How to Make Your Writing Portfolio Shine

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To present your writing samples, choose a portfolio with protective acetate pages large enough to accommodate both single and multiple page pieces from advertising tear sheets to brochures without gluing them down. (A pocket in the cover that can hold larger samples, like catalogs, annual reports, or magazines is useful too.) This serves a two fold purpose: first, it lets you customize your presentation for different interviews or situations; secondly, it lets your prospect take out a piece to examine it more closely (which, by the way, is an excellent sign).

Put your best stuff first. In the ideal interview, you'll never make it all the way through the book. And, while you should try to show diversity, select samples you think will most interest your interviewer. If you've done your homework, you'll know the types of accounts his or her firm handles try to have your portfolio reflect this.

One of the best things you can do in a portfolio is show an entire public relations campaign that you worked on from start to finish. Start off by showing your initial work on the campaign and use it to illustrate the strategy you chose for it. Next include the actual "pitch letter" that you sent out to media members to interest them in your project, and finally, include clips of the actual media coverage that resulted from your efforts. This "start to finish" approach will demonstrate the full range of your skills.

If you're new to the job market and are "thin" on printed or published samples, here are two suggestions. Use writing samples from your college courses (advertising or otherwise) and accompany each with a creative platform if you can define your objectives in writing then show how you achieved them, the battle is half won. Another way to showcase your skills is to choose a few published ads from magazines or direct mail pieces from your mailbox and rewrite them better. (Here, of course, you'll want to select products or services relevant to your interviewer's interests, being careful not to rewrite any of his or her pet projects.)

The Records You Need

The resume writing process begins with the assembly and organization of all the personal, educational, and employment data from which you will choose the pieces that actually end up on paper. If this information is properly organized, writing your resume will be a relatively easy task, essentially a simple process of just shifting data from a set of the worksheets to another, to your actual resume. At the end of this chapter, you'll find all the forms you need to prepare your resume, including worksheets, fill in the blanks resume forms, and sample resumes.

As you will soon see, there is a great deal of information you'll need to keep track of. In order to avoid a fevered search for important information, take the time right now to designate a single location in which to store all your records. My recommendation is either a filing cabinet or an expandable pocket portfolio. The latter is less expensive, yet it will still enable you to sort your records into an unlimited number of more manageable categories.

Losing important report cards, citations, letters, etc., is easy to do if your life's history is scattered throughout your room or, even worse, your house! While copies of many of these items may be obtainable, why put yourself through all that extra work? Making good organization a habit will ensure that all the records you need to prepare your resume will be right where you need them when you need them.

For each of the categories summarized below, designate a separate file folder in which pertinent records can be kept Your own notes are important, but keeping actual report cards, award citations, letters, etc. is even more so. Here's what your record keeping system should include:

Transcripts (Including GPA and Class Rank Information)

Transcripts are your school's official record of your academic history, usually available, on request, from your high school's guidance office or college registrar's office. Your college may charge you for copies and "on request" doesn't mean "whenever you want" you may have to wait some time for your request to be processed (so don't wait until the last minute!).

Your school calculated GPA (Grade Point Average) is on the transcript Most schools calculate this by multiplying the credit hours assigned to each course times a numerical grade equivalent (e.g., "A" = 4.0, AB" = 3.0, etc.), then dividing by total credits/courses taken. Class rank is simply a listing of GPAs, from highest to lowest.

Employment Records

Details on every part time or full time job you've held, including:
  • Each employer's name, address and telephone number

  • Name of supervisor

  • Exact dates worked

  • Approximate numbers of hours per week

  • Specific duties and responsibilities

  • Specific skills utilized and developed

  • Accomplishments, honors

  • Copies of awards, letters of recommendation
Volunteer Activities

Just because you weren't paid for a specific job stuffing envelopes for the local Democratic candidate, running a car wash to raise money for the homeless, manning a drug hotline doesn't mean that it wasn't significant or that you shouldn't include it on your resume.

So keep the same detailed notes on these volunteer activities as you have on the jobs you've held:
  • Each organization's name, address and telephone number

  • Name of supervisor

  • Exact dates worked

  • Approximate numbers of hours per week

  • Specific duties and responsibilities

  • Specific skills utilized

  • Accomplishments, honors

  • Copies of awards, letters of recommendation
List all sports, clubs, or other activities in which you've participated, either inside or outside school. For each, you should include:
  • Name of activity/club/group

  • Office (s) held

  • Purpose of club/activity

  • Specific duties/responsibilities

  • Achievements, accomplishments, awards
If you were a long standing member of a group or club, also include the dates that you were a member. This could demonstrate a high level of commitment that could be used as a selling point.

Honors and Awards

Even if some of these honors are previously listed, specific data on every honor or award you receive should be kept, including, of course, the award itself! Keep the following information in your awards folder:
  • Award name

  • Date and from whom received

  • What it was for

  • Any pertinent details
Military Records

Complete military history, if pertinent, including:
  • Dates of service

  • Final rank awarded

  • Duties and responsibilities

  • All citations and awards

  • Details on specific training and/or special schooling

  • Skills developed

  • Specific accomplishments

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