Welcome to the perfect guide for college students.
When applying to jobs in an artistic field, it is difficult to know how to best demonstrate creative skills to a future employer when all they have is a resume, cover letter, and work samples to learn about you. For aspiring journalists, editors, graphic designers or communication directors, showing that they not only have the necessary skills, but can also implement them in a desired career is crucial to any application. Building a portfolio demonstrates professionalism and showcases a potential recruit’s experience in their field of choice.
Start with the basics. “The first thing I would say would be for a student to pick what platform they want to use for a portfolio,” says Cathy Barrios, Career Advisor for FSU’s English Department. For a basic format, Barrios recommends starting with the FSU Career Center’s layout. “It’s very official looking, very professional. If you’ve never done one before it can definitely help you get started.” The Career Center has a variety of tools on their site to help undergrad and graduate students build a portfolio to best showcase their skills, including tutorials and samples to guide users as they work. Accessible through portfolio.fsu.edu, the Career Center’s layout includes tabs to showcase a bio, resume, relevant skills, and artifacts, where students can both upload Word documents or PDFs of essays or articles, or attach links to online publications, graphic design, or artwork. When sharing the portfolio with a potential employer, users create an individualized key word to allow the company access. The site also shows when employers have viewed an individual’s portfolio.
Show off your creative side. Barrios recommends using creative sites, like Wix, that help users personalize their portfolios. “It has a lot of different templates, so if you’re not web design-savvy, it provides you with a lot of great resources to just pick a template and start from there,” says Barrios. Atavist is similar, allowing users to design a blog format, akin to Wordpress, to showcase and link future employers to relevant work. Users can play around with colors, backgrounds, and layouts to best fit their personalities or match the type of job they want to attain. However, a portfolio should still be clean and organized so that a company can focus on everything the student has accomplished and get a clear picture of how he or she can be an asset to the team. Need some extra help? The Williams Digital Studio also has excellent expert advice and resources to help students design their ideal portfolio, for free.
Think about prospective companies. What might your dream employer want to see in writing or digital samples? For students looking to go into journalism, strong communication and writing skills are crucial. “Your network is really important,” says Barrios, “so show that you can work with different types of people.” Experience writing for campus publications, volunteering, and holding public relations or creative positions in campus organizations are all great ways to gain experience in this area, outside of an internship alone. If entering the realm of public relations, examples of event planning and promotion, graphic art, and social media are amazing ways to demonstrate your abilities. “It’s more about results,” advises Barrios, “showing what you’ve accomplished to promote that goal or task.” PR agencies are results-oriented, so having stats on the results of a social media campaign, such as the number of viewers or followers gained, would wow an interviewer and demonstrate that your work has proven effective.
A resume, along with a portfolio, should be tailored to the applicant’s desired position. Paid or unpaid internships, research, leadership opportunities, and community service are all relevant experiences to include in a CV. “There really are so many different categories, and it all depends on what skills the employer is looking for and what experiences you’ve had to showcase those skills,” says Barrios. “At this level, any experience can be valuable.” Undergrads can find ways to hone communication and writing skills in almost any position.
When applying to a creative field, such as graphic design, social media, or fashion-related journalism, don’t be afraid to customize and demonstrate technical skills in the format of your resume. Software like InDesign or sites like Creddle can add color and infographics, setting yours apart from other applicants’. The Career Center has drop in hours, so students can swing by and have advisors take a look before submitting an application. The bottom line is to research, research, research. Know the company inside-out so you can tweak your portfolio and resume to the skills they seek. Make it impossible for them not to hire you.
Get involved. No matter if you’re an incoming freshman or a junior searching for internships, Florida State has over 650 Recognized Student Organizations to get invested in. “Start building your network, start finding great opportunities that seem interesting for the future,” Barrios advises ‘Noles. Clubs, on-campus jobs, even volunteer groups allow students to gain insight into potential careers and learn from other students how to achieve career-related goals.
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