As many of you know, this is my last year of college. Time, it seems, has been speeding up recently. March went past in a flash and before I knew it we were halfway through April. With each flip of the calendar, I can only think more and more about one thing: job hunting. More stressful than walking at graduation, finals week or the prospect of having to move out of your off-campus dump of an apartment, the job hunt is looming over me like a constant reminder of my impending transition into “real adulthood.”
I’ve been offered a lot of advice about how to go about finding a job. No, more advice than you were thinking. I’ve sat in on an incomprehensible number of resume workshops, interview boot camps and have signed up for just about every online job board out there. There’s one tip, however, that’s helped me gain internships and succeed on campus that I’m definitely going to be carrying over to my professional life; creating a portfolio.
In creative fields like marketing, design, digital media or communications, a portfolio can help you give concrete examples of your skills and past work. Rather than just describing projects you’ve accomplished, you can actually show your interviewers in a tangible way. ‘Show don’t tell’ has been a golden piece of wisdom since seventh grade English class, and it applies here too. Portfolios are also much more memorable than resumes, which are one-page and typically monochromatic. Giving yourself a memorable (while still professional and not totally wacky) way to be remembered in your interview will make you seem creative, competent and can land you at the top of the candidate’s list.
Making a portfolio for a marketing or public relations position is a little different than an artistic portfolio. Rather than just carrying around prints or copies of your work, a portfolio should be a professional, organized project that shows what a well-qualified candidate you are.
When compiling my own portfolio, one of the essential steps was making sure that the portfolio itself looked professional and polished. I bought a binder and made sure that each of the pages was in a protective plastic sheet. Since the pages were going to be handled hundreds of times by people, I wanted them to look neat even after the fiftieth time someone had leafed through. Each of the sections I created was separated by a binder tab, and I started with an updated table of contents. Each time that I add something to the portfolio, I also make sure that I update this page as well. Consistent formatting between the pages, while a tiny detail, can make a big impact. Without even being consciously perceptible, a consistent font, margins and size of type can make the project look more professional and polished.
But what should you include in a portfolio? Well, that’s really up to you. To a degree, it also depends on what sort of experiences and work you’ve done. Certain portfolios can highlight one or two big projects, while others are meant to give a “highlights reel” of examples across your body of work. Personally, my portfolio is organized like this:
- Resume- it’s good to have on hand at all times in interviews and sets a professional tone for the collection of documents.
- Cover Letter/Statement of Intent- like the resume, it’s just a good thing to have on hand during interviews, job fairs or during career planning meetings. This can help prospective employers see your goals and intentions as well as a more formalized writing example.
- Work Examples- in my own resume, I’ve chosen to focus on breadth as well as depth in my examples. I have sections for press releases, blog posts, infographics, articles and any other work that I’ve constructed. Within each subsection, I make sure that I’m presenting a curated list of the best examples.
- Letters of Recommendation/Reference List- this serves two purposes. It gives an immediate impression that you’re a credible candidate who has plenty of experience, but it also is a good way to keep contact information on hand. Nothing’s more embarrassing than being asked whether you have references and not remembering any of their contact information.
- Awards, Honors, and Other- Have you ever received a certificate or certification for something? Won a prestigious writing award? Made Dean’s List? This is an excellent place to brag about it. Situating this at the back is a great way to finish with a strong impression to potential employers.
Obviously, this list is not comprehensive on what you could possibly include in your own portfolio. You could swap in sections you feel give you an edge as a candidate and get rid of ones you think are extraneous. No matter what you choose to do, I guarantee that you’ll make a positive, professional impression in your interviews.