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Kristin Rogers Brown and Kate Bingaman Burt

Portfolios and Connections

Educators Kristin Rogers Brown and Kate Bingaman-Burt blessed us with a sunshine-filled chat on our Instagram Live about connection and showing your work. Here's an excellent resource guide on how to be confident with your portfolio, website, and outreach techniques.


PORTFOLIOS

  • The number of pieces in your portfolio depends on YOU and the work you want to show. There’s no formula for this.
  • Include an eye catching, glamorous piece, but don’t shy away from process pieces and mockups, too.
  • Show a group project - what role did you play? Can you bring out the best in a creative idea that’s not yours? Can you lead from behind the scenes?
  • You are the only you, and the way you think is the sweet, sweet candy that folx are looking for.
  • Strong process work should show what it’s like to work WITH you. How do you problem solve? How do your ideas take shape? (hint! be ready to talk about that process story in a portfolio review)


YOUR WEBSITE

  • Keep your strongest work on the homepage, “above the fold” (pre-scroll)
  • Keep your face and bio a click away, or below the fold. Lead with the work.
  • MAKE IT EASY TO CONTACT YOU. i.e...
    • Have a contact form, links to your social media channels, and most importantly…
    • YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS (like, on every page)
Make it EXCEEDINGLY easy for someone to contact you. Nobody should have to hunt for your email address.

CONNECTING WITH NEW PEOPLE - Where can you find them?

  • Your social media channels. Who inspires you? Who inspires them?
  • Design Portland’s directory—look for folx with the “mentor” button.
  • Friends of friends, employees of companies where you’d like to work, teachers, professors, etc.
  • Find people who are working in ways you want to work.


HOW TO REACH OUT

  • The best way is a direct connection through someone you know. Don’t be nervous to ask for an intro. But, if you don’t have that…
  • Get in front of them on multiple platforms at once. Introduce yourself on social media (LinkedIn, Instagram, etc) if you’re mutually connected there, but follow up with a real life email that you find on their site. Social media alone is not quite enough, and can be difficult to keep track of for busy folx. Take the outreach seriously and make it exceedingly easy for them to answer.
  • Offer different ways to connect. Zoom is the standard, but people might welcome a simple (and quick) phone call.
  • Do great research: make sure they’re someone who can answer the questions you have, or give the advice you seek.
  • Have a specific ask based on that research, but don’t have it be rooted in the need for a job or internship; make their first response an easy “yes” for them. Some good examples are:
  • Would you be willing to offer advice on my portfolio? I’d love to get your opinions about one piece that you think is working and one that could use some work.
  • I have a background in X kind of design. Could you take a look at my work and lend your perspective on what other opportunities or areas might be a fit for my work or approach?
Connect with people on more than one platform at once. Introduce yourself on social media, but follow up with a real life email.

WHAT TO SAY ONCE YOU'RE CONNECTED

  • Know who you're talking to—do your research!
  • Be organized. Have some goals for the conversation laid out beforehand.
  • You are driving the ship—guide the conversation, ask good questions. Listen actively.
  • Be ready with a funny story, or a story of failure/how you recovered to talk about. It’s so much more fun for everyone when you’re making a connection on a human level, beyond just showing work!
  • Ask them about themselves—part of this is learning about these people as HUMANS, not just following steps on a path.
    • What is it like to work where you work?
    • Are you doing what you thought you’d be doing when you were in school?
    • Who did you love working for when you first started?
    • How has your work changed with the current climate?
    • What’s your favorite part of your day?
  • Move into the goal of the conversation: portfolio review, advice, inspiration…?
  • Be sure to ask for an additional connection when you’re done, or in the follow up email you will write. “Is there anyone else you think I should reach out to?”

AFTER THE CONNECTION

  • Don’t be afraid to continue staying connected with these people. Send personal projects you’re working on, drop them a line on social media, or directly inform them when you’re ready to work. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and endurance is key to success in the long haul.
  • Always follow up with a thank-you email.
  • We encourage you to announce to your network (and these connections) when you’re ready for new work. There’s a site called “Working/Not Working” where you can log your status, and you can mark yourself “for hire” on Design Portland’s directory.

Be gentle and generous with yourself. This is a hard, unknown time for everyone. Eat cereal! Make time to take care of YOU as well as your practice!

In summary:

YOU ARE THE ONLY YOU

MAKE IT EASY

REACH OUT

KEEP CONNECTED

BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF

EAT CEREAL (metaphorically or literally!)