Life Goals: Or that time I went to a Portfolio Review

Last week I was lucky enough to participate in my local AIGA’s Student Portfolio Review as a professional reviewer. And I saw lucky because, up until 3 days before the review I wasn’t scheduled to do it. I had seen some info about it but wasn’t sure my schedule would work out to devote a chunk of time on a Saturday. But luckily for me, one of my good friends had to bow out of her spot and suggested I take it over. I’m so glad there was nothing else on my calendar that morning.


With coffee in hand myself and varied group of designers, creative directors and recruiters set out to review the work of designers studying at a few local colleges. All the reviews were one-on-one for about 25 minutes each. So we have a good amount of time to dive in. And these young people have all the skills. Concept. Illustration. Hand-lettering. Design. Branding. Animation. Witty Copy. It was truly inspiring to get to see all the work these students were doing. I’m pretty sure they put my college portfolio to shame!

After a couple of reviews, I found my rhythm. I’d have the designer talk me through their whole portfolio, I might ask a question or two about context. But then I’d ask them what they want to do or where they want to be after graduation. And then go back through their portfolio with suggestions and questions to consider to help them hone their work, presentation and pacing to show their strengths. All the feedback was based off of what I saw as basic questions ... What’s your goal? What type of work do you want to do? Where do you want to work? What is the job role you’d like to move into?

About halfway through the review, a lovely young lady, we’ll call her “L”. L stopped and said, “Thank you! No one has asked me that question yet.” And I was surprised none of the other reviewers asked that question. But then she went on, “Not even my portfolio class teacher.” She meant EVER. This broke my heart.

We need to ask these questions. We need to ask them of people coming out college and getting ready to enter the industry. We need to ask them of our teams, the people we lead and the peers we work with. We also need to ask these questions of ourselves from time to time.


These are the questions that will keep us on track and lead to continuous growth and improvement. These are the questions that will keep us satisfied in our careers and hopefully inspire us to do more of what we love.

Work-Life Balance Wednesday: Take a Lunch Break


A couple months ago things were super busy at work. It was right before the holidays. So on top of running around all day at work, free-time after work was devoted to Christmas shopping, family gatherings and the usual holiday parties. One routine I started during that time to help slow things down and help keep some balance in my busy day was taking a lunch break.

This doesn't have to be a long lunch. Just a little time away from the desk to give your mind a break and have a good meal. Even just 20 minutes away is enough time to slow down and reset. I like to get away for 30-45 minutes if my schedule allows. But the important thing is get away from your desk!

Tips for a good lunch break

  • Give yourself devoted time (block it on your calendar if your office likes to schedule meetings)
  • Get away from your desk (bonus points for an enjoyable space or taking it outside)
  • This time should be a recharge, spend it with people or an activity that is energizing to you (a little quiet time with a book does it for me)
  • Don't bring the work with you (if you can)

As a manager my team knows they can always text me if something urgent comes up. If I'm not at my desk though, usually those lunch time questions can wait. I find I come back to work focused and ready to take on the afternoon. And who doesn't want to feel more focused?


Package Yourself (aka Dress for the Job You Want)

Earlier this week, a friend of mine asked me if I would help her shop. Better yet, she said this: "I need to figure out more of the dress for the job you want." Well, some of my best girlfriends and I have been discussing this concept for years. And I love this idea. It takes some practice and time, but feeling confident in how you are presenting yourself is totally worth it.

Now, this is not to say dressing more professionally equates to wearing heels and a suit everyday. I certainly don't. It also doesn't mean you have to be a super trendy fashionista. Again, I'm not. But you do need to know how you want people to see you, what makes you feel confident, and how what you wear speaks to others. This doesn't have to be complicated, who has time for that? So here are a quick checklist for building that wardrobe.

What job do you want?
That's the first thing you need to know. How do people you know in that role dress? Is there someone in that role you or a role above that you look up to? If so, how do they dress? Now you don't need to ask them where they bought their whole outfit and copy it completely. You just want to take note: does the person in the role you want dress up in a blazer or dress for their presentations? Do they wear the same combo of blouse, pants, loafers with a statement necklace everyday? What's the patterns in how they put their outfits together, that's what you want to pay attention to and try to emulate in your own way.

Principles of a great work wardrobe

  1. An overall style in what you're wearing
  2. Pieces that work together to make multiple outfits
  3. Signature pieces that express your personality and individual style
  4. Accessories that polish off your look

My list of must-haves (from the ground up)

  • a comfortable pair of booties
  • a pretty pair of flats
  • a great pair of knee-high boots
  • a fun and classy pair of sneakers (for casual Fridays or on your feet days)


  • a great pair of skinny black pants (or dark jeans if your office is casual like mine)
  • ponte leggings (always look polished but feel like pjs)
  • a pair straight leg or boot cut dark jeans or dress pants
  • cords, khakis or jeans in a fun color (loving olive green right now)
  • a pair of black opaque tights
  • a pair of gray opaque tights
  • a pair of black fleece lined tights

Dresses (or what I like to call, instant outfits)

  • a sweater dress
  • a knit dress (bonus points for stripes)
  • a fun pattern dress


  • easy neutral t-shirts (white, gray, black, stripes)
  • a couple blouses in prints or solid colors (something a little drapey with with a unique detail always gets me)
  • a couple neutral sweaters (pair with a great scarf or statement necklace)
  • knit blazers (make any outfit look polished and you don't have to worry about wrinkles)
  • a structured cardigan


  • statement jewelry (for me it's necklaces or bracelets if i'm not going to be typing much that day)
  • a colorful scarf
  • classic stud earrings that go with everything
  • a fancy hair tie and jeweled bobby pins (for those I need to put my hair up days)

This is not about fitting in. It's about presenting yourself to the world as you want people to see you. And most of all it should be fun.

What job do you want? And how do you dress for it?