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How to tell about your skills and projects successfully if you are looking for a job in Service Design?

Here are top 10 tips for portfolio creation.

Published : 19.03.2020

Some weeks ago, before the COVID-19 outbreak, altogether 80 participants, several volunteers, panelists and mentors gave their valuable time and advice on “How to create a great portfolio”.  This Portfolio Evening was organized by Service Design Network in Haaga-Helia. We had a very heterogeneous set of expertise presented in our panel: in-house designers from commercial and public areas as well as designers from design agencies. We had panelists and mentors from Hellon, Fiskars, Frantic, Silver Planet Oy, HSL, Futurice and Haaga-Helia LAB8 in the Portfolio Evening, giving their professional views on service design recruitment process and advice on how to create a good portfolio.

Service Design
Our panelists & mentors: Liisa Säkkinen, Aino Maijala, Annina Antinranta, Teija Hakaoja, Zeynep Falay von Flittner, Emma Laiho, Viivi Lehtonen, Eliisa Sarkkinen & Teemu Moilanen. Picture credit to Martti Asikainen.

Now grab a coffee and a pen, here are the panelists and mentor’s top 10 tips for portfolio creation from the panel discussion and feedback sessions. Volunteers…thank you for taking such good notes.

It is like designer trafficking – you need to be able to sell yourself – Teija Hakaoja

  1. You need to be able to sell yourself by telling how they can sell you. Everything you offer should provide value to the end-clients. Showcase the values to the client and their point of view.
  2. Showcase case the most loved design process first – not the oldest: what was the challenge, how it was solved, what was the outcome. Describe its starting point, methods/tools used, timetable and what you learned. Visualize the process. Give numbers that speak for the project. Bullet points, infographics, photos, etc. If you can’t tell the client’s name, describe the industry, the size of the company and the process you took part in.
  3. Describe your “star moments” and learning moments “when shit hits the fan“. Be honest about yourself. Describe what was your role in the process: “I have done…”, “I have been participating…”, “I created…”. Showcase how you’ve been able to grow & change.

Think what makes you sparkle – Zeynep Falay von Flittner

  1. Be brave – highlight your earlier experience
    Present your complementary skills from earlier work experience and voluntary work– it makes you special. If you are starting your career in service design, highlight competence that proofs your capability to learn fast, your other experience and social skills.
  2. Keep a coherent storyline. Start with a cover page, introduction, and short CV. Continue with a summary that is short but descriptive and includes the process in a nutshell. Then describe the content more in cases you have prioritized matching to the position you are applying to. Create a portfolio that you can modify for different purposes.

What can I talk with you, if you don’t want to talk about work. – Zeynep

Mentoring session by Zeynep
Mentoring session by Zeynep

Storytel who you are, make it special. Remember the recruiters have little time to read applications – differ yourself, tell who you are and what makes you special. Remember they are just people too, doing their job. – Viivi Lehtonen

  1. Highlight who you are as a person – your personality and interests and what differentiates you. You are more than the projects. Describe your style in a team – are you a cheerleader, follower, unicorn, leader, supporter or a number guru.

What are the things to avoid when creating a portfolio, the don’ts? – Molly Balcom Raleigh

  1. Quality over quantityThe portfolio is your 1. pitch. Don’t overload – Keep inline the level of detail and remember the portfolio should be self-explanatory. In the end, it might be that even more than four people look at the portfolio before you are invited to meet some of them. When you get the chance to present it, you should be able to tell some more about the cases. Remember the big picture: a scattered portfolio looks like your offering a scattered competence.
  2. If your background is non-design, don’t try to be too creative if that isn’t you in reality. Content is more important than form. It can be simple. If you are not a visual designer, your portfolio doesn’t have to look like you are.
  3. Agency need vs. corporate context. Don’t forget to learn about the company you are applying to. Figure out what matters to them and what kind of competences are valued. Corporate context is different than agency needs.
Service Design

What are the practical tips?

  1. Practical tips – Keep the portfolio focused and short – respect the recruiter’s time.
    Recruiters don’t have time to scroll endless portfolios or watch long videos. List some keywords of each case in the side banner. The portfolio itself can be for example a pdf-file in a shareable drive folder or a website. And last but not least… don’t forget to update your portfolio and ask for feedback. You can start with small steps and remember that you are a person with skills and you are not the projects you have done.

Here were the main points of the event. As a moderator and one of the organizers of the event, I wish this Portfolio Evening opened doors to future careers, like stated in Haaga-Helia’s mission, created “a-ha” moments and made people feel that they don’t have to be already experts to be able to create a portfolio. The number of participators – a mixture of students, career changers, designers and people interested in the topic, proved that there exists a demand for this kind of events. I was personally touched by how panelists and mentors showed such strong enthusiasm to participate in this event, as all of this is purely volunteer work.

Huge thanks to Zeynep Falay von Flittner from Hellon, Emma Laiho from Frantic, Teija Hakaoja from Silver Planet Oy, Viivi Lehtonen from HSL, Teemu Moilanen from LAB8, Haaga-Helia, Liisa Säkkinen from Fiskars, and Annina Antinranta and Aino Maijala from Futurice. Not to mention the volunteers who help putting it all out: Jaakko Hannula, Essi Juntunen, Lyydia Pertovaara, Peppi Borgenström (LAB8) & Elizaveta Ambartsumova (LAB8), Christopher Gros, Molly Balcom Raleigh and Alessia Menegolli.

Service Design
Our volunteers of the evening together with panelists, Zeynep, Viivi and Teija

Looking forward to organizing these again in the future

On behalf of Haaga-Helia & SDN

Eliisa Sarkkinen, Senior Lecturer in International Business & Service Design, SID MBA & Service Designer, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, SDN Committee member