9 Tips to Help You Nail Your Next Portfolio Review

Gray Gill, Former Brand Writer

Article Categories: #Design & Content, #Recruiting

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No matter what creative discipline you work in, portfolio reviews are a valuable part of honing your craft and advancing your career. Here are nine tips to help you showcase your work and prepare for your next review.

Viget recently partnered with our friends at Triangle UXPA to host regular portfolio reviews. Our goal for these specific events is to help connect with designers from marginalized communities who are often excluded from career advancement opportunities. 

In the process of planning these events, we thought about the best ways to prepare for a portfolio review and created a straightforward resource for participants in our event and anyone preparing for a portfolio review. Whether you're a UX or graphic designer, or even a noble copywriter who paints a picture with words, here are nine tips to help you package up your work in a compelling way and gather feedback you can use to take your craft to the next level.

Give yourself plenty of time to create and polish your portfolio

Whether you’re starting from scratch or updating your portfolio, putting together a strong showcase of your work takes time. Don’t wait until the last minute to compile a few projects. Set aside some time to put together a portfolio that highlights your skills, expertise, and personality.

Focus on demonstrating your design process, not just the results

In other words, don’t just show what you’ve worked on but how you went about it. Share what the key problems were and how you were able to solve them. Employers will want to see that you can follow a thoughtful and structured process to achieve effective results. Make sure you include intermediate artifacts like sketches, wireframes, user research, and other documentation that shows your design process.

Be selective in choosing which projects to showcase in your portfolio

Take a quality-over-quantity approach when preparing your portfolio. Remember, you’ll only have 15-20 minutes to review your work during the review so you’ll want to present projects that A) you’re proud of, B) highlight your skillset, and C) will spark a conversation and constructive feedback.

Use clear and concise language to describe your work

You don’t have to sound like a college professor to prove how much experience you have. It’s better to simply relax, be yourself, and speak plainly and to the point when describing your work. Don't be afraid to show your personality, so long as you're using the time productively. 

Specify your contributions and how you collaborated with others

Don’t be shy about clearly stating the specific ways you problem-solved and elevated each project. For any portfolio review (and in future job interviews), whoever you're presenting to wants to know how your role impacted the success of the project. At the same time, a lot of UX and design work involves working with others, so be sure to mention how you collaborated.

Try to show a variety of projects

If you’re a student or just starting out in your career, you may not have a ton of projects to pull from. Even so, strive to showcase a variety of work and demonstrate your ability to work on a wide range of UX projects.

Practice presenting your portfolio ahead of time

A portfolio review is not only a great way to get feedback on your work; it’s an opportunity to hone your public speaking and presentation skills. While we’ve used the word “presentation” a few times, think of this as more of an informal walkthrough. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to run through your portfolio a few times with a friend, roommate, family member, or partner. And be sure to practice in the same setting, using the same tech setup you plan to use on the call. You don’t have to memorize your entire presentation, but try to figure out your timing and the key points you want to hit.

Be open to constructive feedback

In the creative and tech fields, we're constantly getting feedback from clients and our own teammates. Portfolio reviews are a great way to get more comfortable receiving actionable feedback on your work. Don’t go in expecting to be perfect; instead, think about ways you want to grow, questions you may want to ask the person running your review, and how you can apply feedback to hone your craft and portfolio going forward. Being able to absorb insights about your work is essential for doing even better on the next project and achieving long-term professional growth.

Keep your portfolio up to date so you’re ready for future opportunities

Think of this portfolio review as interview prep for future job opportunities. Either on the call or afterward, jot down notes about things you can improve in your portfolio so that you’re ready to seize the moment when you see that opening you really want to go for.

A Couple of Final Pointers

Relax. During your preparation and the actual portfolio review, take a deep breath and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Add your favorite calming essential oil to your diffuser. Make sure you have all your favorite beverages within reach at your work station. While these sessions are a great opportunity to connect with industry peers and receive constructive feedback, portfolio reviews should be safe spaces where you feel comfortable being yourself and sharing your work.

    This time is for you. We’ll let you in on a little secret: on top of getting feedback on your portfolio, reviews can also be a valuable way to connect with the person leading your review and grow your network. 

    Best of luck on your next portfolio review and keep an eye out for upcoming events hosted by Viget.

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