Design Portfolios That Will Actually Get You A Job With No Experience

Expert tips on how to make your portfolio stand out so your work can outshine your lack of experience.

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Written by Gyeongwon Kwak, social media content writer at Path Unbound. Edited by Stella Guan, Founder & CEO of Path Unbound.

Everyone has to start somewhere but it doesn’t mean that you have to be like everyone else. 

This is an important idea to consider when you’re looking to start your creative career in design and you’re polishing your portfolio for future hiring managers. 

It’s important to stand out and showcase your unique skills while telling a cohesive story within your collection of work.

You don’t have to have experience to get hired (although it does help greatly), as long as you sell yourself in the right way. 

This means that you’re able to show hiring managers your potential for growth and unique combination of skills that you can bring to their workplace. 

You can work around this challenge of “no experience” in multiple ways.

Table of Contents

Show only your best work

This might be a no brainer but you would be surprised at how many portfolios are rejected due to “filler” pieces that aren’t as good as the rest of the portfolio. 

From Designer Nahel Moussi designed a beautifully creative vertical carousel based on typography to showcase their best work.
From Designer Nahel Moussi designed a beautifully creative vertical carousel based on typography to showcase their best work.
From Designer Nahel Moussi designed a beautifully creative vertical carousel based on typography to showcase their best work.

You don’t need to meet a certain number for the work you include in your portfolio. Only include your best work that you can be proud of showing to the world.

A good rule of thumb to go by is to make sure your weakest piece of work doesn’t bring down the rest of the portfolio.

Add a “Playground” page

In many portfolios, the possibility of adding an experimental draft page is often overlooked. This can be a safe creative space for you to add the work that you wouldn’t put upfront under the “Works” page.

Designer Samuel Kang has a great “playground” page for his experimental projects.

You can also name it whatever you want with common examples being “Playground”, “Lab” or “Mood board”. This can be a great place to show your creative process for hiring managers.

Aesthetics are important, so is accessibility

It can be tempting to put most of your effort into how “good” your portfolio has to look, but what hiring mangers value more is accessibility and functionality as in “How easy is it to navigate through their portfolio?” or “Is every element on the page useful?”

Designer Adrien Laurent uses good color contrast for their portfolio site

Check your menu bar or navigation labels to make sure that even someone with no design experience can explore your portfolio and find what they’re looking for. Make sure everything is legible by checking the font style and size.

Don’t be afraid to try different options for your navigation menu such as a four corner menu instead of the typical top-bar menu.

Start with a “hook” and end with a “cliffhanger”

It’s important to have your strongest pieces at the beginning and at the end. This increases the quality of the viewing experience for anyone looking through your portfolio.

“Cliffhanger” pieces that could pique the interest of a hiring manger who many want to know more about your projects can be game changing.

As soon as you get them “hooked”, you automatically have an icebreaker at the interview.

Add page transitions

This is a simple way to add a finishing touch to your portfolio to make it seem more cohesive as a whole. Make sure the transitions aren’t too overwhelming or distracting though as they can ruin the viewing experience.

Designer Denys Loveiko uses animated page transition to showcase his creativity. He kept the transitions fairly subtle and not over the top.

Show variety

It’s important to show a diverse range of work that require different skills to create. Hiring managers need to see that you can do more than one thing.

Tell your story

Storytelling is an important skill for designers. Unfortunately, most schools don’t teach this skill to design students.

Our founder and CEO, Stella Guan, told her story in audio, written and visual formats that created an engaging experience for users to get to know her as a person

What kind of story do you want to tell through your work?

Is it clear what you’re trying to convey to someone looking at your portfolio for the first time?

Are components of your story in the correct, logical order?

What is the “behind the scenes” story behind this particular piece of work?

Can you show your human side and tell your life story so that hiring managers can get a glimpse into your personality?

Market yourself at every opportunity

One of the best ways to build connections and network is by being more accessible and easier to find for other creative people in the industry.

One way you can accomplish this is by improving your “coming soon” pages that are still under development. Often times, designers leave these kind of pages blank. This means that people visiting your portfolio are at a dead end.

This problem can be fixed by plugging in your social media accounts and email address or by presenting a teaser or summary for what is to be added to the page.

Designer Andy Davies kept things simple but didn’t forget to include the most important elements right in the first section. You will never struggle to find his social media and contact information.

Keep them interested in your work.

Add a dream client project

This is a way to add a project under your belt without actually being hired. Show what you would do if you were hired by one of your dream employers or big-name companies. Having these kinds of scenarios can help hiring managers visualize what you would do if you were hired in their own company.

It can be daunting to take your first step into the design industry but remember that it gets easier once you get that first design job so make sure to use these tips to make your portfolio even better.

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