It's time to take a more refreshing approach to job seeking

By Philip Crewe

Design graduate prints his CV on a four-pack of beer to land dream job.

Graphic design graduate Brennan Gleason’s fantastic CV/portfolio gained quite a lot of media coverage this week. 

Way back in February, Brennan sent a four pack of beer to the three companies he most wanted to work for. This might sound more like a bribe than an application, but each bottle label showed a taster of a project from Brennan's portfolio along with a QR code linking it to more information. The carry case for the beer has his CV on it – all laid out in a beautifully minimalist craft beer style.

Needless to say he got a job.

It's a good lesson in the power of quality over quantity, but reading it made me think back to the few portfolios I’ve seen that really stand out. I have been part of ECHO’s internship program for a number of years now and have seen hundreds of student and graduate portfolios, both good and bad.

As a (very) broad rule of thumb a portfolio should show your range and depth of skills, and the way you present yourself should prove your passion and add depth to the thinking behind your projects. Sketching and an understanding of form are the things we really like to see. It’s always nice when a project is told with a narrative, not just laid out stage by stage.

Every year the portfolios we get seem to be more polished. Online portfolio sites such as coroflot and behance, and design blogs are good for referencing how to layout information. And the permeation of CS suite provides an integrated tool to help students arrange their work in a clean, simple and logical format. Thankfully the fad of rating skills using a pie or linear graph seems to have subsided this year (we are yet to find a graduate who knows 4/5ths of everything on Photoshop!). With this trend for the standardisation of portfolio formats it’s even more important to stand out. Bringing along sketchbooks and models is a must and occasionally it’s helpful to have a book containing research (this helps keep down the word count in your portfolio too). 

Recently, a graduate from Central St. Martins came in, her work was good and she presented herself well, but what really stood out were some wonderful working models she had us all playing with. A few years ago a student placed a box on the table right at the beginning of his interview, it contained some models from a project but the simple act of not revealing it right away really helped to engage us with his work.

This is also the season for degree show private views, and a trip to New Designers. It’s always hard to see the wood for the trees, and it is impossible to give enough time to each project. I wish there was a consistent format setting out in one sentence what each brief is- that way there would be a simple way of having something to judge each project against.  

Standout has always been important, but with portfolios becoming more uniform it is now vital.

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