Part of putting your best foot forward in the job search in many professions is compiling a strong portfolio that showcases your previous work. In addition to a strong resume and cover letter, the portfolio serves to communicate your talents, skills, and passions in the context of your previous work.
This guide will provide general best practices when putting together a portfolio to impress future employers or draw the attention of your desired clients. In addition, it offers links below to more specific portfolio guides to help you find the tips you need to make your work shine regardless of your profession.
Consider the Needs of Your Future Employer or Ideal Clients
Whether you are a freelancer, established business owner, or are seeking more traditional employment using your creative or technical skillset, a portfolio should be designed with your audience in mind. Before you even begin deciding which pieces of work should “make the cut,” take the time to consider what your future employer or clients are looking for.
When you think about your future employer or your ideal client…
- What skills are likely to be most valued?
- What metrics of quality and performance might they be most interested in?
- What special kinds of expertise do you bring to the table that other candidates or freelancers may not have?
- What are the cultural values that you share with your ideal employer/client that you might be able to emphasize by the selections you make in your portfolio?
- What skills do you have beyond the basic requirements of a job/gig that might be of extra benefit to a potential employer/client?
When you begin the process of building your portfolio with your client in mind, you are starting off with the right framework to make sure that your selections will meet their needs and capture their attention.
Balance Depth and Breadth in Your Portfolio
One of the most challenging aspects of putting together a strong portfolio is to strike a balance between showing off a wide variety of different types of projects (breadth) while also showing the pieces that best showcase your specific areas of expertise (depth).
For advanced professionals in particular, this can certainly become more difficult. However, with some awareness that showcasing both your range as well as your expertise in the details is critical, this balance can be found.
For example, consider showcasing one or two projects that offer you a chance to show some of the context of the work as it was in progress. For example, perhaps you did an interior design project that included collaboration with local artists, craftsmen, and builders in a full restoration project on an old home. This is a very good opportunity to not just showcase images from the finished project, but also images and perhaps even a short story that details some of the specific challenges of that project and how you brought innovative solutions.
While “diving deep” into too many such projects can take away from your overall portfolio, choosing one or two allows you to demonstrate something beyond a picture of a finished living room. It shows that you can navigate complex projects with professionalism and that you bring a depth of expertise to the table that is a compliment to your technical skillset.
Want to learn more about how to make a stand-out portfolio in your profession? Click below for a more detailed and comprehensive guide: