What Is a Portfolio?
Regardless of your industry, portfolios give you the opportunity to demonstrate your skills and fit in a visual format.
A portfolio is a powerful job search tool that showcases:
- Writing skills
- Effective use of technology
Why Create a Portfolio?
- Portfolios can help you clearly define your strengths and weaknesses. The documents included in a portfolio will identify your strong suits. Think about your next co-op or even the type of job you may be interested in after graduation. The portfolio you have now will not be the same as the completed portfolio you'll have once you graduate. As you strengthen your skills and abilities, your portfolio will continue to grow as well.
- For many majors, portfolios are a must-have in order to demonstrate your skills and abilities to employers.
Start now! Collecting and organizing documents as early as possible ensures your ability to customize a portfolio of your most valuable experiences and achievements. You may not use all of the documents you collect, but it is important to keep them handy to tailor your portfolio to a specific job or graduate school.
- Transcript (does not have to be official)
- Writing samples
- Project samples
- Design samples
- Copies of certifications
- Evidence of community/organization/committee involvement
- Pieces that demonstrate technical skills and software proficiencies listed on résumé
- Fine art
- Sketches or ideation to show process
- Performance reviews
- Accomplishments list
- Skills list
- News articles/pictures of accomplishments
- Reference list (include first and last name, job title, company, email address, and phone number for three professional references)
- Letters of recommendation
Before the Interview
- Review and update (both print and online). Choose documents and samples that best reflect your skills and are most relevant to the job and employer. Select pieces that demonstrate industry-standard software and technical skills.
- Use in your interview preparation, helping you to remember the variety of things you have completed and what you could contribute to your future employer.
- Rehearse and prepare to speak confidently about the process that went into each element.
During the Interview
- Use during the introductory question, "Tell me about yourself."
- Highlight specific examples as they ask about your skills and experience.
- In response to questions about your processes or skills, ask if you can walk them through your work.
- Mention at the end as a summary. Provide a one-page work sample and/or a copy of your references as a leave-behind.
- Keep it concise, edit carefully, and ensure that it reflects your best work.
- Have it reviewed by professionals in your industry.
- Develop an online and print version.
Examples of Industry Specific Portfolios
- Interior Design: An AutoCAD project, elevations, perspectives, hand drawings and renderings
- Digital Media: A mix of Print, Web, and Interactive pieces
- Graphic Design: Logos, signage, drawings, packaging projects, corporate identity, etc. that demonstrate Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, effective typeface selection, and understanding of visual hierarchy
- Design and Merchandising: Idea/trend/inspiration boards, catalogs, pictures of window displays, or merchandising plans
- Product Design: Research, inspiration, sketches, 2D work, 3D CAD, renderings, prototypes, or products
- Arts and Sciences: Writing samples, lab reports, certifications and training, and published articles
- Business: Examples from competitions, business plans, writing samples, or copies of certifications
- Engineering: Design projects, with a focus on process from initial conception, testing results, status updates, to the final report; AutoCAD designs
- Graduate School Applications: Writing samples, research experience, published articles, and letters of recommendations
Print vs. online? Whether in a creative or non-creative discipline, it's good to develop both print and online versions of your portfolio.
Styles range from basic black binder with inserts to more elaborate materials with customized detail.
- Focus on layout and organization. Think carefully on the presentation and order of materials. Lead with your strongest materials, while at the same time ending on a good note. Present the materials in an ordered way that is easy for you to navigate in an interview.
- For creative disciplines, 11” by 17” is the standard, employer-preferred size. Interior Design students should adopt ½ scale, ¼ scale, or 1/8 scale to present large plans.
- Be consistent. Get all pieces printed at the same place to ensure consistency with respect to paper quality and ink color.
Online portfolios should follow the same content guidelines as print portfolios.
- Showcase your creativity. With online portfolios, you have more flexibility and ability to showcase your creativity and individuality. Don't shy away from demonstrating a creative touch, especially if the job you're applying to requires creative thinking.
- Brand yourself! Make all your materials consistent.
- Make it accessible. Add a link to your online portfolio on your résumé, in your email signature, and on your LinkedIn profile. By doing so, employers have the access to get a snapshot of who you are and what you can offer before the interview.
- Demonstrate industry skills. For Graphic Design students, it is best to have your own site and URL, designed and built by you in HTML. Work toward this goal for your post-Drexel search, whether you're interested in web design or not.
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