5 Ways to Make Your Portfolio Stand out from the Pile

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com.
Photo courtesy of unsplash.com.

Envision this — you’ve taken the time to carefully craft your pitch to that dream employer. You fire off the email and anxiously begin the waiting process.

Then, it happens. Maybe you’re walking to class or in the midst of planning your trip to the PRSSA 2016 National Conference. An email pops up in your inbox — that dream employer wants to see your resume and portfolio.

Once you get the opportunity, it’s important to make sure your portfolio doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Here are five ways to make your portfolio stand out:

Include an in-depth case study.

Lead your portfolio with an in-depth case study. Take an experience from a recent, relevant endeavor. It could be a past internship or a project you tackled within your Chapter.

In true case study format, make your title and background narrative compelling. What was the problem, the people and the work at hand? What were the stakes and goals? Who were your publics? Be sure to explain why the project came to be and why it was important.

Include in-depth details of your role and how you partnered with others to accomplish specific work. Don’t forget to share the results of your work. Employers want to see that you understand how to measure bonafide objectives and are return-on-investment focused.

Cater work samples to the job or internship you’re applying for.

You’ll want to showcase a variety of work samples to demonstrate experience in other verticals (more on that later). It is important, however, to include work samples surgically relevant for the specific job or internship you’re applying for.

Too often, students and young professionals ship off a generic template of work used for every application. It may save you time, but the hiring manager on the other end isn’t fooled — it’s very easy to tell who has put thought into compiling a portfolio and who hasn’t. Be as unique and specific as possible for every opportunity to show your portfolio.

Include a public relations plan (or develop one).

Employers want to see your ability to think as a strategist in research-driven situations. It’s of the utmost importance to showcase that you know the Four-Step Process — research, planning, implementation and evaluation.

By the time you’re applying for that job or internship, you should have a public relations plan to share. This could be from a class, a past internship, a Chapter project or a freelance endeavor.

If you don’t feel confident in the piece, it’s worthwhile to offer your pro-bono public relations planning services to a cause or organization you believe in. Be sure whatever you showcase exemplifies an understanding of research techniques and implications of research.

Showcase examples of work in other disciplines.

One of the most competitive edges you can bring to any potential employer is a multi-disciplined skill-set. Departments are becoming increasingly more integrated across the big three — marketing, advertising and public relations — to achieve their goals. Be sure to highlight examples of your work in marketing and advertising.

If you’re lacking knowledge in marketing or advertising, it’s worth taking a few extra classes or looking for specific experiences.

Package everything in an impressive print and online portfolio.

Overall, your presentation has to be as compelling as the content within it. I highly recommend investing time in an attractive and easy to read print portfolio. Be sure that this core document is easily modified so that you can tailor it according to the person requesting it.

Also, encapsulate your portfolio on a personal website that represents the structure of the print portfolio. If you need help designing/developing either asset, don’t be afraid to reach out to a fellow design student or friend.

Ben Butler, APR is an accredited marketing communications professional and founder of Top Hat IMC—a fully integrated marketing communications firm in Pittsburgh. You can connect with Ben on LinkedIn and on Twitter @BenButlerPR.

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