If you’re operating in the creative field, then any job that you’ve looked at will include a request for a portfolio.

The reason is simple, it’s all well and good to talk the talk, but you’ve got to walk the walk. Too often hiring managers will end up interviewing candidates who sound incredible, but can’t deliver the goods.

Your portfolio is the first key to an interview and beyond.

The problem here is that most professional creatives are married to a lot of their work. Culling down the list to the best of the best is key. Example? Unless you’re going for a gig in the music industry, the hiring manager doesn’t want to see mock-ups of your friend’s band’s CD cover.

Do’s and Don’ts

Before we hit the “do’s” let’s talk a bit more about the “don’ts”:

  • As mentioned, no CD covers
  • No flyers for the very same band
  • No schoolwork*
  • Nothing that isn’t yours. I didn’t think I had to say it, but there have been times…
  • Nothing that could be NSFW (look it up, learn it, love it)
  • Not on a CD in the form of a bunch of files that need to be clicked through

*Unless you’re fresh out of school and that’s all you’ve got.

Think of the “do’s” as a checklist on your way to a new job:

  • It’s online and is easily navigated
  • It has only examples of your best work
  • It makes sense for the industry that you’re targeting
  • You can clearly state which part of the project you were a part of

Of course, I’d be lying if I told you that it’s just all about the pretty pictures. There also has to be a knowledgeable mind at work. The best way to show that? Let your portfolio site have an “About Me” and “Blog” section (much like the one you’re reading right now). Recruiters and employers alike are going to be giving this stuff a really good once over and if you can prove to us that you’ve got it where it counts, you’re going to be way ahead of the pack when it comes to getting a gig. Use the “About Me” to talk about your past experiences and interests while you leverage the blog to drive the point home that you can think critically and are up to speed on the latest and greatest.

Oh, and speaking of interviews and such, don’t show up unprepared. Bring a laptop or tablet to show your work on as well as hardcopies. It’s a horrible mistake to put all your eggs in technology’s basket.

For those that aren’t in the position to need a portfolio, think of how you’ll present your amazing deeds. It’s best to approach it like a case study. You need to be able to tell the story, from beginning to end, about how you made a project happen.