Portfolios Aren’t Just for Creatives

Jo Gobbo


Doing what I do (recruitment for creative agencies) I spend a lot of time helping people to get prepared for interviews. What continues to surprise me is how few non-creative people have their own portfolio.

If I think back to when I was a creative agency account management graduate or a young Account Manager (back in the day!), I always had something in addition to my CV in my back pocket, ready to whip out during an interview to help me stand out from the crowd. As I didn’t have my own laptop (couldn’t afford one, and yes laptops did exist, I’m not that old!!), as an Account Manager I would carry around DM packs and print ad samples with pride, ready to talk about how I helped to make the work happen.

Now everyone has a laptop and/or tablet, there’s really no excuse not to have your own portfolio.

4 reasons you should have your own portfolio:

  1. So few people outside of creative teams have a portfolio, so instantly you’ll stand out if you pull out a slick and well-crafted portfolio during an interview (or it might help you land an interview in the first place)
  2. It helps you to create and define your own personal brand
  3. It helps you to frame your responses at an interview, especially if you have a mind-blank
  4. Visuals are more memorable, so you’ll stick in the mind of the interviewer

Ok I’ve convinced you, so where do you start? 

  • Identify what your own personal brand is. Who are you? What are you trying to say about yourself? What do you want people to think about you? Once you know this you can get cracking.
  • Look at your own CV and what content you have in there. Your portfolio shouldn’t be a repeat of your CV with pictures, it should be the detail and examples of work that you might have hinted at in your CV.
  • On- or offline: Decide if you want your portfolio to live online or offline. Do you want it publicly available as a website (and do you have the skills to create this yourself or the money to pay someone else to do it)? Or do you want to have an offline version that you can send out with a job application or present at an interview? If you see yourself as a ‘digital native’ and work in the digital field as a specialist, you’ll know the answer to this! Also consider linking an online portfolio to your LinkedIn profile. If you have an offline portfolio, pick a program you are most experienced with so you can make it look great (consider Canva, Keynote, Prezi, PowerPoint, etc). Think about file size so it’s easily sharable.
  • Set a structure; again this should be personal to you, but a simple and effective structure can start with:
    • ‘Who I am’ intro
    • Your values or what you want to stand for in your role
    • The work you’ve been involved in, which I suggest structuring like a case study:
      • What was the client’s business challenge and brief?
      • What was the strategy?
      • What was the creative solution / the work?
      • What did success look like (try to be measurable here, even if you can’t communicate confidential results, you could say something like “hit the agreed KPIs in 2 months instead of 6 months” 
  • The YOU factor: Weaving through your portfolio should be the YOU factor; what did YOU do to contribute/manage/lead, how did YOU make the work better?
  • How much content: You should only have a sample of the very best of your work, not all of it, so curate wisely and think about the order. We recommend you end with your absolute best work. This should also be recent work, ideally from the last 2 – 3 years so it’s not out of date. Better to have someone wanting more, than boring them with too much information. If presenting your portfolio this should only take you 10 – 15 minutes max.
  • Words or visuals: This is an opportunity to be much more visual rather than long-copy like your CV. Even if you’re not a designer by trade, you should spend time to craft a design and layout that works for you (or outsource this on freelancer.com!), after all, remember this is your own brand you’re crafting.

How to use your portfolio

This is really up to you. Some people will send out a portfolio alongside a CV. Some will hold back the portfolio from a job application and state something like ‘portfolio of work with more detail available on request’. Some just take their portfolio along to an interview. You could see this as the ‘surprise and delight’ option, as not all agencies or companies will expect non-creatives to have a portfolio.

Easy right?

I look forward to a flurry of portfolios coming my way soon!

Jo Gobbo is a Senior Talent Consultant at iknowho, a specialist recruitment consultancy in the creative agency and marketing space. If you’re looking for a new position or would like to have a confidential chat please get in touch via: jo@iknowho.com.au / 02 8925 9209