Portfolio Tips

Jul 20, 2022
Kate Walton
Newsletter

Hello from Steyer!

Most of my Workings posts are responses to questions we receive. Today I’ll answer one that we get from writer candidates all the time: “What matters most as I polish my resume and select samples from my portfolio?”

Here is my take:

RESUMES
• Be sure to connect the dots, so the recruiter or hiring manager doesn’t have to.
• This means: study the job description and, if possible, use the same titles and keywords.
• Also, highlight required qualities, skills, and experience, while demoting, from a presentation perspective, points that are less relevant to the role in question.

WRITING SAMPLES
There’s no one portfolio that will work for every position. The key to landing a particular writing role, especially if you are a flexible writer with a range of samples to choose from, is to select the two or three pieces that are strongest in terms of recency, relevance, and quality. As you consider each potential piece, here are some questions to ponder:

Recency
• Is the writing sample from the last few years? If not, it may still be useable (depending on its relevance and quality) but especially in the fast-moving world of enterprise technology, it’s best to go with samples that are no older than 3-5 years.

Relevance
• Audience: at whom was the piece directed? Is that an audience the hiring manager cares about?
• Industry: was the sample commissioned for a space that’s at all similar to the hiring manager’s domain?
• Subject matter: what did you have to understand in order to create the piece? Does that help make your case?
• Business goal: what was the piece intended to do? Is that at all related to what the current hiring manager wants to achieve?

Quality
• Is the sample well structured?
• Is it well written?
• Was it thoroughly edited and proofed?
• Does the actual file (or hyperlinked doc) look good? Are there formatting issues? Resolution issues?
• Is the thought process—and your contribution in particular—clear? (If not, you might consider annotating the doc or even creating a short cover note.)

For other content roles—designers, video producers, etc.—the same principles apply.

Next time I’ll address two related questions:
1. What if I’m starting out and don’t have a portfolio?
2. What if I have a strong portfolio, but everything I’ve worked on is proprietary and cannot be shared? 

Lastly, if all of this shop talk has made your head hurt, set it aside for a bit and just come hang with us. The next Steyer meetup—on Zoom this Friday, July 22nd at noon Pacific—is open to all. As usual, registered attendees (click the RSVP button on the event page) will get an UberEats voucher before the session, so lunch will be on us, and the topic is a fun one: we’ll be talking with a real Navy pilot about the movie of the summer, Top Gun: Maverick. I’m hoping with all my might that he tells us it’s all true, especially the part about excellence stemming from long afternoons of beach football.

Hope to see you there!

Thanks,
Kate

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash