Having a great CV (or resume, depending on your location) is just the first step to get your dream job, especially when applying for a creative position. In particular, employers in the art & writing industries will ultimately care about the quality and presentation of the work you can show them.
This is why you need an impressive portfolio that clearly demonstrates your skills and experience, looks different to any other and makes you stand out at a glance.
Here’s 6 tips to put together a unique portfolio to win you more job interviews and help you secure a great opportunity.
1: Research your competitors
When you’re trying to write something fresh and different, you first need to know what’s stale and played-out, and you can only learn that by having a look at all the comparable portfolios you can find. Try going on LinkedIn and look for people applying for the same jobs: there’s a good chance you’ll find links to their portfolios in their bios. You can also google portfolios and look for highlighted examples and comments from employers.
Once you have an idea of what’s out there, you can come up with a template to frame your content that might catch the eye of your next manager. Just be sure not to be different for the sake of it, or to a level that makes it needlessly complicated: err on the side of simplicity.
2: Choose your best work
When you know the format you want, start by collating all the work you’ve ever done that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for. You can go back as far as you like; the criteria here is quality. If you’re proud of a piece of work that doesn’t reflect what you can do now, leave it out.
The only exception is if you make your personal development part of the portfolio story, using the progression of your skills over time to prove your passion and dedication to your craft. That’s something you can try, but be extremely careful with the execution because it can easily go wrong. In general, I suggest sticking with your very best work.
3: Trim the selection
Since you’ve already trimmed for quality, you should now trim for variety. If you have four pieces that are all strong but cover essentially the same topic for the same client or project, remove three of them. You only need to show that you can do something once. Anything more than that will waste precious consideration time that could be going towards something different.
Your twice-trimmed selection should consist of high-quality pieces of work, each with something different to offer. The differences could be stylistic, tonal, topical, or structural; it doesn’t matter, as long as they provide new information about what you can do.
4: Make new work if needed
If your curated set of work doesn’t seem fit for purpose, there’s every chance that it isn’t. This is most likely to be the case if you don’t have much formal experience in the industry you’re applying to work in, or if you’ve never really sought to work on personal projects. Thankfully, this is something you can change as and when you want.
Flesh out a thin profile by working on personal projects. If you can be creative, do so, provided you end up with something that reflects your potential. You can also create briefs for yourself to follow through on, showing how you would go about tackling a project for your prospective employer. This will be particularly useful if there’s a certain type of project common to the industry that you’ve never had a chance to do for a client (a marketing proposal, for instance).
5: Create a portfolio website
A great portfolio is easy to find and view, regardless of the platform or the circumstances. That’s why I recommend creating a website specifically for your portfolio rather than putting it in a PDF and lumping it in something like Google Drive or Dropbox— you don’t want to run the risk of sending a file link only for someone to have trouble opening the file.
It’s easier than you might think to set up something simple; there are plenty of cheap or free options with themes you can rework until you get an aesthetic that suits you. If you know any web development basics, you can do something more advanced, but it isn’t necessary since the important thing is the work. Just make sure the theme you use will format your work correctly even on mobile platforms.
You don’t have to stick to the online version, of course. There are circumstances in which a printed version can be worth making— if you’re going to an interview and you want to have some physical props to support you, for instance. But you absolutely need one for the general utility and convenience.
6: Frame the work with information
While you can just throw your work selection into a solid structure and leave it at that, you should take the opportunity to expand upon what’s there with some commentary about the decisions you made for particular projects, the ideas you had in mind, and what you learned from them in the end.
Don’t forget to contextualise everything with a clear introduction that states who you are, what you do, and what kind of position you’re looking for— and provide a contact option that’s extremely clear and easy to use. The last thing you want to do is impress someone with your work only to make it too complicated for them to reach out to you.
It takes a lot of effort to create a portfolio that stands out from the pack. You need outstanding content, a template that suits your style and shows character without becoming too complex, and a platform that makes it quick and easy to show it off.
Follow these steps, put in the work to get the quality as high as possible, and in time you’ll assemble a strong portfolio that will mark you as a candidate worth considering.