Whether you’re a recent graduate or a veteran practitioner, maneuvering through the job market can be overwhelming. The right preparation can make the job of looking for a job less stressful and more rewarding. One of the most important tools for today’s PR professional is maintaining a well-rounded portfolio.
The recent economic turbulence has forced practitioners — with all levels of experience and from all types of organizations — into the job market, creating an extremely competitive environment. So a portfolio is necessary to set you, your skills and your experiences apart from others.
First, get organized. Are your writing clips up to date? Do you still have a copy of the award-winning piece that you were recognized for nearly 10 years ago? Do you remember how you accomplished the specific goals and objectives of a campaign?
As you acquire these types of samples that showcase your abilities, maintain careful records of your work, dates of accomplishments and the original pieces (either digital or hard copy). Even if you don’t use them for a portfolio, the information may be a good reference for presentations or for updating your résumé.
Employers look at portfolios as proof of a candidate’s claims of being a superb writer or exceptional campaign strategist. In keeping with the “seeing is believing” strategy, include only your best samples. And if you have high-quality examples of other work besides items that you’ve written — such as photography, graphic design, video production — include those as well, especially if you think the skills will be valuable to potential employers.
Research remains a critical component of the job search process, and job seekers must remember to explore companies before interviewing or submitting a portfolio. Think about which skills you’ve mastered that best connect with the company’s mission and vision, and how that can be illustrated.
According to Laurie Mitchell, owner of Cleveland-based Laurie Mitchell & Company, Inc., job seekers need to have a “clear, crisp, clean cross-section of writing samples — not 22 things but six or eight things that show versatility.” A wide assortment of clips will allow you to target your best examples to a specific position or employer.
Sure, the black leather-bound portfolios are still practical, but creative job seekers are finding both convenience and visibility by posting their complete portfolios online. Mitchell agrees that creating an online portfolio can be effective, but only if it is simple for the interviewer to use.
Creating an online portfolio may be easier than you think. If you already have a Web site, then simply upload quality samples. Otherwise, there are a variety of online services to help creative professionals set up portfolios. Some popular sites to consider include carbonmade.com, bigblackbag.com and blueskyportfolios.com. Posting your portfolio online will not only help you organize your samples, but also may bring additional interest to your work.
While the job market remains competitive, you should remain optimistic about your search. If you approach the process in an organized, professional manner with substantial documentation of your creative skills and abilities, then your name will move to the top of any employer’s or recruiter’s callback list.
Linda Burkley, APR, is the creative strategist with Ardis Communication Strategy in Harrisburg, Pa. She is currently President of the Central PA Chapter of PRSA and an adjunct faculty member at Susquehanna University.