Creative careers demand inventive and versatile portfolios

By Michael Bichler / For The Pitt News

For some job seekers, simply attaching a resumé and cover letter won’t cut it.

In order to get any job in an art or writing profession, a portfolio sampling your best work is a must to display your accomplishments in your college career. However, deciding what you put in a portfolio can be as important as the work itself. 

Employers are looking for works that not only reflect an applicant’s skills, but also skills specifically applicable to the position. Some people want to include as much of their work as possible, but English composition teaching fellow Kerry Banazek advises against overstuffing your portfolio.

“You don’t want to send everything you have to an employer, because no employer has that attention span,” Banazek said. “You want to send things that are relevant to that job.”  

Even if the work isn’t completely relevant to the desired job, Banzek suggests tweaking it for the portfolio.

“Take a day to go back and edit something for a portfolio, rather than a class, so that it gives your work context so that an employer can understand what you did,” Banazek said.

In the age of technology, there’s a higher demand for an online web presence. It’s essentially mandatory to post digital copies your portfolio to allow for quick and easy access to any and all previous works that you have done. 

“For digital versions, make sure things are clearly labeled,” Banazek said. “Having an index page that has active links to each of your works is a minor thing that makes a huge difference in your portfolio.”

This not only allows you to find your works easily, but allows employers to go directly to the works that they want to see without having to sift through everything that you have done just to find the piece that they are looking for. 

Assistant professor of studio arts Aaron Henderson has created hundreds of portfolios for a wide variety of events and employers. He said that it’s vital for any studio arts major to have a personal website or WordPress page to show off his or her work.

“Your portfolio should be on your website and should describe what you are currently doing, as well as spotlight[ing] some of the major work that you have done,” Henderson said.

Instead of one rigid portfolio, Henderson said it’s important to produce a portfolio that represents your artistic identity and shows that you’re aware of what kind of work the job demands. It may be a grueling process to create a new portfolio for every job that you apply for, but, in the long run, it makes the world of a difference. If you  connect with the work that you have already produced to an employer, it shows that you want the job and that you know what you are getting into.

Employers are going to want to talk about your works during an interview. If you put works in that you are excited about and interested in, you’ll come off as someone who does not just produce work for the sake of producing work — you will show that you are excited about your work and that you’re able to explain your work in great detail with enthusiasm.

Versatility and a fluid approach to work are some of the most valuable assets in the creative field, according to Jeff Oaks, assistant director of Pitt’s writing program.

“Employers are interested in people who can be flexible with the work that they can produce,” Oaks said.

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