Well, it’s that time of year when students are working on their toy design portfolios eagerly anticipating with wide-eyed wonder, all of the millions of job offers that will flood in once they are handed their gleaming toy degrees, which, of course, are made of polypropylene with rounded edges to meet safety.
Soon, as sure as gravity, reality will eventually kick in, and you’ll realize the portfolio you put together in college may need some tweaking, perhaps, even a complete overhaul. Yes, I know, your knuckles may be hurting by now, but don’t stop knocking on those doors because they are about to open.
The following 10 Really Amazing Portfolio Tips should help you put a little more bait on the hook and a bit more gleam on your polypropylene.
Make sure you’re connected to someone high up in the toy industry. Well, that about does it. Follow Tip #1 and you are good as gold!
Tip # 2:
Oh, so you’re not connected to anybody high up in the toy industry? Well, that’s too bad. Now, you’ll have to work hard to get one of those remaining job openings. Don’t worry, my friend, the mighty portfolio is the great equalizer that opens doors, regardless of one’s skin color, background or social standing.
I personally don't know any principle player in the toy industry who isn't always looking for talented people to add to their company. The competitive nature inherent in building sustainable businesses allows any hard working designer to find a job because, if you are good—really good, companies will make room for you!
So, Tip #2 is to work harder than your competition. Work harder, go farther than they are willing to go, and never, ever, give up. Giving up is simply not an option. My Russian design professor would always say over and over, as he stared intently into the distance, “steel bends but doesn’t break.” He had a really cool accent and was built like Vin Diesel so that quote was very motivational.
Actually, steel does break at a certain pressure point, but I never mentioned that to him because, like I said, he looked like Vin Diesel. What’s important is you must be as tough as steel. They may bend you, but don’t ever let them break you. It doesn’t matter where you come from—it only matters where you are going.
If you think getting a job is hard, it’s even harder navigating through the normal, day to day politics of corporate America. The buddy system alone will drive you batty, not to mention finding an empty coffee pot in the lunchroom, which, well, there are just no words. So, if you can dig deep and tough it out, you’ll not only survive but you’ll also thrive.
This leads to Tip #3, which is to know where you are going and point your portfolio in that direction. Yes, you probably know by now to put only your best work in your portfolio, but make sure each of those pieces represents your personal vision and career goals.
My Toy Sketch portfolio, for instance, focuses on toy design with smaller additional chapters showing a few samples of my feature film and fine art work. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to show the pages featuring toy concepts, so the images in this post are primarily film design.
Every portfolio page should not only show where you’ve been, but most importantly, where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re going, how in the world are you ever going to get there? You’ll never be satisfied in life and are destined to bounce from job to job because you have no vision—no direction.
I knew a designer who hated his job and built a new portfolio using the very best designs he created doing what he hated to do. The good news is he got a brand new job along with a shiny new job title, but the bad news is it was more of what he hated doing! So, the moral of the story is simple—don’t put anything in your portfolio you hate to do. Know your direction and build your portfolio accordingly.
Follow your passion! If you do, you’ll not only know where you are headed, but you’ll also know when you’ve arrived—in fact, you just might enjoy the ride along the way. Work isn’t work if you love what you’re doing. So, what do you love to do? Well, that’s what you should be doing!
Part 2: Continued Next Week . . .