Developing Your Portfolio

Well, the semester sure started with a BANG for me. A kidney infection and ten days of recuperation in Charleston have left me feeling stronger and ready to tackle the work I have ahead of me. Just in time for the midterm season too.

A few weeks ago, I received a golden opportunity to have my resume analyzed and torn down by someone who I – and many, many others – consider to be an expert in this field. I immediately jumped on it and just made it into the pool of candidates. A week later, I got a video response in my inbox. I knew my ego would take a major hit, so I didn’t open it for three days.

Fortunately, I was wrong and the person was very honest but also very kind about it. I appreciated the unexpected bits of praise that were thrown around in the response. Before they looked into my resume though, they asked me what job I was aiming for and if I had a portfolio to accompany it.

I have my portfolio on this website, which is a fantastic representation of what I have been able to get done in roughly 2 – 3 years. As great as that portfolio is, it doesn’t zero in on what I want to sell myself as – a marketer. My first question was “is the portfolio I have on my website something I could sell as a ‘marketing portfolio’?” The answer is no, it is not.

When applying for marketing positions, I usually take quite a bit of time to develop a project specifically for the company I am applying for that relates to a hole in their marketing or audience, one of their current goals, or a potential client. The projects vary by company, but that’s the gist of it. So far, it’s been great for me. Even though I didn’t get every position I applied for, I was still building my portfolio. I just didn’t know it.

So, I pulled together what I could into a makeshift file and called it my portfolio. It’s not my strongest work, but the realization that I needed to start compiling my past samples in such a way was perhaps a better achievement. It helped me to understand a few key elements of applications that can be used for almost any position:

  1. Your portfolio should be easy and efficient for the reviewer to look through. Use your best 5 – 10 works depending on how long you’ve been in your career.
  2. Focus on what they are looking for. Really narrow the details of the job posting or description. A custom or even semi-custom portfolio for each application could help tip the scale in your favor.
  3. Building a portfolio takes time. If you’re 18, like me, your portfolio might be small and that’s ok. The best thing you can do is continue to apply for jobs, continue to learn new programs and skills that you can put into use in those applications, and save every last bit of work you do.

Resumes are great, but portfolios are even better. Put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes, figure out how you want to present your abilities, and make it happen. Understanding what control you do have over your applications will help you refine them and make better impressions.



Taking Time

Missing blogs doesn’t feel great. Anyone who does everything every day will tell you that missing a day or two feels pretty awful. However, sometimes it can be healthy and productive.

Going away to college has not been easy for me. I’m having a hard time finding meaning in my classes. Instead, I feel as though I show up to lectures to simply have thoughts and answers fed down my throat. I’m not encouraged to ask questions and, when I do, I’m treated as somewhat of a nuisance. Coming from my background of Socratic education and discussion-based learning, it’s been a hard transition.

I needed time during the weekend to pull myself together and decide how I was going to tackle the week. In reality, I have to finish this semester at least. If I went back home now, I would forfeit all of the work I’ve already done and limit my options until January. When I realized I’d missed two daily blogs, I did feel a pang of sadness and disappointment. I couldn’t let this difficult period disrupt the work I loved so much. However, I also found that I had nothing to write about on those days.

Those days were mostly spent in bed, calming myself down, looking over my options, and coming to the understanding that my situation could be a hell of a lot worse than it is. I took the loss, but I took it as a sign that I was taking care of myself and acknowledging when I couldn’t push something I didn’t want to do.

I don’t want to force myself to write and end up hating the process. I’d much rather miss a few days, take the time I need, and come back to my grind stronger.


Taking Back Control

These last few weeks have not been the easiest time of my life. I’ve been consistently sick, tired, and in a frenzy since landing in Montreal. I’ve been stuck in this idea that I cannot miss any school and to do so would be to jeopardize any chance at success.

It’s dangerous to feel this way. Last night, my boyfriend and I had a serious talk about what it meant to be so far apart and how we both had to make efforts to see each other. In truth, I had made little to no effort. I was waiting for him to come to see me. Until last night, when I looked up a flight to his city and realized that it was perfectly within my reach.

High school never defined me or what I was capable of, so why would college? When I’ve always been told that university would give me more freedom, I can tell you that I’ve only felt trapped these last few weeks. By realizing that I was pressuring someone else to come to me and not acknowledging that I had the power to go to them, I was inhibiting myself and allowing school to control me.

I fly out next Thursday, by the way.


Fake it ’till You Make it

There is some value to the old saying of “fake it ’till you make it.” I’ve taken this saying into serious account for some of the projects I’ve taken on. It works, for me at least, but it works in a concerning matter. You can truly fake your way to mastery of a specific skill or task, but you will be incredibly nervous until you realize that you actually figured out how to solve your problems.

That’s the flaw in this approach. I totally faked my way into believing I had my shit together today when I filed two insurance claims from my last medical expense. I have absolutely no clue if I filled out those forms correctly nor do I have any idea if the insurance company would tell me if I didn’t. I just did my best, tried not to get overwhelmed, and sent them as soon as I could to make sure I had time to fix any issues that might come up.

I guess that’s the thing about being an adult – you have to make a mistake every now and then to understand something. Not every solution or rule is written in black and white. The world is a tricky place – most of the time unintentionally, but nonetheless – and there is no manual for navigating the issues you’ll face. I could have been paralyzed with confusion, left the forms alone, and forgot to file them until after the period of claim was over. Money is a fantastic motivator though.

If faking your expertise or experience works for you, go for it. However, I would never encourage someone at my age to feel as though they need expertise at absolutely anything. At 18 years old, I still don’t have the expertise on how to ask my bank for a box of checks or how to advocate for my own care in a hospital. Things that seem simple become incredibly complex when you’re alone and sick or scared or worried that you’ll mess up. Don’t fake it, just don’t freak out either.