Does anything matter nowadays more than a good portfolio?
Personally, I don’t think so.
Education is still very much important, but without a great portfolio, it simply isn’t enough. And its not just reserved to the traditional creative pursuits either, such as graphic design, animation and film. There’s a countless number of other jobs too: web design, hair design, fashion design, product design, game design, journalism, engineering….. I’m willing to bet that this is a sizeable portion of the entire job market.
But why the current emphasis on portfolios? Well, the world has changed. With globalisation, you are competing in an international job market. Its more important that ever to be great at one thing. This is irrespective of the diversity of the discipline that you’re involved in. For instance, if you are a product designer, it requires a lot of different skills, but focus on being the best at one of those. This could be rendering, or computer modelling, or conceptualisation, or ethnographic research. Just make sure that you’re the best at one of these things, and make sure that you have a portfolio which reflects this.
And it’s never too early to start building a portfolio. Even if you’re still in school, its good to have a portfolio ready, because this is surely you’re best chance at scoring a job. But remember: there can potentially be hundreds of candidates for a position, so make sure that your portfolio stands out. This doesn’t mean cramming in every piece of work that you’ve ever done: just focus on the outstanding pieces.
This might seem like obvious advice to the initiated, but it is often overlooked. It really isn’t sufficient to have a great degree anymore. The portfolio is king. And a person with a great portfolio will get more work, and hence be even more employable.