Job Hunting with a Lacklustre Portfolio?

Hi all,
I graduated from university in September last year after studying BA Product Design and I am looking to move into full time employment. And looking for some advice. We are now in March and it seems like it has been a long road, with not that much to show for it. When I left university in June I was able to quickly get myself an internship for 6 weeks over the summer. Apart from a freelance / work experience exhibition design project which started in December that is rumbling along at quite a slow pace, there has not been much work to draw experience from.

After discovering these boards around a month ago I have been soaking up as much information and perspective as I can. I have redone my CV according to a fantastic post I found about graduate employment and taken great steps in understanding what kind of portfolios stand out to a hiring manager.

In doing so however, I have come to the following conclusions

  1. I have been running around like a headless chicken with no real focus - doing one thing one day and then another thing the next day, jumping from trying to better my portfolio to applying for jobs with no real expectation that i will get a response, never mind a call up for a interview.

  2. After benchmarking myself against people on coroflot, behance and these boards, globally. My portfolio is average, at best. I feel like i have strong ideas that turn into products that i am proud of, and can deliver the same strong ideas in employment but my sketching and ability to visually demonstrate my processes and skills is lacking.

With this realisation I have got some focus. I have collected examples of sketch styles that are at the level I want to be at, along with some books and I am going to sketch sketch sketch on self directed briefs until I’m proud to put the work in my portfolio and I am able to back sketch some existing projects to demonstrate the process.

With a number of job adverts that intrigue me, it would be great to get opinions on the best way to apply for these jobs with a lacklustre portfolio? Is it best to quickly re work the existing content and then apply, or hold out on applying for jobs until my portfolio is up to a standard I am happy with?

If this topic has been covered in a previous thread, I apologise, I’m still fairly new, please point me in the right direction.

Thank you


CV: Dropbox - Error

Portfolio: Dropbox - Error

I think you will find that this is a pretty common experience. I know other pros that started the same way. In my experience what you have gotten so far is great. An internship does put you one step closer to that full time position. Generally I would suggest you work on your portfolio in till it is where you are proud of it. You need to be excited about your own work or it will come across that you don’t think it is good enough. I would definitely work on your sketching. The good though is I think you are not far off. Just keep ideating on your portfolio. I like a lot of you 3d renderings these are strong. So if you bring everything else up you will be in a very good place. I think I would hold off on applying in till you are comfortable with your work.


as Singletrack mentioned, struggling a little and having to revise the portfolio when freshly out of school is not uncommon at all and should not paralyze you. A little fear is a great motivator though and will push you forward.
The most important part is to not give up and to keep evolving!

Regarding your portfolio, I am identifying the reverse of a problem, that many other portfolios have. And that is heavier and more complex projects that are built on comprehensive research and analysis which lead you to design exploration, sound conclusions and finally, a great product or solution. Usually, students have these in their portfolio as the school, at least for your thesis, will require something like that. I couldn’t find it in your portfolio and makes it appear quite weak in that regard.

By including something more complex you have the opportunity ti show a wide spectrum of skills within one project, which will help you also in an interview situation.

So my advice would be to maybe not just focus on the sketching skill but rather start projects, that iare complex enough and will show your unique take on a certain, well researched problem or product typography.
In that context, you then can show your ideation skills.
Remember that your job as an IDer is not about pretty illustrations but about the content you are visualizing. That ability to analyze and draw conclusions that you THEN can sketch out and help you design, will get you hired, not a hot sketch book without any comprehensive context, which aren’t angled to projects.

Good luck!

PS: Also, I would definitely review and proof-read your Resume. While the structure is good, the grammar is quite shaky. Especially for someone with English as their first language. Having a flawlessly written resume is essential as it shows attention to detail.

Thanks for the feedback so far, there are some great points for me to build on.

Bepster, I always knew my portfolio was light on background research and showing the process of a design. Having you describe it in relation to university the way you did made me think the emphasis of the process being presented was never actively taught at my university really. We were expected to undertake research and show development but never in a presentable fashion. So that is one big area that I need to work on come to think of it. Thanks. :slight_smile:

Hi Guys - I’ve been able to update my portfolio over the past week or so inbetween a few other things going on and it would be great if you can have a look to see what further improvements need to be made. I’m sort of seeing this as a intermediate portfolio where I can figure what works and what doesn’t work and get a feel for what is missing. I still need to “up” the sketching ability and back sketch some projects, the sketches added were from the orignal processes.

I have saved over the last portfolio so the previously link should direct to the new one. It would be great to hear peoples opinions and thoughts.


I would consider how you present your projects if I were you. I think of the portfolio the same way as I would do a presentation: tell your audience what you will present, do it (in detail), and recap. At the moment the projects could be structured so that the viewer is better guided through them (at least as I see it).

I like to present projects in three stages like this (this may not always be right for all projects):

  1. what is the project? goal, the brief/premises for the project. Who worked on it? Who was it done for? What did it involve/what did I learn/methods and tools involved (keywords for the project) to let the viewer understand what the project involved. Accompanied with either a picture of model/render of final product or some picture/illustration explaining the context of the product/project (1 page*)
  2. process: the most important steps and key findings that became drivers for the solution (could be a few pages*). Include concepts/directions/exploration. This is were an employer will get an impression of how you work and think as a designer.
  3. the end result: explaining the product/final solution (~1 page*)

I personally don’t like having to “guess” what a section of the portfolio is about, and I guess someone looking through many portfolios feel the same way. Make it easy to understand.

From the projects you have in the portfolio I would try to make more out of the Slam kitchenware project. Having something that it seems will/might make it into their product line is a strong project in your portfolio. At the moment this project looks almost more like a CAD exercise than the success it is. I would have liked to see more of the thinking behind (process) and include the fact that it is being considered for production into the same slides as where you present the project.

I’m sure there are other good ways to structure a portfolio as well, but hope some of this helps.

BTW. At the moment pages 2-6 are of a different size than the rest of the portfolio.

*smaller projects wouldn’t be presented this extensively. I guess it depends on what you have done, but I typically have used smaller projects to highlight some practical skill (model making, sketching, cad…).

  1. Definitely proof-read. It’s “An ambitious designer…” not “A ambitious…” That stuff bugs me.

Also, just for everyone out there: unless you are that top .1% of designers with hot sketches, awesome production pieces etc., the little details like grammar will be noticed and will bother people. If you aren’t a total genius, make sure you don’t have small errors in your C.V. or portfolio. I know it’s not fair, but if I’m not screaming, “WOW!!!”, I’m looking for a reason to toss your C.V. in the recycle bin. Don’t give me that reason.

  1. As Bepster said, it feels like you are missing a project. Your C.V. says you have interned and have a little experience under your belt, but it feels like there is very little in your portfolio. That was my first impression.

As a recent student, I would try to have one big complete project presented. If it was weak in one phase, redo it. I would present just the strongest elements of the other projects you worked on.

  1. Your sketching isn’t stellar, but it seems good. Though, I want to see more. I like your chair design, but what were your other ideas? Was this really your best? Why did you make that decision?

Every design problem has at least nine good solutions. I want to see that you found them and picked the best one for your project.

  1. Cut to the chase. You need to wow me at a glance. Right now, you have a lot of pages that are dialogue and I want to see a car chase. Pages 2-4, 8, 9 seem like filler. If you really need them, but this at the back. When I opened your portfolio, I felt that you didn’t have any work to show. As I moved my way through, I started wondering why you didn’t put the good work up front.

  2. Image quality. At least on my computer, everything is a little fuzzy. This especially hurts your renderings. I need to see a sharp, crisp rendering to see if you know what your doing.

  3. To sum up, you are close to having something here. Keep working at it.