The Promise of Portfolio
There are some things in life that are undeniable facts. The sun is hot. The sky is blue. Reese’s Cups taste better when you put them in the freezer first.
Well, here’s another one: having a strong portfolio matters.
The word “portfolio” gets thrown around a lot when it comes to applying for colleges and for jobs in a wide variety of artistically inclined professional positions. Graphic designers, photographers, videographers, writers— the list of people that might need a portfolio can be endless, and the formation of these portfolios can be… often tedious.
However, much like a comprehensive resume layout or a decent cover letter, a portfolio can make or break career opportunities no matter how much prior relevant experience you have, or how long you’ve been involved in your specific industry.
The work you include within your portfolio and the way you choose to present this work is something worth spending a great deal of time on.
Personally, as a writer, my biggest struggle with my own portfolio is finding the best way to showcase my written work in an engaging, intelligent way. Throughout most of my time as a college student, I have been fine-tuning a portfolio website that I hope represents the best version of my professional self to potential employers, collaborators, and supporters. This hasn’t been easy, as there really isn’t a solid resource that tells you exactly what you should do with your portfolio.
More often than not, the modern-day portfolio is presented through a website for the sake of accessibility and customization potential. It doesn’t have to be, and yet most articles, courses, and tutorials that focus on portfolio development treat this as the only legitimate avenue.
Professionals in different fields might claim that they have the secret to making the best portfolio website, but the truth is that the way we present our portfolios needs to be as different and diverse as the work we showcase.
My portfolio looks nothing like the portfolio of my fellow students, so the website that I have created looks nothing like what they have created either. The decisions you make when it comes to your own portfolio are your decisions, no one else is going to make them for you and that’s actually a good thing.
Make it genuinely yours.
The physical look of a portfolio is a lot like the presentation of a meal; it’s genuinely impressive when it looks good, but the layout is not the entire point of its existence. You can present a poorly-cooked steak on as nice of a plate as you’d like, but that doesn’t mean anyone will want to eat it. The quality of content needs to justify the quality of presentation.
Content within your portfolio needs to be solid, with well-executed concepts and an array of examples of your own personal set of skills. For me, this looks like a wide variety of writing pieces that cover several different topics and reveal much more about me than my resume could ever say.
The promise of a portfolio is that it allows the most important work you have done to not get lost in the shuffle of the general information about yourself.
So often, finding a job and applying for positions feels like a game of who can drop the biggest names or include the most impressive buzz words on their application. A portfolio helps even that playing field in the sense that it allows employers something more to go off of. If you are truly talented and passionate about what you do and you attempt to present the work that you do in the best way you can manage, then it becomes a lot less about exactly where you worked before or for how long you have been doing this. This doesn’t mean that getting a job will be easy, but it will make it easier and, in the often over-saturated artistic world, that is a huge step in the right direction for anyone that wants to “make it”.
A solid portfolio is not going to act as a shortcut to the end destination, but is instead an indispensable leg up on your journey as a professional and needs to be treated as such.