A great portfolio is your best chance at a great first impression, and may be what gets you through the front door to your dream job. The process of creating a portfolio can feel daunting, but with the right preparation, it’s your best opportunity to showcase your unique strengths and skills.
As you prepare to enter the job market, you have likely put time and energy into your resume and LinkedIn . You may have even curated a tech-related social media profile. Still, hiring managers will pay attention to the contents of your portfolio to evaluate your talent and skill level.
Portfolios should ideally contain artifacts that showcase your technical accomplishments in your field. They should include at least 2-3 projects, including detailed descriptions that tell the story of why it was created and what problem it solves. Rather than using a prescriptive step-by-step model, consider sharing the highs and lows of the project through your unique narrative lens.
Still, you can follow the basic guidelines below by track to start developing the artifacts you will need related to your field:
· UX – Designers should have a PDF portfolio or portfolio website with at least two case studies. Be sure to include screenshots of your work (from wireframe to final product). Plan to give detailed explanations for your process and how you got to the final product. Instead of using GitHub and building a website from scratch, consider using a platform such as Webflow. Research shows hiring managers would rather see something polished using a platform like this rather than a poorly created personal website.
· iOS – An active GitHub account, a blog or website (long-form written presence), and at least one functional app. The app should be fully functional, de-bugged, and user ready. Be sure to include videos/GIFs or screenshots of the app in the Apple store, along with a detailed description. The number of downloads is less important, but make sure to address feedback from any low user ratings.
· Data Science – An active GitHub account, and a blog or website (long-form written presence). Plan to show the entire life-cycle of data and what you discovered. Include embedded GitHub gists, screen GIFs, and data visualizations directly into your posts.
· Web Development – An active GitHub, and a portfolio website. For web students in particular, hiring managers like to see personal websites using a custom domain name such as firstnamelastname.com. You can obtain a custom domain name of this kind at Namecheap.com, and then can use a site such as GitHub, Netlify, or Heroku to host your portfolio or start from scratch in React. If you’re a Lambda student, you can get your first domain for just $10!)
For all disciplines, use your portfolio to explain the implications of your work for your field. Give context to your unique voice and how it fits into the narrative of your industry.
Pro tip: For disciplines such as web development, it will be important to create a web presence from scratch, while other disciplines may choose to use sites like Wix or Squarespace as a base to build off of to showcase their work.
Still, discrepancies between the templates and the work itself can show through. Look with an editor’s eye at a screenshot of the work on your homepage, and have others review your pages. Although these sites can be constraining, they can also show you can work within constraints and still communicate something different than others can. Make the most of what you create by making it uniquely yours.
Portfolios are meant to represent you as an individual but also showcase the quality of your work. It’s hard to capture yourself on a webpage and showcase what makes you different, especially if you are an entry-level designer. That’s why first impressions are so important.
Hiring managers often review 20-30 portfolios at the same time, opening tabs all at once and doing a first glance pass to weed out websites that do not meet the bar. During that first pass, hiring managers look for common red flags on the home page, which can be mistakes as small as alignment errors, typos, or poor color usage. Hiring managers may also dismiss portfolios for being too flashy, which may indicate an individual has not mastered the fundamentals of design. Keep in mind that simple, clean typography, grid, and visual design elements can have a big impact when done well.
If a hiring manager gets past your initial homepage, they will click on a project, look at the top image, and scroll through the entire project to ensure you have documented the entire build process. They will expect your project screenshots to tell a cohesive story they can understand quickly, so list your best case study at the top of the page. =
Now that you have the fundamentals, you’ll be ready to craft a polished, professional portfolio ready to show your work off to potential employers, and will be one step closer to landing that offer letter.