain new clients and employers.
As you put together a portfolio, you will need to make two critical decisions: what to include and how to present it. As proud as you are of your work, you must recognize that less is more when sharing a portfolio. It is far better to have a few impressive samples that leave a vivid impression and show off the range of your expertise, than hundreds of samples that leave the interviewer overwhelmed and bored. We recommend 7-10 project samples. They should all be recent (within the past 5 years) and should represent your core strengths, industry experience, and skill level. Some possible pieces to include are:
- Your favorite project
- Something that was extremely challenging or had a short deadline
- A project that you are most proud of
- A project that shows specific industry experience such as Pharma-, Retail- or Finance-related work
The pieces should not only be a good representation of what you have done in the past, but also what you want to focus on doing in the future.
If you are a UX Designer, Art Director, or Creative Director, hiring managers love to see the hand sketches, notes, or storyboards you used in the planning stage of a project. These samples can showcase the way you think through a challenge and illustrate your thought process to arrive at a solution and ultimately the completed piece.
With each piece, tell a story. Explain the challenge presented, your role in the solution, and the steps you took to design, write, or create the final piece. Keep it short, to the point, and make sure to include any true successes or ROI metrics for each project if they are available.
There are many options for how to set up your site. Keep in mind your audience and the story you want to tell about yourself. What are your priorities for getting new work – do you want to focus on a specific industry or discipline? Is your intended focus on branding or a specific deliverable such as websites, environmental design or dynamic content creation? You can organize your portfolio by:
- Category of work: For example, if you are a designer, you can have a section for print, digital, branding, environmental design, etc. If you are a writer, you can have a section for brochures, editorial copy, ad copy, annual reports, internal communications, etc.
- Industry: If your experience has been focused in a few specific industries (i.e. Pharmaceutical/Healthcare, Retail, Financial, etc) you can organize your work to showcase your knowledge of that market.
- Case Studies: Organizing your work through case studies gives employers an idea of how you think, work and solve problems.
- Chronological order: This type is best for entry level creatives and can be an effective way of demonstrating growth and improvement over time.
Choose striking visuals. Make sure to always use the best images, highest quality themes, and user-friendly design. You do not want it to appear messy or cheap. Make sure to keep the design simple with plenty of white space.
Don’t forget: Include your resume as a downloadable PDF and include your direct contact information.
Once you have finished, check your work! Make sure images load quickly and that all content has been proofread multiple times. Check to make sure the site runs correctly on different browsers as well as on mobile devices.
Presenting Your Portfolio
Prepare and practice a narrative to accompany your portfolio presentation. Explain what the interviewer is seeing. Who was the client, what was the objective, what was the result, why did you especially like this assignment, and how did you answer a particular challenge? Remember, your excitement about a project and pride for your work will be attractive and compelling to an interviewer.
Ask the interviewer for anything specific that you did not provide in the portfolio. If there is, plan to send some additional samples to the interviewer later.
Always be honest about your work. When you include items in your portfolio that are not legitimately yours, or when you claim credit for work you were involved in only tangentially, you are misrepresenting yourself and your credentials. Inevitably, this will backfire. Employers in the creative field place a high value on integrity. They should be confident that what they are seeing is what they will be getting.
Always keep in mind that how you represent your work is as important as what you’re representing. It’s one of your first opportunities to showcase your professionalism, attention to detail and expertise to potential clients. If you follow the recommendations above, you’ll be sure to impress your audience and hopefully land that next job or freelance gig.