Laura Reynolds is a final year English language and linguistics student at the University of York, and deputy lifestyle editor of The Yorker, set on a career in magazine journalism and features writing. She writes for Itchy City guides and The Young Creatives among others. When not dabbling in student journalism she can be found on Twitter @scribbling_lau or updating her blog.
So you’ve polished your CV and covering letter until they sparkle, and sent them off while doing a rain dance for luck. Then, finally, comes the Holy Grail for wannabe hacks everywhere: an invite to an interview.
A key, but often overlooked, necessity of interviews is a portfolio of your work, showcasing your journalistic career to date. Even if you’re not asked to bring one to the interview, it’s good to be prepared, and it’s great to have solid examples to refer to when answering tricky interview questions. Here are some tips for creating and tweaking your portfolio…
Back to basics
Professionalism is tantamount, so avoid brightly coloured and garishly-patterned binders. Ideally, get a binder with plastic wallets so that your work is protected, but easily interchangeable. It must be big enough to portray a wide range of work, but not too large to make it difficult to lug around on buses, trains and tubes en-route to interviews.
Begin with a CV
It makes you appear professional, and ensures that the person reading it knows who you are. Plus it’s a great way to highlight your skills before they view your work, putting them in a more positive frame of mind for doing so.
Next, have a contents page
This should include the title of all work, plus publication title and date, in the order in which they appear in the portfolio. For online pieces, ensure you include a URL, either on the contents page or as a caption.
What comes next is up for debate
And different sources give conflicting advice. Once you’ve decided which articles and pieces to include, the tricky bit is putting them in order. Some people order them chronologically, but others feel that by putting your most recent work at the back, it is tucked away. Some organise it by publication/topic/format. There are infinite ways to do so, but as long as it is systematically laid out, and easy for you and your interviewer to locate individual pieces, it’s fine. Don’t forget to put the right order on the contents page.
Don’t feel that you should have to include everything you’ve ever produced
If it’s not your best work, or you’re not particularly proud of it, ditch it. If an employer sees several average pieces sandwiched between the occasional stunner, it is less likely to impress than a selection consisting entirely of outstanding pieces of work. This is providing that you have enough work to produce a substantial and wholesome portfolio without the rushed filler pieces.
If you have a blog, don’t be afraid to include some of your best work from it, but don’t include it all. Chances are you included a link to it on your CV or covering letter, so your interviewer may have already seen it and doesn’t want to see it all again.
Tailor your portfolio to the publication
If you’re applying for a writing job at a travel publication, ensure that a large part of the work in your portfolio is focused on travel. At the same time, do include other pieces of work as well, to show that you are flexible; nobody wants a one trick pony.
If the article appeared online, print it in the original format for a more professional appearance. If it appeared in print, include the original, or at least a decent copy of it. If you provided accompanying images, make sure this is clear too.
If you’ve got any tips for creating the perfect portfolio, tweet us @wannabehacks or get stuck into the comments. We look forward to hearing from you!
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look