Who Needs a Portfolio When You Have a Birth Certificate?

"A portfolio is like a manilla envelope with, like, your birth certificate in it, right?" -Demery Gijsbers

If you are a part of the tech industry, you may or may not be scoffing down at me right now from your Silicon Valley ivory tower. I just want to be like you! Thus, I have learned that a portfolio is so much more than a few personal documents when you're trying to develop apps or be a User Experience Designer (me). If you're not in the tech industry, keep reading anyway because you can bring portfolios to your field of study and we can figure it out together!! Wooo!!

It's been a feat trying to put a portfolio together, given that I have little experience to display, and not enough money to buy fancy design software. It's like your Facebook profile when you look at it and say, "How can I make myself look super cool and fun when I actually spend a lot of nights on the couch catching up on Stranger Things?" But for me it's "How do I show my experience when experience is required to get more experience?" and if that's not #JobSearchStrugz then I don't know what is (but I can probably come up with a few more strugs if you really don't think that's it).

If I sound like a Debby Downer (Demery Downer??) to you, just know that this is currently consuming my life along with the start of a new semester and the great potential of a summer internship hanging over my head. If I could just send my birth certificate and show them that I indeed exist, that would be marvelous. I picture a kind recruiter saying, "Oh here we have a certificate of birth for Demery Gijsbers, born January 9, 1997 in Detroit, Michigan. Sounds good to me. Let's hire her!" *Recruiting team high fives each other*

So here's the low-down. A portfolio is simply a collection of your projects, accomplishments, witty captions etc. Many do this using PDFs, others with websites. I have a website, for example, that consists of different web applications I've coded, other class projects to show my developing design abilities, and this blog! Kinda meta with my websites talking about my other websites. 

This is the beginning stages of my portfolio if you want to look at it and give me feedback. It is constantly being changed and updated because sometimes thinking about it keeps me up at night! I'll take the good, the bad and the ugly constructive criticism, but I'm an advocate against cyberbullying, so walk that line carefully. "Thanks for all the help, Hal." I owe ya one. If you get that movie quote, I will send you a virtual hug. And if you're reading this because you were looking for advice on your portfolio, I have some ideas and "things I wish I had done/things I'm still working on" tailored just for you.
  • Start today! Being intimidated by the idea of a portfolio gave me a bad excuse to put it off for forever. 
  • You can totes start V small. No matter what projects you've done (or haven't done) just start a skeleton version. Add pictures you've taken, organizations you've been a part of, research or reports you've conducted, display soft and hard skills. It's like a resume, but prettier and more fun (usually).
  • Download Sketch. It's a super cool, super easy-to-use software that's good for things like wireframing or just playing around with the iPhone design. Act quickly though, because (apparently?) it's a trial. You will get kicked out after a certain amount of time if you don't pay. That's a general life lesson, too. 
  • Easy-To-Use Websites are at your disposal! WordPress is the one I used, and it's awesome. I use the free trial (obvi) but there are some higher-tech, higher-cost options if you get really into it and decide to make a career out of it. I am not as well-versed with SquareSpace, but I do believe it starts with a free trial, and you will eventually need to get very serious (willing to pay cashola) about it. 
  • Look up samples online. Literally just search "Sample Portfolio for..." and then finish it with your desired career. You know how to Google. There are a lot of higher ups (people that have worked at places like Google and Amazon etc) that have uploaded their own portfolios, and reasons why they add stuff and keep other stuff out.
  • Have your friends look at it. Even if they don't know what a portfolio is, you can ask them things like "Does this look cool?" "Does this show me off more than my resume?" "Should I just send my birth certificate and call it a day?" I asked some of these and got some brutal responses, but it helps to have a new set of eyes look at it and say "Hey, that's pretty" or "Nah, there's too many words there." And if you're lucky enough to have access to professors or college faculty, ask them too. Some of them have even hired people just like us, and most of them are very willing to help. 
  • Don't sweat it. If your portfolio doesn't get you the first job you applied for, you're stronger for it. And good news: you can keep changing and updating it and sending out new versions as you keep working on newer, better projects. (TBH this was more just personal encouragement for me. Keep your head up, Dem.)
Stay cool and feel free to reach out with questions, feedback, or if you want to talk about why ice cream is so important to me that I included it in my professional portfolio. 

All my best and then some,


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