A couple of weeks ago, my ECD asked me to join him at a university portfolio night – where he’d been asked to be a guest juror.
He thought it’d be a good experience for me, and also, good for these students to see and speak to someone they could relate to, as I was in their shoes a few months ago.
When your ECD says things like, “You’ll need to know this for when you’re ECD”, you can all but try not to grin like The Cheshire Cat.
We arrived and were ushered into a room packed full of the other jurors, coffee, biscuits and egos.
Admittedly, I felt slightly out of place.
First thought upon entering the room:
I’m half the age of most of these people.
I’m still just a junior creative – who am I to judge their work?
As it turned out, one of the other judges couldn’t make it, so the organizers asked me if I would take his place.
With a nod of approval from my ECD, I tentatively accepted.
We were then taken to meet the students.
Sitting there with their work laid out neatly, welcoming smiles, and a hopeful look in their eyes, it was as if I was looking back at myself. Hello, mirror.
But there was a slight difference:
This time, I was on the other side of the table.
The entire experience was extremely educational – it’s amazing what you can learn when you’re the one critiquing the ideas presented before you.
But rather than telling you what I learnt from the experience, I think it’d be much more insightful and beneficial if I use my experience to give current students a short list of “DOs and DON’Ts” when it comes to presenting your portfolio.
1). Don’t worry if you’re a little nervous.
In some respects, it can even be endearing. It shows that you care.
2). Don’t have too much written down.
Especially when it comes to the idea – try and be as concise as possible. One sentence is best. If you can’t fit your idea into one sentence, then chances are the idea’s not that great anyway.
3). Don’t be predictable.
As a juror, I saw 10 students – each with around 6 ideas in their books. That’s 60 ideas in an hour. So don’t put anything in your book unless you feel like it really deserves to be there. As they say, “Good is the enemy of great”. I would much rather have seen a book with 2 great ideas than a book with 10 good ones.
4). Do include personal projects – if you feel like they showcase your thinking.
Creative Directors aren’t looking for the final product; they’re looking for that spark – let’s call it “potential”. And you never know where they may find it.
5). Do work on big, global brands.
You don’t want to spend 5 minutes of your time explaining the position of a brand no one has ever heard of.
I could go on – there are truly many great opinions on presenting portfolios. But after sitting on the other side of the table, those 5 stand out for me. I hope these few words of…dare I call them wisdom…may come of some use to you.
One final thing that may help is to get your hands on a copy of Breaking In: Over 100 Advertising Insiders Reveal How to Build a Portfolio That Will Get You Hired, by William Burks Spencer. A compilation of interviews with Creative Directors, creatives, recruiters and educators, who all give their personal advice on what a junior’s book should consist of.
Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter if there’s anything else you’d like to know or discuss. I’ll do my best to help the next set of presenters out!