Marketing You: Putting Your Best Self Forward
It’s graduation time, and design students all over the country are putting their college days behind them. After countless hours logged in the studio, late nights, and a heck-of-a-lot of time spent preparing portfolios, the time has come to hit the pavement in search of that first design job. Or, perhaps you’re a seasoned pro in search of change. Whatever your circumstances, having a strong portfolio is just one piece of the puzzle. Before you step into your first meeting, take some time to prepare.
Rehearse, rework, and rehearse some more.
So, your portfolio is shiny and complete, and you’ve scheduled your first meeting! You’re all set, right? Perhaps, but more than likely, you need to do some prep on the presentation. When presenting your portfolio, be prepared to take the reins in the conversation. Assume that you’ll be in charge of talking through your work, and be prepared for a reviewer that might have little to say until you’re finished. It’s better to be over-prepared, and practice is key. Invest time in rehearsing your presentation, and you will begin to recognize areas that flow smoothly as well as others that could use some work. You might also come across a few projects that aren’t as strong as others. Practicing ahead of time allows you the opportunity to act on problems and weaknesses in advance.
A well-rounded package.
A designer’s portfolio is a key piece of the “marketing you” process, but it’s just that… one piece. In reality, your portfolio is part of a much bigger package. Design is a collaborative process, and your personality and the impression you make will also play a part in whether you’re considered a good fit for any company. Forming a good connection is key–if you’re nervous, uncomfortable, or unprepared, you may not be putting your best self forward, and you might not develop a good personal connection. Researching the company in advance, as well as rehearsing and familiarizing yourself with your presentation will allow you to focus on the person sitting across the table from you.
Work in progress.
In design, feedback and critiques are a vital part of the design process, and it’s no different when it comes to your portfolio and presentation. At this stage, it’s easy to think of your portfolio as a finished, final package, but more likely than not, your reviewer will have feedback on your work, presentation, or both. This part of the process can be frustrating and confusing as the feedback may vary with each presentation, and you will need to form a strategy for interpreting and acting on the comments you receive. After each meeting, take some time to sort through and analyze the feedback. You probably won’t act on everything, but there might be some really valuable suggestions that you can implement. Remain flexible and, most importantly, realize that your portfolio and presentation will always be a work in progress.
While it might seem like the process is nearly complete, it’s really just beginning. What have you done or will you do to remain top-of-mind? Be sure to discuss next steps before you leave any meeting, and always have a strategy for follow-up. And, regardless of the outcome, treat every experience as an opportunity for referrals or future work. By keeping doors open, you open yourself up for unexpected opportunities.
Recognizing that your portfolio and presentation are only two pieces of your personal marketing strategy is key. To learn more about the bigger picture, keep an eye out for our next article in the “Marketing You” series.
In case you missed it or simply need a refresher, click here to read the first article in the series titled “Marketing You: Designing Your Personal Portfolio.”