Don’t wait! Start building your portfolio today

Kelly Martin
Assistant Professor

“I wish I had started putting together my portfolio earlier!”  This is a common phrase I hear from 3rd, 4th (and 5th) year communication students on the job or co-op market. Students are amazed at the amount of time it takes to go back and find their very best work. And what they come to find during this process is that how they present their portfolio is usually just as important as the work within.

Why is presentation so important? Because, the portfolio tells the reader about the abilities of the student to clearly communicate ideas in visual form.

I’ve had students say to me in the digital design course, “I don’t need to worry about design because I want a job as a communicator.” Yikes! I hope most of our program graduates understand when they leave RIT, visual communication (or design) IS communication! It is a very rare occasion when some kind of visual is not involved in the delivery of a message (e.g. arrangement of words on a page, how a speaker is dressed, slides in a presentation, etc.).

So, for those students just about to enter a communication program, I urge you to start thinking about how you want to present your portfolio ASAP!

The term “portfolio” is actually a combination of two Latin words, from portare to carry and foglio leaf or sheet. In short, it’s a portable collection or example of someone’s work. Today, making something “portable” or easily accessible for multiple audiences is key.

I would suggest all students stay away from a physical, hard copy portfolio and instead opt for a digital direction. Even if your work at one time exists in hard copy form, sooner or later it needs to exist, function and persuade digitally. I’ve interviewed a few students for various types of jobs, and in addition to their resume, I always ask them if they can send me a portfolio. The students that can promptly email me digital examples of their work, or link to a website, always get pushed to the top of the list. If you really want people to see your work in hard copy (which I also suggest), you can present it to them when you finally get the face-to-face interview.

Advantages to a digital portfolio: 1) working digitally gives you maximum control (you can decide what you want people to be able to download or what resolution you want something displayed, etc.) 2) it gives you more options for storing and organizing 3) it makes it easier to produce variations for different audiences (depending on the digital route you go) 4) it is easier to update than paper 5) it is much easier to share with a large number of people and 6) it is often less expensive (again, depending on the route you choose).

Next time:  Some options for your digital portfolio

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