As the year comes to a close, people typically take this time to reflect on the personal and professional successes they made over the past 12 months. As a creative and digital professional in today’s competitive job market, it’s important to reflect on the projects and skills you’ve acquired in the past year. How well you emphasize your skill set in your portfolio will be one of the best ways to separate yourself from competition in 2016.
Whether you’re a new grad with limited experience, or a seasoned professional looking for a change in your career, there are a number of strategies you can take to update your portfolio with examples that help you stand out when the time is right. Ashley Santangelo, a Staffing Manager for The Execu|Search Group’s Creative and Digital team, knows just how important it is for designers to regularly update their portfolios in such an ever-evolving industry. “Taking the time to routinely update your portfolio with new skills and projects you’ve completed will put you in a better position to get the job you want,” says Ashley. While the objective of your portfolio will change depending on your professional interests, here are three common scenarios most creative professional will experience at some point in their career.
- Getting your foot in the door as a recent graduate
It can be difficult to demonstrate your professional strengths if you haven’t been exposed to the corporate world yet; a challenge many recent graduates face when entering the job market. Since recent grads tend to have more academic work than hands-on experience in their portfolio, it can be a bit more difficult to prove their worth to employers. “Your portfolio should ideally show prospective employers that you possess the talent to produce good work outside of the projects you completed in school,” highlights Ashley. “They want to see recent grads who can showcase their design skills when given little direction and can effectively highlight a company’s brand or identity in their work.”
To do this, volunteering to put together creative material (i.e., create a website, redesign a logo, etc.) for a local business is a great way to showcase your professional creativity. In addition, picking up freelance projects through websites like Elance or Craigslist is not only an effective way to strengthen your portfolio, but it will also help to differentiate you as a strategic creative professional compared to other recent grads.
- An interest in changing industries
One of the main purposes of your portfolio is to provide an employer with tangible examples of the work you’ve done that prove you are the best fit for the position you’re interested in. However, if you’re trying to break into a new industry, it’s more difficult to convince prospective employers that you are the best person for the job without relevant examples to share.
In cases like these, employers are most attracted to creative professionals that take the initiative to learn more about the industry they’re interested in. “Updating your portfolio accordingly will show employers the growth you’ve made over a certain time period,” highlights Ashley. For instance, an experienced technical copywriter interested in writing more creative ad copy can participate in creative ad workshops to show employers that they’ve taken the steps to learn a different craft. Along the same lines, completing temporary assignments will give you the opportunity to break into new industries and determine if it would be a good long-term fit for you.
- Transitioning into a managerial role
If you’re looking to take your career to the next level, showcasing your managerial skills through your portfolio can be challenging if you’ve never held a ‘manager’ title. However, there are certain ways to showcase your leadership skills through your portfolio by emphasizing the projects you’ve been a part of that demonstrate you’re a good leader.
For instance, as a Marketing Coordinator looking to step into a managerial role, you could highlight the responsibilities you’ve held that are more in line with that of a manager. Overseeing a campaign from start to finish, delegating roles or responsibilities, or scenarios where you exhibited strong leadership qualities are the types of examples that will help employers paint a clearer picture of you as a manager.
In the end, since it’s highly likely that you will experience one or more of these situations over the next few years of your career, get a head start on your competition now by updating your portfolio before the start of the new year.