Portfolio 101: How to Put Together a Portfolio

No matter what industry you are in, you need some type of portfolio and a good one at that. Portfolios are key to highlighting your strengths, showing off your skills, and presenting your work for a potential employer to evaluate. A portfolio gives a potential employer a visual of your work, aside from just your resume and cover letter. Don’t have a portfolio or thinks it needs some work? Good thing winter break is around the corner!

What do you put in a portfolio?

It depends on your industry. If you’re applying for any type of media industry, you need to provide clippings (print, video, sound, etc). Graphic design or visual design people need samples of their work as well. If you’re in an industry that deals with data like social media, advertising, or even stock brokering; compile all your personal numbers to share as statistics. You only want to put your best work in a portfolio.

The good thing about portfolios is that it sets you apart substantially and cuts down applicant numbers for employers. In their minds, they know what they are looking for. They want to find someone who shares similarities in their brand, has strong writing, and is able to deliver results.

How do you organize your portfolio?

Organizing your portfolio can be done in many ways. The standard way is to put your samples in a zip file. A zip file is better than a regular folder because, (a) it compresses everything so it does not exceed file limits in emails, and (b) it is easily downloadable and accessed for the recipient.

Another way you can present samples is on a website. This can be a photography blog, WordPress site, YouTube channel, etc. This is a great method to use if you’re seeking the media industry because it will show your digital media savviness. This requires a lot less file space in an email since it is just a URL and it can even be pasted in your resume. I use my WordPress blog to hold my resume, work samples, and blog posts, which I try to update weekly.

The last method I use is a Dropbox shared folder. If you’re not familiar with Dropbox (you should get familiar), it’s a cloud server like Apple’s iCloud system. I use it for personal and professional uses, so it’s great that you can give access to certain folders through a share link. Similar to a website URL, it takes up no file space on an email.

What do I put in my portfolio?

Selecting work to highlight in your portfolio can be tricky. The most important thing to do is analyze who you are sending your portfolio to. If it’s for a fashion based company, create a fashion portfolio. They certainly don’t want to read your article on China’s stock market. Figure out the voice, brand, and message behind the company and find pieces that show off how you are a good fit based on your qualifications.

You need to highlight certain past works in a portfolio. Select a variety of works and pick your best, most current pieces. Don’t send three photos from the same photoshoot. Mix it up and show how diverse your skill set is.

Whatever you do, don’t title your portfolio “portfolio.”

How many of those do you think a potential employer will download? Name it, “YOURNAME_Portfolio” or ‘YOURNAME_COMPANYNAME_Portfolio.” Specificity will be your best friend. It shows that you’re detailed and thorough.
Your portfolio is a representation of who you are and your body of work. It’s one of the first impressions you make and is key to getting an interview. Show off your best work and know who you are sending it to. Good luck and remember, you have a right to brag about your best work. You’ve worked hard and earned it!

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Emily Kong

Emily Kong is a self-proclaimed foodie, to-do list fanatic, coffee obsessed writer and feminist. She spends her time sipping coffee, devouring novels, and dreaming of adventures. In between city hopping, Kong writes for other publications, her  WordPress, and little 140 character quirks on  Twitter.