I did it, the shittiest Buzzfeed inspired headline I ever came up with. I hope you're proud of me.
I’m not particularly good at dating, I’m a nerd and introvert after all. So this article should probably be called “What Building My Portfolio Taught Me About Dating.” It shouldn’t surprise us that the two can relate, because in the end both are all about relationships and human beings. Our Tinder profile and portfolio are representing the same person to some degree – but let me explain this a bit more in detail before everyone interprets this the wrong way (also, I’m not in Tinder, don’t even try to find me on there).
When it comes to hiring, we’re hiring people. The work is important, but so is the person behind it. Having great work on our portfolio basically just prevents the viewer from closing your portfolio immediately. But everything else about you is most likely what gets you hired. And with that I don’t mean how you look, but the way you communicate, the way you present your thinking and your work ethic. It’s more about the general vibe. After all, when we hire someone we’re also considering that we will spend 8 hours everyday with them. We're trying to find a good fit. Getting hired is as much about you as it is about your work, because your work is about you.
1. Be confident
Often, even people who aren’t typically “your type” can become attractive if they have self confidence. Confidence is magnetic, because we assume confident people know some secret the rest of us don’t.
Your level of confidence shows everywhere in your portfolio: in the way you display your work, in the projects you choose, in the copy you write. Don’t clutter your portfolio with lots of fancy animations and other elements intended to distract from the real work. Write strong headlines that have real meaning, instead of the typical fluffy bullshit. Include summaries with each case study that proudly proclaim your role on the project, your thought process along the way and how you feel about the finished product.
Show that you like who you are and your reader might feel the same way too.
2. ...but not too confident
It’s one thing to be comfortable with who you are; it’s another to be cocky. If you’re straight up bragging on yourself in your dating profile, it’s a turn off. Likewise for your portfolio bio. In either case, avoid calling yourself a “unicorn” or an “all-star” or “successful entrepreneur who makes six figures a year and wants to be your sugar daddy” – that’s a hard swipe left.
There is a fine balance between bragging and simply stating the truth about who you are. If you feel confident about your capabilities and your work, share it happily and with sincerity; it’s OK to be proud of yourself. Bragging usually comes from insecurity anyway, when we’re trying too hard to impress because we’re afraid of what people think. I know how hard it is, because who actually feels confident about themselves all the times? Confidence builds naturally when you work hard and choose to be kind to yourself. If you feel like you’re faking it in the meantime, read this.
3. People are superficial
Considering the fact that several dating apps consist solely of people swiping yes or no on other people’s faces, it’s hard to deny looks matter. But with dating (especially online dating) it’s not just about physical appearance – it’s about getting a grasp of that person’s entire aesthetic. Is it a good quality photo? Are they posing with a group of friends or with their six cats? Are they wearing that bucket hat ironically?
Thankfully, one nice headshot or image of you at work will suffice on your portfolio. Of course, it shouldn’t be about appearances. Your work can speak for itself and it shouldn’t matter what you look like. But a photo gives a human warmth to your portfolio. It puts a face to the name and gives your potential clients or employers a sense of who you are. It helps them imagine what it might be like to work with you. It reminds them there’s a human being behind that cover letter you sent, and you’re not just another email to discard in their inbox. I actually wrote about just this in detail a while ago. "The most important page on your portfolio"
4. Start strong
People may be superficial, but it’s likely your work they’re going to see first on your portfolio – not an image of you. Whatever you choose to lead with on your portfolio, that first glance is crucial. It’s the difference between someone nodding their head and exploring a bit more, or exiting immediately. This is a shorter window than an elevator pitch, a decision made within a matter of a few seconds.
Just like you’d carefully choose your first date outfit and talking points to make a nice first impression, lead with your best work and a strong introduction on your portfolio. People are hopelessly distracted on the internet; you have to hook them from the start if you want to keep their attention.
5. Leave them wanting more
Early on in a relationship, we want to keep a little mystery about ourselves, some do it on purpose and in other cases it’s just natural. We don’t want to reveal everything too early, before we have more context for the other person and understand each other better. We aim to build intrigue, to reel them in and keep them coming back for more.
You don’t want to leave mystery with your portfolio, but you do need to leave people wanting more from you. So much more, they’ll hire you to create it. Don’t just lead with your best work and hope nobody scrolls to the bottom, where you tossed everything else. End as strong as you started. Keep people clicking. Score that second date.
Here concludes the first edition of Love & Portfolios, a new dating advice column by Tobias van Schneider. (Kidding, that’s literally all I have to offer on the subject.) My main point here is this: While we can get caught up in the art of designing our portfolio, it really all comes down to the two humans on each side of the screen. The irony is that often while designing our portfolios we forget about everything we learned about design, which is the reason why so many portfolios either don’t exist or aren’t really that good. We're almost too invested in it ourselves to see it with a fresh & neutral eye.