Are You Ready to Present?

Tips and advice for a professional portfolio review.

If you are in the midst of your senior year in college and you are studying public relations, you probably have heard of a portfolio review. If you haven’t, be sure to keep reading. A portfolio review is generally a 30-minute presentation of your collective professional work, academic work or both to an individual or a panel of PR practitioners. Sure, this may sound daunting; however, there are several ways to prepare yourself and make sure you stand out in a sea of applicants.

The University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication held a portfolio workshop this past Friday, Nov. 18, in Agate Hall. Melanie Moir, senior manager at Waggener Edstrom, and Tom Eiland, partner at CFM Strategic Communications, presented tips and tricks to senior public realtions students who will soon head out into the workplace.

Prior to ever stepping foot into a potential employer’s office, you should think about your resume. Your resume should say the following to an employer:

  • What can you do for the employer?
  • What design skills do you have?
  • What kind of skill sets do you have? (e.g., Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, iMovie)
Eiland told the workshop participants that every resume coming into his office looks the same to him. It has a name, address, phone number; you know, the basic information. Then it mentions a university attended, classes taken, and then onto the previous employment. “By the end of the first few paragraphs, my eyes have glazed over, and you are just lost in a pile of other applicants,” said Eiland. “You truly need to stand out.”

First, you need to tell what you can do; then show what you are doing. More importantly, employers want to know who you are other than what you can do on paper. When creating your resume, tell the reader about yourself! Do you like to cook, take photos or play lacrosse? Mention it.

For example, Moir said she once saw the following statement on a student’s resume: “I am as comfortable in Bryant Park as I am on the slopes of Aspen.” This particular student showed her audience how she enjoys both fashion and also outdoor activities (e.g., skiing or snowboarding.) Now the employer can have a sense for who you are, not just what you have done.

Here are a few quick tips the pair also mentioned about resume building:

  • Don’t overstate what you have done for a previous job. It is okay if you have worked at McDonald’s; however, don’t make it sound as if you were managing a department at Microsoft.
  • Create an emotional connection. You may never know what interests the employer.
  • Do not include a GPA. Generally, employers aren’t interested unless it’s stellar. Otherwise it can be a detractor.
  • Don’t miss out on highlighting yourself. 

Next, you need to know what you want to gain from the job you are applying for; from there you can know how to market yourself. “You have to remember that you are the product you are selling,” says Eiland.

You should leave the room with interviewers remembering three things about you, according to Moir and Eiland. However, you can’t leave with this in mind if you don’t walk in knowing what they are. Those details could include a personality trait, a standout piece of sample work or a specific interest of yours.

During the presentation itself, tell a story! The interviewer can flip through pages of your portfolio just as easily as you can. Moir suggested picking three standout pieces of your work to show. “At the beginning of your presentation mention how you would love to showcase these pieces. Then when you talk about each of those three, talk about the key issue, the target audience and the results. Then you haven’t just read what is on the page, you told us what you got from it,” said Moir.

Here are a few final tips Moir and Eiland introduced to the portfolio workshop participants:

  • Fake it until you make it! Employers, interviewers and potential clients know you are nervous. However, don’t start off saying how nervous you are. Remember to be confident in not only yourself but also the work you have completed.
  • Make it personal! Do some research on the person who is going to interview you, or research the company. If you and the interviewer have something in common (either with you or your work) mention it.
  • Ask smart questions and answer all questions. If an interviewer or employer asks is there anything else they should know about you, don’t just say you have covered it all. There is probably something you would like him or her to know.

What other tips do readers have for seniors entering the work field regarding portfolio reviews?

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