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10 Portfolio Tips for New Graduates


Most colleges have concluded commencements and there’s a whole new army of young artists and copywriters hitting the street. We were recently asked to judge a student portfolio review and offer a few tips for new graduates:

  1. Consider your presentation. Can you read the copy? Is the image of a true representative size? Does it look as impressive on the web as it does in hand? Your generation has been raised on the web and it is easy to assume that the best way to display your work is on a website via a laptop or smartphone, but sometimes an old-school mock up is best.
  2. Proof your resume. Then have someone else proof it. Make sure it’s not just awesome, but also correct. This is not a criticism of young people’s lack of detail, but a confession of a shortcoming of mine coming out of college. I am pretty sure a typo on my first resume cost me consideration for a first job I would have dearly loved.
  3. Don’t apologize for your work. If there’s a shortcoming in one of your pieces, fix it. If it’s a design feature you like, own it.
  4. Be on time for the interview. Be pleasant during it. Be persistent after it. If you don’t get the job, ask what you could do to improve.
  5. Put your best piece first in your portfolio, your second best piece last and don’t include any piece you don’t think is excellent. You’re young. We can get past you not having a lot of work in your portfolio. We can’t get past you having bad work in your portfolio.
  6. Understand that you will never have a better opportunity than you have now to exercise your creativity. We expect most recent graduates to have speculative or class work in their portfolio. Do an ad for a product you like simply because you want to do something great.
  7. Do a good ad for something boring. Every student portfolio I have seen recently has had a label and a campaign for craft beer in it. Two years ago it was tattoo parlors. What can you do to make a Wi-Fi dual band router interesting? Or a CPA firm?
  8. Don’t just show your work, communicate your process. You don’t have to do this for every piece…some creatives I know find it annoying, but we are interested in how you find inspiration and the path you take to epiphany.
  9. Your interview is like a play and you are the star. That said, it’s also improv and you will get all kinds of things thrown at you. Do mock interviews and anticipate questions. Ask questions. Find a balance between communicating what you wish and connecting with the interviewer. 
  10. Don’t panic. Is the industry up? Is the market tight? Don’t worry about it… you are just trying to find one job, not tinker with the whole economy. In a profession with so many variables, your portfolio and how you present it is something you can completely control. 

Good luck and happy job hunting.

Topics: Agency Life