If you’re looking for a graphic design job, the most important tool you have is your portfolio. While employers in many other industries have to rely solely on interviews and resumes to make hiring decisions, graphic design studios get to base their decisions on examples of an applicant’s actual work. To give yourself the greatest chance for a second interview, your portfolio should showcase your work in the best light possible. Separate yourself from the competition by taking these steps:
Include Professional Work
Employers want to find out if you have what it takes to succeed in the real world, not just the classroom. Therefore, the best pieces you can include are ones that you’ve done for actual businesses. When employers see real-life work, they know that other companies had enough faith in you to give you the job and that you were able to deliver. If you can, get references from each organization you work with, and include a snippet of that praise in your portfolio.
If you haven’t had the chance to work for professionals yet, start as soon as possible. There’s nothing wrong with doing free work, especially for non-profit organizations or churches. These organizations are usually happy to have someone design something for them, and will give you the valuable portfolio pieces in exchange for just a few hours of your time.
Don’t Let Your Portfolio Distract from Your Work
Graphic design is all about communication. The purpose of your portfolio is to showcase your work, not demonstrate that you can design a really creative portfolio. When your portfolio upstages your actual pieces, it not only looks gimmicky, but it also confuses communication. Your design should complement your pieces by looking clean and professional. Remember that no portfolio can rescue mediocre work.
Create a Web Portfolio
In today’s technology-driven marketplace, it just makes sense to have a Web portfolio. Many employers would rather go online than have a huge portfolio sitting on their desk, while others look for freelancers by browsing through online work. Creating a Web portfolio not only showcases your work, but can also show employers that you know how to build a website – an important skill for today’s designer.
Remember that Quality Is Better Than Quantity
A huge mistake that many new designers make is trying to incorporate every decent project that they’ve ever done into their portfolio. Your portfolio should only be for your best work. If you mix in mediocre work with your best, employers won’t know what to expect from you. Get a professional to help you identify your top work, and resist the temptation to add anything else – it will only water down your final effort.
Vary Your Selections
With so many candidates looking for jobs, employers are no longer looking for designers who can do just one thing well. Many are searching for candidates who can design for magazines, newspapers, websites, direct mail pieces and brand identity campaigns, among other things. Include a variety of different projects you’ve done to show employers that you’re not just a one-trick pony. When selecting work to showcase, though, don’t include a poor piece just because it’s different. Always show off only professional-quality work.
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