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.



How to Write a Blog

This website has not been up for very long, but I did (and continue to do) a lot of research on how to make a blog an effective marketing platform. My goal for this website is to build up its audience and content enough that it can generate some revenue for me. To be able to do this, I first needed to nail down the specifics of how to write a blog.

Setting up your site is the easiest and, arguably, most fun part of this whole process. Existing hosts like WordPress, Squarespace, or Blogger have made it cheap and simple for a person with little to no coding experience to create a decent website. They have pre-made themes, navigable customization, and fairly good customer service in case you get hung up. Getting your website out is easy. Making a website that people want to visit is hard.

Now you have to write and you have to learn to write well. Writing well will be different for everyone. It all depends on who you’re writing for. What I consider good writing today is not what my English teacher would give me an A for. It’s all about gauging your audience and tweaking your content as you go along. I have not been the most consistent in the topics or quality of my blogs, but that wasn’t my goal for this month. My goal was to blog every day so I could build up my site before I tried to sell it as anything specific.

That’s the next step for your website: set goals. It’s important to make sure the goals you set benefit your site where it stands right now. If you just made your website, it would be unwise to set a goal of getting $100 in ad revenue in the first month. It’s definitely possible, but it may not be helpful for the longevity of your site. In my opinion, most people feel slightly uncomfortable when looking at an empty website, so I set a goal that would make sure that wouldn’t happen. Although I wasn’t consistent in what I wrote about, I was consistent in that I wrote every day and that made my site look full and active.

Pick something every month that you want to be consistent in. This month, I just wanted to get into the habit of writing every day. Now that I have that habit, I can begin to narrow down what I want to write about. Once that’s narrowed down, I might start thinking about how long I want my blogs to be. When generating content, there will always be new things to work on. In the beginning, there will be a lot of areas that need help, and that can be overwhelming. Focusing on one objective will make the whole process of improving a lot smoother.

Today is the last day of my July goal and I’m very happy to say I was able to achieve it. Writing has easily become one of the best parts of my day and I am glad to be taking such a good habit with me to Montreal. For August, I want to take a good look at what I’m writing and try to be more consistent in the times that I write my blogs. If I leave them to the last second, I’ll just write about the first thing that pops into my head and publish it, usually unedited. This was fine for my July goal, but won’t work for my August goal. The process of transitioning from one aim to another is tricky, but it will get easier with practice. Happy writing.



To – Do Lists

Over the course of my life, I have written many to-do lists. They are straightforward and easy to use while trying to keep track of my day to day life. Despite being one of the simplest forms of organization, I have never completed one.

That’s right, I cannot remember a single time I have finished everything on a to-do list. As technology and my work have grown, my to-do lists have become more sophisticated, but not more complex. I now keep my to-do list with my notes, calendar, and inbox in one tab. This type of consolidation has made my life a lot easier, but it has not made an impact on my inability to fulfill the tasks I give myself every day.

However, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. I’ve stopped seeing to-do lists as an index of everything that absolutely must happen within a given day and more of a constantly growing and changing record. My to-do list is never complete because I’m always adding new tasks to it, often ones that come from wrapping others up. For example, I sent out an email today, which is something I was able to check off of my list. When the person who received the email responded to me, they gave/asked me to work on another task for them, therefore adding another job to my list.

It has taken me a while to come to this perspective. I used to be very hard on myself when I wouldn’t realize the full extent of these lists. Soon enough, I realized that I was still accomplishing a lot even though I wasn’t finishing the list. It’s good to remember that we will never see every dream we have ever had actualized, but we can sure see a hell of a lot of them come true. This principle applies to the smallest levels, even to-do lists.


Messing Up

I messed up, I forgot to blog yesterday. Was it inevitable? Not necessarily. Am I going to beat myself up over it? No.

I started this whole daily blogging thing for two reasons: to grow my content and force myself to practice writing every day. It’s a goal of mine to have my writing pay my bills one day, but the only way I’m going to get good enough to make that possible is through constant work. I didn’t start daily blogging with the intention of never missing a single day.

Yes, you will mess up at some point, we all do. The way to keep yourself from going crazy about it is to remember why you started on that goal in the first place. Your larger aspirations are there to help keep the details in check.



I hate multitasking, but I do it anyway. I always half-ass my work when I multitask. No matter what, I cannot give 100% to three or four different goals at the same time. When I was growing up, multitasking was all the rage, but now I think people are starting to understand that dividing attention when working on something important might not be the best idea.

I’m multitasking right now. I’m writing this blog, talking to someone about an upcoming trip, thinking about all of my belongings I need to pack for this upcoming trip, checking my itinerary, my hotel reservation, my boarding passes, my passport, etc. I’m multitasking to distract myself from my anxious energy.

My anxiety is coming from several different places. The one that is front-and-center right now is a page I am working on that I don’t feel like I am contributing to well. I believe in this page, I love what it stands for and what it is trying to create, but my fear of my inadequacy has kept me from doing outreach and adding value.

I think in some ways, public education really made it easy for me to tear myself down. I have noticed that many of my peers outside of the school I went to have a lot more constructive opinions on my work than most of my teachers did. My constant worry that I am not adding value to the projects I work on may stem from the overwhelming pressure I felt to compare myself to others and my past self. These ideas of measurement all came from public education. I see them as a failure of assessment.

From now on, I want to only focus on improving my communication skills without judging my past mistakes. They have inhibited me so far, making me feel incapable of even trying something new. It is time to let them go and realize that they are products of a system that never wanted to help me.