10 Portfolio No-No’s

ASLA’s national conference is coming up at the end of the month in San Diego, and with that conference is the JobLink LIVE and Emerging Professionals Portfolio Review at the Expo. Whether you are attending or not, this seems like a good time to take a good look at your portfolio so far and make sure you’ve avoided the top ten mistakes. Last time, I showed you a nifty digital portfolio template. These no-no’s apply to digital and print media, both!

  1. Never include material that is unrelated to your professional work. No matter how much you love your cat or skiing, they don’t belong in here. Perhaps your proficiency on the ski slopes has made you the best ski resort designer ever? If you can’t find a solid professional reason, don’t include it.
  1. Same goes for the “kitchen sink” approach: do not include everything just to bulk-up. Edit! Your portfolio is only as good as your worst project. Edit, edit, edit.
  1. Don’t lie, mis-represent, show work you didn’t take part in, or neglect to give credit where credit is due. For example, if you include photography as fill material while you build up more designed material (but you did not work on those photographed projects), be sure to note clearly that your involvement was only the photograph, not the design of the photo’s subject.
  1. Never allow typos, mis-spellings, or bad grammar into your portfolio! Get someone else to proof-read it if you are unsure.
  1. Don’t Send a portfolio (or samples of work, etc) without both a cover letter AND contact information.
  1. NEVER, ever, include your client’s personal information unless you have express permission! The work is what is being judged, especially your contribution to it. Give residential projects made-up names like “E Street Residence” or “Beach Retreat”. Do not list names or full addresses unless they give permission first and are aware of all the ways that information will be made available.
  1. Don’t leave your only copy with anyone unless you are prepared never to see it again. I am not saying that it will disappear, only that it could.
  1. Don’t take all your feedback from one person. Do your own research, make your own judgments, and ask for feedback from multiple resources. The best feedback opportunity is at the end of an interview, but since those are hard to come by, perhaps you can find someone to review your work outside a formal job interview. Get this feedback from people with different backgrounds.
  1. Don’t limit yourself to just one design concept or format – be prepared to make multiple versions and try different formats. The moment you rely on one version of your hard copy piece, someone will ask you for a digital format and vice versa.
  1. Don’t leave work completely unlabeled. Just say no to mystery work.

If you are attending the ASLA conference, I will be there, so be sure to say hello if you see me wandering around or email me and maybe we can grab coffee? I’d love to hear what is on your mind!

I am feeling the interview questions vibe, so the next post will be about interview questions to expect…..

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