Portfolio, Portfolio! Wherefore Art Thou, Portfolio?

Remember the days when your resume was enough to get your foot in the door at a company? In 2013 if you are a Creative, chances are your portfolio is more important than your resume. As a recruiter I’m finding that, especially with recent advancements in digital media, having a resume just isn’t enough anymore. Your portfolio is your visually attractive representative, which should speak volumes about you. Ya know, kind of like an online dating: a hybrid of content and images.

Here are a few recurring issues I see with portfolios and how to fix them:

Thing 1: “The User Experience”

User Experience (or UX) is exactly how a person feels about using a system. For example, ever try to purchase concert tickets, or airfare online and can’t find anything you are looking for? How do you feel about that? Probably not motivated to go back to that website, right? Here’s the deal: your goal when creating a portfolio of any kind is to make it as easy as possible to navigate through and get to the areas you are looking for.

Thing 2: “I’m Ready For My Close Up”

Copywriters, listen up. I’m entering your portfolio to review the concepting behind the taglines, short form, or long form copy you have written. Screen shots in super small font are not only frustrating for the individual, but raise concern that you are “trying to hide” your work and just showcase the prestigious client/brand. If I need to move reeeeeeally close up to my computer screen, my first constructive criticism will be to ask you to change the font.

Thing 3: “A Little Make-Up Never Hurts”

Hi again, Copywriters. The reality is this: we are looking at your portfolio to see your content and how conceptual you can be. But a little visual stimuli can go a long way (remember, we want our viewers to have a positive user experience, right?). So, I would definitely encourage you to pump in some color, contrast, images, logos, whatever you think is going to best showcase your sense of individual style.

Thing 4: “Can I Have a Bedtime Story, Please?”

Well hello, Information Architects and UX professionals. In addition to seeing samples of your user personas, workflows, wireframes and sitemaps, I want to see a storyboard. Talk me through the process of “what goes on.” How did you get from the requirements to the end product? Everyone loves a good story.

Thing 5: “Separation Anxiety”

Okay, this is my major pet peeve and it ties into Thing 1. If I’m looking at Copy or Art samples in the Health and Wellness category, it would be a time saver if there are labels which differentiate the Health Care Professional work (HCP) and the Direct to Consumer (DTC) and Director to Patient (DTP) work. Why? Because even though recruiters analyze portfolios, we kinda, sorta need you to spell it out for us. That’s why you are the awesome, talented Creative and we are the Talent Finders. Make it easy for us! Group your pieces in the Health and Wellness category, but differentiate the goods.

So, what have we learned today, class? Make your content easily readable, add a little panache, talk us through your work and differentiate your materials. Why? Because the end goal is to engage your audience and create a positive user experience which will increase the number of clicks your portfolio receives every day.

For more information on job opportunities, portfolio advice, or interview skills, connect with me on Linkedin and get on my radar!

Jana Kleinman Photo
jana kleinman graduated from suny buffalo in 2005 with a ba in psychology and concentration in marketing. she began her career in media buying and planning at Universal McCann and Cline, Davis, Mann in nyc before discovering her true calling as a talent scout for advertising and media agencies. jana pursued a bs from the school of psychology and education at touro while working full time as a recruiter. with 6+ years of talent networking experience, want to get on jana’s radar? connect with her on Linkedin.

guest post: a woman’s personal brand


forget sheryl sandberg for a second. let’s focus on joan holloway. christine hendriks’s character on Mad Men is a ship’s figurehead on the turbulent seas of the late sixties. she makes the most of her admirable figure and her character’s fashion sense, portraying a woman far smarter than she is given credit for, or gives to herself.

she attempts to make an executive decision and is put in her place by a coworker who knows the dirty secret of how she came to be on the board. her fellow board members will always take her side because they know she’s their company’s true brand, for a mix of right and wrong reasons. you can feel her ruminating about this for the rest of the episode as she winds up emotionlessly kissing strange men and putting herself down when conversation arises about her title and experience. “don’t forget she’s also a mom!” the writers remind us as joan’s mother leaves her baby boy in her lap.

joan’s struggle with self is far more complex than don draper’s, whose past was laid out for us long ago. don is the son of a prostitute and an adulterous liar with double standards. his wife can’t even kiss a man on camera for her acting job; nope, that makes her a whore: i’m so mad at wifey now…i better go sleep with my neighbor’s wife! oh and how it must hurt don that the invincible peggy, now the competition, has even taken his catchphrases to land a client. the women are stealing his soul! succubi!

i’ve just had a heated discussion with a client about the concept of brand consistency. contemplating this after a shower, i wrap myself in a towel and stomp outside to share with my husband some important words on his company’s brand, as he’s developing ideas on the porch. i stand there in a towel, freezing and dripping, reminding him i do indeed know what I’m doing. no argument there…and why did you come outside in a towel? ok, so at least I’m passionate about what i do. i get dressed, dry my hair and put on makeup. me time, but a distraction nonetheless.

women may always struggle to find their personal brands. in addition to many forms of pressure, there are more appearance-based choices — each with their own perceived implications. almost any men’s clothing department is a boring banner of military sameness: navy blue punctuated by little bits of bright color for the adventurous. the focus is on the man, not the suit. virtually any women’s clothing department is an explosion of color and style, always changing with the season. i can never keep up and don’t try to. Chanel may be timeless, but for those of us who can’t afford her, “when in doubt, wear black.” i just punctuate my black with full strength magenta: done.

then in a delicious irony, my dear friend velvet d’amour calls from paris to have me do the layout for the current issue of her groundbreaking body image/fashion magazine, Volup2.
hell, yes! if you are not familiar with velvet’s work as a photographer and gorgeous plus-size fashion icon, you must Google her bold strut down the runway wearing a t-shirt that reads PLEASE FEED THE MODELS. this is a chick who knows her brand.

–michele gilman


a creator of copy + visuals for Trader Joe’s, michele also has years of improv comedy experience and brings a signature quirkiness to her blog at www.whatisabrand.wordpress.com. she’s currently working on a Mediabistro advertising certificate, and helming Designvoice, Inc. (when not enjoying her 7-year-old daughter). follow her on twitter at @mamagills.

your brain on your sleeve & your heart on the table

before coming to ad school, i had a question that was never sufficiently addressed: just what is ad school?

i tried the logical cartesian approach. there were two parts — advertising and school. so that must mean that it’s a place where you get the rudiments of commercial messaging, a sort of 3 r’s approach for the marketing set: reading, writing and return on investment.

but the more i researched, and the more ad school portfolios i read, i found that no two were alike despite being produced by people who’d had, ostensibly, a similar experience. instead, i found creative and smart people offering solutions to all sorts of real-world challenges, from how to make a search engine as useful as it could be to reducing homelessness in major cities.

and then i started hearing stories about what people were doing once they actually started working. and these pursuits were even broader. but i needed clarity, so i decided to drop into miami ad school for a visit.

i toured with the advisor, eva, and she showed me a few classrooms, all of which were outfitted with every tool a digital creative could dream of. then she pointed out the ping-pong tables in the common space and said, “this is where a lot of our students knock ideas back and forth.”

after that, we sat down and had a long conversation about motivation, creativity and success. ad school was turning out to be like some exquisite stone turned up on the beach. the more i turned it, more colors appeared.

so i decided that if i was to ever know for sure what ad school was, i’d just have to attend. and i did attend miami ad school. i’m still in my first month, and i still don’t have an answer to my question. i’m not sure i ever will.

this is what I’ve noticed so far. the idea reigns supreme, but no one will listen to you if you’re a jerk –– so don’t be a jerk. you’ll be presenting all the time, and since insincerity lacks luster, it pays to keep it real. besides that, it doesn’t really matter who you are as long as you’re willing to always wear your brain on your sleeve and leave your heart on the table. and be curious. it’s questions, not answers, that matter most.

by evan burton

Evan Burton bio picevan burton is a writer from brooklyn. he thinks there’s no metaphysics on earth like oysters and champagne. you can reach him at evan@evanburtoncreative.com

work with a staffing firm: yes or no?

some of you talented individuals may be wondering about the benefits of partnering with a staffing firm.

every staffing firm operates differently, but we all have the same common goal: to match our clients’ job openings with the best candidates for the job. if you’ve never worked with a staffing firm before, or had a poor experience, here are the top 8 reasons you should consider developing a relationship with a talent agent:

benefit #1: we have access
staffing firms have been in business for a while, so we have really gotten to know our clients inside and out. we have access to their job openings, particularly the freelance and unique, hard to fill ones, before they hit the open web.

benefit #2: we “get it”
we have been partnering with our clients for years; we know their personal interests, their preferred work styles, sometimes even their favorite dessert. we can relay these insider tips to you before you interview with them, offering you more common ground than the average candidate.

benefit #3: we have the inside track
clients have a million jobs to do. they don’t really have the time to sort through the tons of resumes entering their web portal, so they put their faith in talent managers to send qualified talent that matches their needs.

benefit #4: we do our best to get feedback for you
ever submit your resume to a job and get no response…for months on end? if a client isn’t interested in your background, we do our best to find out why. this will help you improve your resume and interview skills or figure out what types of roles to be applying for to save you time.

benefit #5: building relationships
if you partner with a talent agent who has nothing for you on tuesday, it’s very likely by friday morning your phone will be buzzing with the opportunity you’ve wanted. by staying in contact with a recruiter, you can continue to access openings for years.

benefit #6: help
we genuinely want to help you get a job. why? because we all benefit and prosper as a result. so we provide constructive criticism in order to help you succeed — perhaps interview pointers, tips on whether or not that trendy nail polish is the right fit for the client you’re meeting, or letting you know if it matters whether the resume paper you’re using is thick or thin. we answer those questions for you, in advance — when you need it most.

benefit #7: we provide referral incentives
every agency works differently, but in my experience, a decent talent manager will have the authority to reward you in some way or another for referring talent if a placement is made. why? it’s good karma for you (you got your buddy a job!) and it also paves the way for an introduction that would never have existed without your help. so we want to demonstrate our gratitude.

benefit #8: money, money, money
while this isn’t always the case, we usually understand our client’s budget parameters. a professional talent acquisition partner is someone who will be very forthcoming with you about the budget in advance. why? because it does us no good to offer you a mid-level copywriting project when you have acd level experience. we always attach a price tag along with your resume so everyone is kept in the loop about salary expectations.

so…should you work with a staffing firm? sure — just be honest and transparent about what you are looking for and give it a shot.

Jane Kleinman Photo

jana kleinman graduated from suny buffalo in 2005 with a ba in psychology and concentration in marketing. she began her career in media buying and planning at Universal McCann and Cline, Davis, Mann in nyc before discovering her true calling as a talent scout for advertising and media agencies. jana pursued a bs from the school of psychology and education at touro while working full time as a recruiter. with 6+ years of talent networking experience, want to get on jana’s radar? connect with her on Linkedin.

sneak peek! see who’s attending speed-date networking tues, april 16th

the rsvps are rolling in for our next speed-date networking night, scheduled for tuesday, april 16th. be there at 7pm sharp for a seat-swapping good time and don’t forget your portfolio and business cards! (haven’t signed up? secure your spot now.) in addition to meeting creative peers (i.e. potential job connections), we also have a number of talent recruiters coming to help you find a job, stat (or down the road). want a sneak peek? here’s who’s slated to attend:

*disclaimer: life and work happen… the following people have rsvped but we can’t absolutely guarantee their attendance.🙂

pamela maretpamela maret
president, TalentBistro
after a successful career in marketing and advertising, i made the move into creative and marketing staffing, and in 2012 launched TalentBistro, a boutique recruiting firm located in manhattan.  i’ve helped some of the world’s leading brands align their advertising and marketing strategies via the right people, processes and technologies,and enjoy mentoring other industry professionals and students, helping them achieve desired business and career results.

caroline blitzcaroline blitz
talent acquisition, Syndicatebleu
working on talent acquisition at Syndicatebleu, a creative staffing agency, i have my hands in many aspects of the recruitment process: sourcing talent, customer/client relations, and operations. even though we have relationships with some large companies, working at a small, boutique agency affords me close connections with both talent and clients.

nicole frangionenicole frangione
talent coordinator, Syndicatebleu
as talent coordinator at Syndicatebleu, i am always on the lookout for stand-out talent! we source for many positions across the creative field, from graphic designers, developers, copywriters, art directors and project managers. we work with great clients, from big agencies, to in-house beauty and fashion clients, and smaller creative tech savvy companies.

emi debosemi debos
project lead, Websignia
i’m an ever-evolving “jackie of all trades,” absorbing terabytes of interesting facts, old and new, and whipping an obscure one out when you least expect it. that just how i roll! i have a background in art and technology and a wicked sharp eye for detail. in my current role as production lead at Websignia, i keep our projects moving on schedule.

desean browndesean brown
engagements lead, Websignia
waaaay back in the day, i was a programmer who wrote code in visual basic, c++, java and even cobol (yes, cobol!). i rounded out my skills when i transitioned to the business side of corporate america, learning the ins and outs of ecommerce, sales planning and operations. i currently oversee the planning and management of our creative, technology and marketing engagements at Websignia.

sign up now

see pictures from our last speed-date networking event

the details:

what: speed-date networking

when: tuesday, april 16th, 7pm-9:30pm

where: Revel, 10 little west 12th street, ny, ny (revelnyc.com)

who: recruiters, creative peers, companies + more

how it works: a buzzer will go off every few minutes and you’ll swap seats until you meet everyone in the room.

don’t forget: your portfolio and business cards!

your target audience: the how-to of resonating

KT blog post pic 3-29-13

it makes sense that you need to resonate with your target when creating advertising, but the real trick hinges on knowing how to do that.

how can you get into the mind of an 8-year old girl, football-watching male, a new mother, a scuba diver, or female sports car purchaser on cue if you’re not familiar with the typical mindset?

here are a few tips that involve immersion:

immerse yourself in the target’s language. if 15-year old skateboarders use the word “sick” as an adjective to describe something they like, and you’re trying to sell skateboards, this lingo is useful to know. visit the websites devoted to your target, read the books written for them, and learn their specific language. if your target is vegan, become an expert on the topic. it’s also fun to pass some time on urbandictionary.com to see how creatively words are bent for new variations.

immerse yourself in the target’s visual realm. if you’re selling something to a 12-year old girl, and a trend with 12-year old girls is fluorescent nail polish and brightly-colored skinny jeans, then your advertising will feel more authentic to them if it contains bright, fluorescent colors. each generation wants to forge its own signature style, so it helps to understand what that might be.

immerse yourself in the target’s culture. there are specific books, movies, snacks, TV and web shows, videos, and music that define each generation, and the younger the target, the bigger difference a few years can make. 13-year olds will have different tastes than 17-year olds, 19-year olds will have different tastes than 24-year olds, and so forth — so try to be as age-specific as possible if your target is under 35 years old. if you understand the cultural offerings that define a generation, then you’ll know what someone is embracing, rebelling against or indifferent to, which can help with your understanding.

a copywriter is so many things rolled into one industrious and curious person: researcher, character actor, investigative journalist, linguist, editor, platform inventor, fact checker, artist, promoter, and author of both fiction and non-fiction – which is what makes the challenge so thrilling.

do you have any strategies or tips for resonating? if so, send them along!

— kim taylor

dispatches from ad school: standing up to public speaking fears

Lina standupi have been a classically trained pianist since I was 6. as a result, i participated in several recitals, from the auditorium of my elementary school to the stage at Carnegie Hall. those butterflies that everyone speaks of before they do anything of remote value in front of an audience? i never experienced them at the time. i heard of them from my mother, who subsequently grew them for me. growing up, i was a performer. i was always doing something in front large groups of people. i don’t remember thinking twice about it, i simply did it without protest.

i was the same much throughout high school and college. i was always the first to volunteer to speak. i loved the attention. and then somewhere between the end of college and the beginning of ad school, it felt as if someone turned off the “performing” switch. i no longer wanted the spotlight. i felt self-conscious. i found it difficult to articulate my ideas to large groups of people who were watching as my mouth vomited words and i inwardly chanted “do not faint right now, do not faint right now, do not faint right now.”

i knew that with advertising came presenting — i just wasn’t prepared for this much presenting. at Miami Ad School you have to present roughly three times a week. these presentations get more intense with each quarter and often longer. on occasion you will have to present at agencies in front of several creative directors. it’s nerve-wracking, to say the least. at first i had a hard time coping with this aspect of advertising, but as the activity grew more repetitive, it became increasingly easier to get up there. this is especially true if you feel passionate about what you’re presenting, so be passionate. allow yourself to get lost in the moment, articulate your ideas the way you would to your friends,  make your presence known. don’t worry: half the time, people will be too busy g-chatting to even listen, so do it for yourself. push past the uncomfortable. let fear be your motivator. if i can do it so can you, i promise.

a week ago, i performed stand up in front of 50+ people at MAS. every copywriter has to take the stand up comedy class, and in those 10 weeks you learn to leave your inhibitions at the door and perform to your best ability. for me, it was a weekly challenge but as i got up there in front of my peers and held the microphone below my mouth, i forgot all about my fears. it felt like i was playing the piano, except instead of hitting a bunch of different keys, i echoed words spoken directly from my heart.

for me, stand-up comedy was one of the most difficult things i have ever done in my life. a week later, i still can’t believe that i did it. after i was done with my 7-minute bit, which was performed in front of my peers, their friends, and a dozen creative directors, i felt more alive than i ever had in my life. it felt like the ending of a great date; there was this indescribable yearning for more.

although i’m not sure if i’ll ever do stand up again, i can say that my fear of public speaking has now taken a backseat, and those butterflies that i didn’t have when I was 9, well — they’re around now, but they’re the best kind of butterflies anyone can have.


by elina rudkovsky

about the author: When Elina isn’t writing for or about advertising, she is with her therapist talking about it. Check her out at ElinaRudkovsky.com