You may think, “Aren’t portfolios for artists and creators?” Um. Not really. Yes, it is used commonly by those in artistic profiles, but it is not restricted to them.
Whether you work as a marketer, writer, or even a software engineer, a portfolio is an essential piece of your tool kit. It helps you define who you are in your domain and most of all proves your employability.
Best of all, it can be the golden ticket that lands you in your dream job.
Resume Vs. Portfolio
You may wonder why not use a good ole resume. It worked fine for me. It ain’t broke, why fix it, right?
What’s all this sudden craze about portfolios?
A resume is where you talk about your experiences, education, and skills. A portfolio lets your work do all the talking.
In a nutshell, a resume is just where you drone on and on about your work and accomplishments. However, without solid facts to support your claims they may come across as empty boasts.
That is exactly why most HR managers take the content in your resume with a pinch of salt. Also because, anyone can use a good resume builder and fine-tune their resume to match the job description in a matter of minutes.
Portfolio’s, on the other hand, are a piece of yourself. Above all, It's an expression of who you are as an employee and a person. It helps you narrate your perspective to convince a client or potential employer why you are the right fit for them.
What’s more, Portfolios come in handy when a mere description of your work can’t justify your accomplishments. While we can describe Picaso’s art with beautiful words, it just wouldn’t create the same impact as seeing the masterpiece. So, if you want your potential employers to see the true quality of your work, go for a portfolio.
Now I am not just talking about slapping together some finished projects in a word document and adding a few lines of description. But really, put some work in to show your dedication to your chosen domain. Here’s how you can go create a killer portfolio in 5 steps.
These steps will take you through the whole process of creating a portfolio that will get people talking and get you a step closer to that dream job.
1. Define Your Goals
Before you can go any further. You need to identify your reasons for creating this portfolio in the first place.
What are your motivations?
Is it a better paying job, landing your dream job, or working remote, and as you hone in on your motivations seek to understand why this is.
What are your actual skills?
Do you even know? If not, take the time to find out. Better late than never.
Explore every field until you find the sweet spot where your passion and a viable profession overlap.
Once you zero in on your answers to these questions, it is time to ramp up your portfolio.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
Creating a portfolio for "everyone" is a recipe for trouble. Having a target audience will take away the risk of appealing to no one. For, generic portfolios are of no use.
Here, your audience may differ based on where you want to work and what you want to work as. For instance, if you plan to send your portfolios to publishing agencies who are in search for a portfolio. People who interview you for that position are your target audience.
To get started, write down the domain you want to work on, then top 7 places you would want to work at. Once you have jotted these down, go ahead and create a persona each for potential interviewers in these 7 organizations.
Write down 7 names
Choose a gender based on the industry and role? (Use LinkedIn to Identify This)
Describe their likes and dislikes?
What aspect do they look for in a potential employee?
List down their possible objections towards you?
As you drill down deeper, you will be able to know how to best to represent yourself to get in their good books and get that job.
3. Getting Started
Initially as you just build your portfolio from ground up, not many people will be willing to give you a chance.
So, don’t waste time fishing for opportunities, instead start working as a lone warrior and do your own pet projects.
If you’re a writer start your own blog. If you are a marketer, try marketing yourself. If you’re an engineer try creating new apps and POCs with the languages that you learn and write about your app creation journey.
4. Opportunity vs. Money
Once you have completed a couple of pet projects, you can showcase them to others and score some freelancing opportunities. Trust me, it will be amazing.
All of a sudden, there will be a huge demand for your work. But it is during this time, you will have to make a hard choice between opportunity and money.
You may have to choose between a paying gig that's not perfectly aligned with your long term career goals aka mission statement of your portfolio? Or accept an unpaid internship or underpaying but high "prestige" project which will be the new pinnacle of your portfolio. Make the right choice based on the goals you set in the initial phase of the portfolio.
Remember, even seemingly insignificant choices that you make today can end up making make a big difference.
5. Focus on Quality Not Quantity
Before you get down to designing your portfolio you need to figure out what goes into it, what type of document you would like to produce (digital print or online website) and how long the document should be.
While you can get away with showcasing just three projects, you can go for 5 or 7 if you would like to make a real impact. But, do try not to go over 7, that will go overboard leaving your audience over 'bored'.
Whatever number you choose to highlight, make sure all your projects are fully developed. The portfolio represents the best pieces of your work, so you need to make sure that you only select those samples which represent the best use of your skill. In portfolio creation, presentation is everything.
How you present your portfolio is just as important as what you present.
Your portfolio is a reflection of not only your creativity, but your organizational skills as well. Therefore, it is crucial that you present a professional well-planned out portfolio.
The process of creating a portfolio is rocky, bumpy ride; the journey will be one of the most arduous and challenging rides some of you will every go through.
But when you reach your destination, bag that dream job, and look back at the path you travelled, that teeny bit of pride that creeps into your heart, for being self-made that is worth a million bucks. That feeling of achieving your dreams without piggying back on your siblings/friends or climbing on your parents shoulders, that is something you will feel only when you do it yourself.