In the design industry, standing out from the crowd isn't a choice -- it's a must. In order to get noticed and be successful, you have to promote yourself effectively.
The foundation of self-promotion is the all-important portfolio. Whether you are applying to a design school or entering the field after graduation, your portfolio -- or "book" -- is your ticket to success.
Fundamentally, your portfolio consists of examples of your best work. A portfolio can either include a broad spectrum of projects, from advertisements to packaging, or can be more focused, depending to whom you present it. There is no set amount of projects you should include, and you should use good judgment when making your selections. For example, you should not include fifteen similar items or projects, just to beef up your book.
In today's marketplace, it is becoming more and more common to use digital portfolios. Rather than dropping off a leather-bound book at a potential employer's office, today's technology allows applicants to send an email with a .pdf file of all their work. It is interesting to note that the first digital portfolios were on CD or DVD, but software compatibility issues have led to their overall disuse in favor of the .pdf.
In addition to your portfolio, your resume is also a key document to show potential employees. Although it is weighed less than actual examples of your work, your resume should express who you are as a designer. It should exhibit principles of design, remain professional and creative, and should not end up being overdone or gaudy. Also, as with any resume, be concise and include only applicable information that highlights your qualifications and expertise.
Overall, self-promotion can be tricky. To stand out, you must be able to resist the temptation to fall into a trend or follow cliches. You must always be aware of your audience, and bear in mind they probably don't know as much about you or your work as you do. You must also be able to walk the fine line between conceitedness and humility -- employers don't want designers who think they are better than everyone else, nor do they want designers that have no faith in their work.
For more information on self-promotion, visit The Creative Group's in-depth Career Tips and Tools page.