For advertising creatives, designers and art workers, portfolios are a necessity. If you don't have one, start putting one together as soon as possible. In other roles you’re not expected to have a portfolio but that doesn't mean you can't have one.
Your portfolio, or your "book", is a continually evolving collection of the best work that you have done through school, college, university, at agencies and on personal projects. Your aim is to get it in front of as many professionals and employers as possible so they can see your talent, give their feedback and offer you an opportunity.
Ultimately, your portfolio will play a big role in getting you hired for placements and graduate roles. So it's really important to show off how awesome you are and show the full range of your skillset. Your portfolio needs to grab peoples' attention and leave a lasting impression.
You should consistently update a physical version of your portfolio. Keep it clear and concise. Quality is important; three great ideas and executions and far better than eight mediorcre ones. Don't try to cover all bases, focus on what you are really good at and show how this works in different ways, on different media and solving different problems.
Your work should be online. There’s really no question about it. For one, employers are likely to want a taste of your work before agreeing to give you an interview or a book crit. But just as importantly, you never know when you’re going to need it. You might run into a creative director at an event or get trapped in a lift with your favourite designer. Unless you want to carry around your physical portfolio with you at all times, online is essential.
You may also want to keep a few pieces of work on your phone and other devices incase the internet lets you down.
You need to get as much feedback as possible on your work. Unfortunately, for most of us, it hurts to ask, hurts to be criticised and hurts to have to start again. But no pain, no gain. You need to know you suck before you can better and we guarantee that feedback from industry professionals will help you improve. As Ira Glass famously mentioned it’s “only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to get any better.”
There are a lot of ways to get feedback, friends, teachers, parents (can be annoying) and book crits (more info on these below). Ultimately, every one of us is subjected to thousands of messages fighting for our attention every day so we all have an opinion on a piece of communications. Build up confidence with your peers and then approach professionals for a bit of their time. For each person you meet, ask if they know someone else who could help you.
Subjectivity and contradictions
The problem is, all creative work is subjective. That means that each person you show your portfolio to will have different opinions of it. Some will love it, some will hate it. Some will tell you make changes, some will tell you not to make those changes. That's why it's important to talk to as many different people as possible and to only make changes that you believe in. While changing your portfolio is good thing, it has to be true to you and not a mash up of other peoples' opinions. Keep a thick skin – the most important thing is to get feedback, then it's up to you to take it or leave it.
Mixture of ideas
If you’re in looking to enter an advertising, marketing, design or branding agency, they be looking to see how you can fit into their company but also interested in how you can apply yourself to other areas. Pull together work which shows off your passion and dedication to being creative, making things, solving problems, generating ideas. This can really be anything you like – a piece of writing, some illustrations, an app you’ve made, a web series on YouTube, product ideas – go crazy with invention.
Book crit is the official term for a professional looking at your portfolio and giving you feedback. It's up to you to arrange them by connecting with people. Don't expect to walk into a job after taking your portfolio to one person, instead you should expect to meet loads of industry professionals just to get feedback on your portfolio. Always ask for an internship, placement or job but be prepared for it to take hundreds of book crits and multiple placements before you land a role in the industry.
You've got the perfect portfolio, it's still evolving but has some great ideas in it and it's been refined by you and the feedback you've got. Now you've organised a meeting with someone who could give you your big break. Make sure you're not sitting in silence flicking through pages while an employer nods unconvincingly. This is your chance to show that employer that they'll enjoy working with you. Chat to them throughout and form a relationship. They probaly won't want you to explain your ideas (afterall, an idea that has to be explained is bad idea) but that doesn't mean you can't talk around them, discussing things such as where the inspiration came from, how you created it and what other feedback you've had.
Recap on portfolios
Use anything to make one, update it, get feedback, improve it, add to it, remove stuff from it, keep it fresh, show it to professionals, ask for a placement, internship or job, REPEAT UNTIL EMPLOYED.