So, you’ve got some UX design experience under your belt and you think it’s time to try your hand in the big leagues (whatever that means for you). Whether you’re just looking to land some freelance clients or work for a reputable tech giant, you’ll need to prove there’s substance behind your style.

But why do I need a portfolio? What’s wrong with my resume?

While your resume is great for outlining your education and past work experience, it doesn’t do much to differentiate you from the crowd. In fact, UX design employers don’t always require any prerequisite education or even specific work experience, because you can’t necessarily be taught creativity, ingenuity, and problem-solving.

Instead, your portfolio should showcase who you are and your unique approach to UX design. The samples you include should tell a complete story of the design process, including a beginning problem, the actions you took, why you took those actions, and the end result. Your story should be representative of your personality and show a “cultural fit” for your dream company.

The most important point to remember when choosing work to include in your portfolio is demonstrating your thought process behind that work.

In terms of UX design, prospective employers aren’t so much concerned with the finished work, but they’ll take a hard look at what happened between points A and B, which means the samples you provide need to be well-illustrated and tell a complete story, including crucial details like:

  • What the problem was
  • Who you partnered with on the project
  • How you came up with the ideal solution
  • The technical process you used to overcome the problem (i.e. high/low fidelity wireframes, sketches, research, etc.)
  • End result, including how it was received and utilized by the client or employer

If images alone aren’t enough to tell a full story, include a written narrative with the work sample to fill the gaps and elaborate on the approach you took.

What if I’m just a beginner?

If you’re just a beginner and don’t have much professional work to showcase, don’t throw in the towel on an opportunity! Remember- the goal of your portfolio isn’t to present each and every world-changing tech solution you’ve created; it’s to demonstrate your creative approach to problem solving.

Include personal samples of projects you’ve messed around with and how you worked through a problem to reach a solution. If your choices are limited, consider including an example of a time that you failed to overcome a problem, because even if you didn’t reached a solution, you still had a thought process!

How many pieces of work should I include?

Quality over quantity. If you’ve got the experience to show off, include three or four samples of quality work, but don’t overwhelm your portfolio evaluator with too much stuffing. Keep it simple, and include just enough to reflect a diverse skill set.

Beginners or those just starting off can get away with between one to three pieces but should still demonstrate comprehensive UX problem solving skills.

Be distinctive.

Keep in mind that each company is going to have a unique culture and different ideas about what the right candidate looks like to them. It’s okay to adapt your portfolio to the specific needs and interests of the company you’re applying for, but don’t distort your actual personal image to get a foot in the door.

Not only should the company think you’re a great fit for their culture, but you should consider whether or not that company is a great fit for you.

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