Applying for jobs? You definitely need a portfolio

Story and photo by Emily Torres

As students of the UO School of Journalism and Communication, we pride ourselves on the level of preparedness our professors and peers have instilled in us, and these skills give us the confidence we need to go out and launch our careers after graduation. No matter what area of study our emphasis is in — journalism, public relations, advertising or media studies — we all are here to learn how to take our storytelling to the next level.

Take, for example, my Campaigns (J-454) class. One of the cornerstones of this public relations capstone course is creating a portfolio. When I signed up for the course, I honestly did not believe I would ever use a hard-copy portfolio in this era of digital media and content sharing. But I was wrong.

A few weeks ago, I applied for an internship in Lane County. At the last minute, I thought to bring my portfolio, just in case. When the time came to explain some of my previous experience, this simple tool turned out to be the most useful thing I had to bring to life everything I had worked on in the realm of public relations.

The hiring team loved this aspect of my interview. They said that digital portfolios and emails often fail to convey the passion job candidates have for their projects. Meanwhile, my portfolio emphasized the broad variety of my skills in living color, demonstrating my writing skills through blog post and press release samples and offering brief overviews of my event planning, social media and overall strategic public relations style. I admit that I was hesitant to use my portfolio during an interview, knowing that my design abilities are not my strong point. Yet, as it turned out, the design of the portfolio elevated the skills I displayed in it and helped the hiring team engaged and on task as I touched on each asset I could bring to their company. After leaving my interview, I felt confident in my ability to delve into detail about the true love I have for the profession.

Emily Torres
Emily Torres

When I graduate, I plan to move back home to California to begin my journey as a public relations professional. As I apply for Bay Area jobs online from Eugene, I can’t help but think of the hundreds of resumes and cover letters my potential employers are reading and how unlikely it is that one of these standard job-application vehicles can capture the same essence of my work such as the portfolio.

Yes, you can convey confidence and enthusiasm for your chosen career path through a simple phone call or Skype session. But I have found that the hands-on approach of providing a portfolio of work conveyed my qualifications with more clarity and believability. It allowed me to show instead of tell them what I can do.

I want to take a moment in this blog post to recognize Connie Chandler. SOJC instructor and all-around amazing woman, Connie led my J-454 class and helped me greatly, along with my amazing teammates, Emily Doyen, Ellen Hovde, and Kaitlin Ellis. In the beginning of the course, we all came in with the same mindset: to get things done efficiently and come out with a great grade. Around the middle of the term, we realized that this opportunity, both for this 10-week project and in the SOJC in general, was bigger than we had expected. Every skill we learned during our time in this school was on display during our portfolio reviews.

Side note: Anyone reading this who is take the Campaigns class in the future, rest assured that portfolio reviews are not scary! I cannot reiterate this enough. As someone who is very hard on my personal work, I was about to literally pee my pants before my review, but it turned out to be the most rewarding 20 minutes I have ever had at the SOJC.

Graduating and finding a job — leaving school and entering the unknown — is possibly the scariest thing I’ve faced in my life. But the SOJC has molded us as young professionals to take that leap. Granted, I am writing this with a few weeks left of college, but from this vantage point, I can already offer this advice to my fellow students who are getting ready to launch themselves into the job force: Keep calm. Everything happens for a reason. If you feel confident in what we’ve spent our whole academic careers doing, then you should proudly show off that portfolio, bring it to life and prove to employers what you have to offer.

Also remember that in the SOJC, we are a team, and each success adds to our own and allows our UO community to shine. Believe in yourself, stay positive and, above all, GO DUCKS!

Emily Torres was born and raised in the Bay Area, where she plans to begin a career in public relations after graduating this spring. She remains a dedicated member of Alpha Chi Omega and works for the University of Oregon at the Student Alumni Association. She has held several internships in the sectors of public relations, marketing and communications both at UO and in the Bay Area. She loves traveling, relaxing with family and friends, the San Francisco Giants and attempting to cook!