portfolio learning curve

8 Jan

It’s no secret (now, anyway) that I’ve been networking and interviewing around town (sidenote: I GOT A NEW GIG!). After meeting and chatting with many folks, from creative directors to recruiters, I’ve learned a thing or two about my portfolio. And about portfolios in general.

I know that I can’t speak based on tons of experience here since I’ve only had my feet in the design pool for a couple years, but I know what I know. Every meeting I’ve had, whether good or bad, has been helpful in some way. These are my gathered thoughts about having a portfolio and showing a portfolio:

Don’t be an ass hat. Prospective coworkers have to be around you for 40+ hours a week, and if you’re an ass hat, no one wants to be around you. Chances are, if you’re shopping your portfolio around, you don’t have the power card here, so being nice is only going to help you. Plus, you never know when you may need help from someone in the future!

It’s good to have a variety of work in your book to show your range of skills, but be smart about this and have relevant work for the position you’re trying to get. Don’t try to get a job as a web designer if you can only show print work. If you wanna go digital, have some digital in your book. People have to see it to believe it.

Only have pieces in your book that you’re proud of. If you made an app that got published, but it isn’t your best work, then don’t put it in your book. People don’t care if your projects are real or not — they wanna see what you can do. Your portfolio is where you are showcasing your best work. You want to feel 100% confident about all of your projects. Being confident about your book will allow you to easily talk about your work.

You need to be able to talk about your projects, including the skills and tools used to make them. People want to know how involved you were in a project and if you can even clearly communicate about what went on. This is probably where dropping some industry jargon would probably come in handy (just don’t be obnoxious about it).

You will get feedback from people who see your book — it’s inevitable. You will probably hear similar feedback from multiple people. There is a reason you’re hearing this feedback. Consider the feedback you’re given. Consider making the changes suggested. It’s no coincidence that the same feedback keeps coming up. Hopefully you’re meeting with someone who is valuable and experienced. Their knowledge should be helpful but it’s your call on whether or not you change anything. Be thoughtful about it — is their feedback relevant to what you’re trying to achieve?

At the end of the day, you can’t please everyone. One person may love your stuff, and the next may hate it. Don’t take things personally. Keep trying and keep working on it and you’ll get there. The more you do, the better you’ll get. As that viral Ira Glass advice says, you have to work on getting your skills to match your taste! If you work on bridging that gap, you’ll be able to get where you wanna be.

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