Tailor-made portfolio

It is supposed to be your business card, your pass to a job interview, and increase your chances of landing a job of your dreams. It should be polished in the minutest detail. If your searching for employment, and your favourite studio does not have an open recruitment right now – come forward. But before you do it, prepare an ideal portfolio. 

Keep the recipient in mind

While drafting a project of your portfolio, think of its recipients – a potential client or employer. Take into consideration their expectations and preferences. They’ll surely want to see your skills, the thinking behind the projects, but also how you work – whether you’re a professional. Think through every element of communication with the recipient of your message. Consider it as another project challenge.  Try to look at it through the eyes of a Creative Director who’s looking for a designer. Such recruitment process is a tedious job which consists of looking through hundreds of portfolios before the one is chosen. The recruiter will probably make a preliminary selection, and after it another one, which will narrow down the group of favourites to a few persons who will get an invitation to a job interview. You should make this process easier for them. 

Really – the first impression does matter. You don’t want to go down in history as the one who sent the portfolio in a form of zipped JPEG files which downloaded forever, trust me. Of course, you can argue that what counts is the quality of your projects while the rest bears no significance, but remember – many a designer is trying to get the job so it’s good to have a strong bargaining chip in your hand in the shape of additional assets. 

For starters            

It’s good to start your contact with an employer with a well-written e-mail. A well-written e-mail is concise and meaty. It is worth expressing your enthusiasm for working in a given place and the willingness to meet (if you have any). When you’re answering a job offer, make sure to study it carefully, and think whether the needs of an employer square with your expectations and answer in accordance with the guidelines contained in the job offer.

Dedicate the contents

Create a tailor-made portfolio and an-email. Select those works which illustrate best what you would like to do in a given studio or agency. It’s better to send a couple of polished and personalised propositions instead of sending out identical messages to a whole group of addressees hoping someone will reply. It’s worth creating a number of portfolio versions, each tailored to a different recipient. For instance: an illustrator wanting to work with a publishing house focused on creation of authorial books should concentrate on preparing a presentation which will show their ability to create characters and narration. On the other hand, if a person wants to work for a magazine, they must present the skills of contents synthesis and have commercial illustrations appropriate for press publishing. For this purpose, it will be useful to prepare at least two portfolios. Perhaps it will require a bit more effort from you, but you’ll definitely make a better impression on the recruiter. You should also think about the expectations of your prospective employer. Think – are they going to be more interested in great skills and form, or in the idea behind the projects?

Maybe you’ll think it’s obvious. If you know all that already – that’s good. But make sure you check that no crucial element has gone missing from your portfolio.

Quality over quantity

Choose only the best projects. If you aren’t sure about certain projects – leave them on your disc. The employer or client doesn’t have to get to know your entire life’s work at once, but they definitely must know your advantages. Believe me – one lame work can cloud a couple of good ones. I know it’s hard to look at your own works from a distance, especially if we put a lot of heart into them. However, it’s good to treat portfolio as a separate project. Make sure you choose the best realisations and put them in order, just like you order information in other graphic projects.

Co chcesz robić?

Najprawdopodobniej zostaniesz zatrudniony, aby wykonywać projekty podobne do tych, które pokażesz w swoim portfolio. Upewnij się, że pokazujesz tylko to, co chciałbyś robić. Chcesz udowodnić, że jesteś wszechstronny?

Tailor your portfolio based on the work you want to be making. The work that is in your portfolio is the work you will get hired for.

– Jessica Walsh

What do you want to do?

You’ll probably be hired to make projects similar to those you have presented in your portfolio. Make sure you show only things you want to do. Do you want to prove your versatility? Great, but if you aren’t into logotype design and you want to excel as an illustrator, don’t put them in your portfolio. Focus on things you can do and like. The recipient should have the impression of coherence and know what to expect of you when looking at your works. 

Order

Once you’ve picked your best works which illustrate what you want to do, it’s good to order them. The first impression is the most important. Put your best project on the beginning so it grips the attention of the recipient. When presenting other works, make sure the narration keeps up the interest, and place one of your better works at the end as well.

Descriptions

The descriptions of your works shouldn’t be too lengthy. However, it is worth giving them a while. Write in a few words: what were the project’s assumptions, what project problem you solved and for whom it was made. In case of group realisations write what was your contribution to the project.

Your own projects

Don’t be afraid of putting projects in your portfolio which weren’t realised for client’s needs. If you’d like to design webpages, but you haven’t had many of such commissions, commission the project to yourself. Choose a poor website, work on it and present it in your portfolio. There’s nothing wrong in showing unimplemented projects, but make sure to describe them properly.  

www or pdf?

Behance is a great place for presenting your works to a wider audience. However, if you want to make a good impression on a particular studio, agency or publishing house, it’s better to create your portfolio in a form of a PDF file dedicated to a particular recipient. Try to put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter who has to go through dozens of different submissions. Clicking in one attachment and looking at a tailor-made presentation will leave a better impression than a link redirecting the person to a webpage where she’ll have to look for interesting projects on her own. Make sure your PDF isn’t too heavy (although the rule doesn’t apply to web designers).

Remember – you have to facilitate the reception of your works and show that you can communicate well.

Invest in a webpage only when you’re sure of your design skills. First great projects, then a portfolio webpage – not the other way round.

Everything’s ready? Send the message and wait for reply.

You haven’t succeeded?

Don’t get discouraged when you don’t get to an interview or a commission. It doesn’t have to mean that you’ve done something wrong. Usually only one person is chosen for a particular position while there are many people interested. It might happen that your projects are not what the employer is currently looking for, but it might change in the future. That’s why when you receive a negative response, ask politely why you haven’t been chosen and what you could improve in your works. Be open to criticism. It’s a trait which every employer will appreciate.

No answer?

Sometimes one e-mail is not enough. If after you sent the message you haven’t received a reply, send a reminder. Don’t be importunate, but a polite reminder will do you no harm. If your works appealed to your recipients but currently there’s no open position, send the message again in some time.

Use these propositions, create an ideal portfolio and get a job of your dreams. Good luck!

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