Polish Your Portfolio – And Your Image

Gearing up for portfolio review? No doubt you’ve chosen your best work to showcase, your design process is identified and well documented, and you can discuss your work in an intelligent and competent manner. Awesome.

But what about you? Since more than just your work and creative process will be under scrutiny, you’ll want to make sure that you’re creating the best possible impression on your peers and potential employers.

Start by thinking about your image.

Does your outfit represent “you” and your style? Is it comfortable, clean, age-appropriate and professional? You’ve got other things to think about during portfolio review, so you don’t want to be distracted by uncomfortable clothes. The best selection is one that makes you feel good about yourself.

It’s also a good idea to consider your audience and make sure your selection is appropriate for them. If you show up in a three-piece suit and everyone else is in business casual, you might feel out of place.

Whatever you choose to wear, don’t forget about proper shoes. Obviously flip-flops are out, but make sure whatever shoes you choose are respectable. People will notice.

What will you use to take notes?

A person who is ready to receive criticism and write down advice will arrive equipped for taking notes. Choose something that reflects your style… a leather notebook, a Hello Kitty note pad, a handmade journal…whatever it is, make sure it is in good condition, and be prepared to use it. There’s an art to taking notes in a meeting while maintaining a connection with your audience, and this is a perfect opportunity to start honing that skill. You’ll need to use it often once you hit the working world.

Do you have a leave-behind?

If you don’t have a business card yet, now’s the time—because ideally, someone you meet will be so impressed that they’ll want to keep in touch. A hastily hand-scratched card will not have the same impact as a well thought-out handmade card. Add a touch unique to you. If illustration is your thing, or type is a personal passion, your cards can do double-duty, reflecting your skills and communicating your contact information. If you find yourself connecting to one of the reviewers, you can also ask for one of their cards and make plans to stay in touch.

How will you describe yourself?

Think about what makes you unique, and then think about what you want someone to remember after the first time they meet you. Now sift through your personal strengths and choose a few words that best describe you. Trade in those high school yearbook descriptors like kind, funny, and outgoing for more descriptive words like focused, inquisitive, or enterprising. Make sure you fully understand your word choices and their definitions, and prepare to relate them back to specific skills or experiences, in case someone asks why you chose those particular words.

Good luck to all of you getting ready to share your portfolios. You’ve already done the work that’s inside your book. Now it’s time to prepare the person behind the portfolio, too.

Think ahead. Practice. Anticipate. Visualize. Bring your best stuff. And you’ll walk away with even more.

Watch for upcoming blogposts by Terri with more tips about making a great first impression.

By Terri Spaulding
Published February 21, 2013