Portfolio Panel Discussion Recap

The Wells Fargo History Museum hosted Philly EMP’s Hire Learning 103: Portfolio Review on Thursday, September 18. This Hire Learning session focused on perfecting and presenting your portfolio during your job search. The panel was comprised of three experts representing different fields and institutions in the museum world. Included on the panel were Lauren Duguid, Exhibition Designer at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Jessica Jenkins, Manager of Marketing and Public Relations at the Delaware Art Museum, and Robert Vosburgh, Director of Major Gifts at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. After a brief introduction and discussion, attendees and panelists engaged in a frank discussion about not only portfolios, but the overall job hunt as well.

What are the top two things you look for in a portfolio?

Philly EMP board member Patrick Wittwer introduces the evening's panelists (from L to R) Lauren Duguid, Robert Vosburgh, and Jessica Jenkins

Philly EMP board member Patrick Wittwer introduces the evening’s panelists (from L to R) Lauren Duguid, Robert Vosburgh, and Jessica Jenkins

The panelists answers varied on this question, as they represented different realms within the museum world. Duguid, speaking about design portfolios, stressed the importance of cohesion and a variety of work relevant to the position one is applying for. Jenkins highlighted the importance of showing an understanding for the organization one is applying to work for while also demonstrating competence with a range of applications. Vosburgh expressed a desire to see applicants display coherence between text and images as well as their ability to process dense content concisely. All three panelists agreed that no matter which field you are trying to work in, you should tailor your portfolio to the organization you are applying for; a notion shared by our resume and cover letter panel from Hire Learning 101.

Is there a museum job that you think does not require a portfolio?

With a panel representing development, design, and marketing, all agreed that they expect portfolios from applicants. While a position in another department may not seem as though it would require a portfolio, Vosburgh pointed out that a portfolio could set you apart from other applicants. Duguid added that sharing quality work that is relevant to the position is never a bad idea. For example, for someone working in museum programs, it is worthwhile to have your prior programs work compiled in an easy to peruse manner to highlight some of the work you have done in your career or as a student.

What should not be included in a portfolio?

All three panelists were in agreement for this question. While it was mentioned that irrelevant work, images without scale, and overlong project descriptions should be avoided; the panelists focused on offering advice for the application package as a whole. Jenkins suggested that a resume should be designed, Vosburgh encouraged attendees to think about how they are curating their resumes, and all three panelists stressed that a one page resume shows the candidate’s ability to be concise and focus only on what is most important.

How should a portfolio be formatted?

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Attendees had ample time after the Q&A to engage with the panelists (and enjoy some delicious food from RyBrew)

Each panelist spoke to what they look for in a portfolio within their respective fields. Vosburgh again stressed the importance of tailoring your portfolio to the position for which you are applying. He also expressed how important a variety of writing samples can be, suggesting providing different writing “modes” for the same topic. For example, someone who assisted in the development of the Your Brain exhibit at the Franklin Institute could submit an appeal letter, ad copy, and exhibit label pertaining to the exhibit. Jenkins prefers an easy to navigate, web-based portfolio for the marketing world, and she highlighted the importance of your pitch and how you present strategy for public relations interviews. For design, Duguid’s preference is a bound book that is organized into a logical progression. Duguid also suggested taking your three best works and spreading them out across your portfolio, starting with your second best, putting your third somewhere in the middle, and ending with your best work.

Hire Learning 103 provided an interesting look into what an applicant’s portfolio should highlight. Philadelphia Emerging Museum Professionals would like to thank the Wells Fargo History Museum for the space and having RyBrew cater the discussion. We would also like to thank Lauren Duguid, Robert Vosburgh, and Jessica Jenkins for taking the time out of their evenings to share their expertise with us! Keep checking back here for information on the next installment of Hire Learning.

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