What do you do to best represent you?
Quick note: I initially wrote this as a submission to another site that was asking people to contribute their thoughts behind the idea of non-graphic (i.e. account management) professionals having a portfolio. At the time, I was still searching for work and put together the post below. However, I didn’t complete the write up in time to be considered, as the site had already selected the post to publish. Given that it’s been over 7 months since I wrote this, I figured it would be OK to publish on my site, with some minor edits. With that being said, here are my thoughts on the subject of having a portfolio.
I suppose the very people who are going to overlook this post are the very people that this is being written for. If you’re a Graphic/Print/Web designer, then this post isn’t really for you, because you already (or should already) know the reasons why you should have one. For everyone else who was not previously mentioned, please follow along.
During the course of working in various advertising agencies, in-house departments and everything in-between, you more than likely worked on a slew of projects that are behind closed doors and locked cages. You contributed blood, sweat and tears into new branding concepts and advertising campaigns, only to lock them down behind barred walls for others to view as they pass by. And you move on as the next new beast comes into your zoo. This cycle continues to repeat itself. Each time some new design was completed and approved that designer(s) quickly took a snapshot for him/herself, because they knew what it meant: Another proof of their mastery and skill. Another proof of their contribution and completed work in taming the beast that was your project. But my question to you is: what about you?
You also contributed to finished designs and helped to guide the final product as well. When you saw something that was amiss, you pointed it out. When a proof was provided to you that didn’t fit with the client’s objectives, you asked for it to be re-done. Yet, as Account Managers/Executives, Proofreaders, Traffickers and etc… why haven’t you also considered sponging a copy for yourself. There are elements of you in that finished layout and it is evidence of your advertising identity.
A portfolio is not only for our better halves (i.e. graphic designers). It’s also for you and I.
Portfolios should show your greatest hits, just like an iPod plays your favorite music. What you put in it represents your style and ability to manage a project to completion. It reflects a commitment to ensure the final piece is accurate and that it was approved as having met the need of the client that it was produced for. It is your history, just as much as it is the person who actually did the design work. When you’re in the interview and the question comes up, “What was the last project you worked on and how did it turn out?”, wouldn’t it be nice to say, “Here, let me show you and explain how it was utilized”. When a client asks for the previous work you’ve done, so that they can discern the truth in your representation of being the best person they should let manage their advertising projects, do you really want to have an empty bag to present your past accomplishments? Even though I have only worked for a few years in this industry, each time that I went out on an interview, I had my portfolio with me. Sure it is short and it doesn’t reflect every bit of work or projects that I’ve been a part of, but it reflects what I consider the very best of my contribution to each of the projects that I am showcasing.
Further, your portfolio is a conversation starter and if presented right, can be very engaging. At the very least, you have the opportunity to deter the enormous amount of questions that are waiting to come your way, while you break down the ice in your interview. It’s a yielding moment that the interviewer provides to you, which allows you to gain more comfort with presenting your past hits and it’s in that moment that you can calm yourself for the remainder of the interview. Nothing is easier, then to discuss past projects as you flip through the pages of your previous work, because, at the heart of it all, you are talking about yourself.
Essentially, a portfolio maintains your zoo.
Stop leaving your successes behind.
Take your snapshots of the tamed projects of your past and lean on them once more to champion you through to that next beast of a project from a client and/or career opportunity.