Portfolios Part I: What the Pros Had to Say ~by Emily Mamula '15

Winter break is a great time to work on your portfolio!  PGP gives you tips on what a portfolio can do for you, and how to get started. 

 

What exactly is a portfolio, and why would I need to create one?

This is the question many students were hoping to have answered when they attended Post Graduate Planning's Portfolio Session toward the end of last semester. Presenters Liz Kneen (Olin '08) and Adam Casey from Continuum Advanced Systems were joined by Prof. Jessica Townsend and Ben Linder and students looking to learn the do's and don'ts of portfolios.  Not only can they be a valuable recruiting tool - for many they are also a creative method of self-expression. 

So, what exactly is a portfolio? Consider it an extension of the "Projects and Research" section of the typical college student's resume. It's a chance to pick a few of those experiences that you are really passionate about and that show off your skills in the best way, taking an in-depth look at the process and journey of the endeavor. It's also a platform that allows students to show a lot more individualism while doing so.

Here were the suggestions Liz and Adam had for students:

1.      Be excited!

Never include a project that you didn't enjoy. This is a venue to show what's important to you, even if it may not be classified as your most "challenging" or "advanced" project. It's more important that employers see you engaged and passionate.  

2.      Think about how you want to be seen.

You have total control over this, especially here at Olin, where we all participate in a wide range of project types. Consider how exactly you want to market yourself and which of these initiatives you want people to recall when they think of you.

3.      Who are you as a person, student,  future employee?

Market yourself.  Convey who you are and what kind of asset you can be as a result. Be creative, have fun!

4.      Pick projects that show curiosity and passion.

These are traits that companies like to see in potential employees, so be sure your portfolio highlights these types of projects for you. 

 

5.      Claim only your work.

This is especially important in the context of group projects. Make sure you're clear about what parts you did and didn't do.  Interviewers will ask for these specifics, and you will look silly if you are claiming someone else's work as yours.

6.      Don't get stuck in a linear timeline - follow the story of the project.
Progression from A to B isn't necessarily valuable, and may be way less interesting than B to A. Hook your audience before you get to the more mundane aspects of the process.

7.      Remember that the story is often just as important, if not more, than the final product.
It's ok to fail.  Both Liz and Adam said we like to hear about how you failed.  The obstacles you had to overcome and the pitfalls you experienced along the way can often show more about how you work than what resulted in the end.

 

8.      Strike a balance between personality and professionalism.
Try not to swing too far in either direction. Paint a picture of who you are, but remember you're trying to get hired. How much 'you' you'll want to share will also vary depending on where you're applying.

 

We recorded Liz's presentation and you can find it here.  (Caution, give yourself time if you plan to view this, it's about 22 minutes long).

Look for Part II next week on creating a portfolio - how do I get started?

Posted in: Alumni Speak, From Our Staff, Job Hunt, Learning about Design