Re. Portfolio vs- writing samples

Subject: Re. Portfolio vs- writing samples
From: Nancy Alvarez <naltragrp -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2000 09:23:49 -0700 (PDT)

By reading all of the emails that have been posted by
TW professionals - from across the spectrum, it is
safe to conclude that the answer to the "portfolio
woes" can only be found in a combination of factors.

This may sound brutal but when you go to a job
interview you are literally trying to sell yourself
and your services. The approach you chose must not
only be direct and honest but one that you are
comfortable with.

I have worked in several EU countries as a TW and am
currently working in Denmark for a Swedish ERP

When I was first starting out I would take meagre
writing samples along to interviews. As the years went
by, having built up more experience, I would
judiciously select the writing samples that I would
take to my interviews. This approach has always worked
well for me and it is something I enjoy doing. I have
a portfolio that I use to store writing samples of my
work, however, I never take all of it to an interview.
I only extrapolate what I need from it.

The key is research, research and research. Before
heading off to the interview find out as much as you
can about the company and "customise" your portfolio ?
or extract samples from it ? that will meet their
needs. Once you have achieved this "effect", throw in
two samples that are representative of your creativity
and writing skills? something completely different
then the material they produce. As for the tools that
you use, it is enough to detail these in your CV ?
don?t haul a dozen CDs with HTML, Frame Maker, or PDF
documents just to prove that you have mastered these


I have worked for a Fortune-500 company as a TW. I did
receive verbal permission to use their material but
received no ?official? written authorisation. I do
take some writing samples with me: a few odd-numbered
pages (never consecutive pages) that will give the
interviewer an idea of the type of material I produced
and a few paragraphs of ?stand-alone? text ? usually
definitions of industry standard terms,
intended/target audience page etc. Although this
material is absolutely harmless in context, as a rule
I would never present it to their competitors. It is
enough to state in your CV that you worked with them
and present a reference letter.

Oddly enough, I now work for a company that does not
allow us to even publish our names along with our
company name and title ? too many poachers around
Scandinavia. When I leave this company I will
definitely get something in writing.

I do not submit writing samples by post. I indicate in
my CV that I will gladly present these in person at
their convenience.

One thing to be wary of is what I call the
"encyclopaedia salesman" approach. I have seen TWs
arrive at interviews armed with large portfolios
trained to assault their interviewers with them. We
found it daunting and it left us with a dubious
impression. Not one TW has ?done it all?. What you
must convey is your creativity, skills and your
ability to learn.

Nancy Alvarez
Title withheld
Company withheld

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