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Tit For Tat: Volunteering And Bartering Your Way To An Impressive Portfolio

The hardest part, in my opinion, for any new professional is getting started. We have all found ourselves at that moment where we have completed the required education and or certification and now we just need to find a job. We start our job hunt in the usual way and look in the usual places (classified ads in print and online, word of mouth, social media, company job boards, etc.) We read through job posting after job posting only to realize that they are all asking for the one requirement we do not have—experience!

True, we can certainly count the related work we did during our academic program. Perhaps we were even lucky enough to have an internship where we gained actual experience working in the industry. Maybe we were able to make a few connections here and there, yet even with all of this under our belt our portfolio can still be quite thin and limited. Can anything be done?

When your skills have not been tested or verified, businesses are leery about taking such a risk on a virtually unknown—and rightly so. It would not be in the best interest for a company to take careless risks. Luckily, there are always new companies forming; companies who are experiencing hard times as well as non-profit organizations who need goods and services but may not have the necessary funds to pay for them. This is when they rely on volunteerism. Translators and interpreters can showcase their skills and gain experience by taking on volunteer jobs. If you are not seeing any viable volunteer opportunities online, start looking within your community. Take the initiative, create volunteer opportunities. I noticed areas where content on my veterinarian’s website looked a little dull, so I offered to rewrite the content. After taking my pet bunny for his wellness check, I informed my veterinarian that I was currently looking for opportunities to grow my portfolio. Therefore, I extended my writing services to him on a volunteer basis.

Another portfolio building opportunity is bartering—who knew! Do you remember back in elementary school when one of the most exciting times of the school day was trading lunches in the cafeteria? Well, this is not any different. If you target other freelancers and young small businesses, you can get the things you need while grooming yourself to be a desirable candidate for all those job postings that you see calling for experienced individuals. Bartering is nothing new, in fact it was the principal way people got what they needed before monetary systems were established. If you are a mechanic who needs help with moving, offer to fix or do maintenance on a small moving company’s trucks. Discover what people need and think of how you can use what you do to benefit from what they do. Did you know that Roman soldiers use to get paid with salt? That is where the word salary comes from. Sorry, I digress. The key thing to remember here is to always be on the lookout for opportunities and to make sure you are prepared when those opportunities come. 

Case in point, one day my neighbor struck up a conversation with me in my driveway. I mentioned that I was due to take some family portraits and he mentioned he was a freelance photographer. He told me that he could work up a good rate for me. I told him that I too did freelance work (translation and copywriting). He informed me that he was currently working on another business endeavor and was in need of some written content for his new project. We exchanged business cards and now we have an appointment to see how we can work out an arrangement exchanging services that will benefit each other. You never know when these situations will occur so make sure you have business cards handy. Put some in your wallet, purse, pocket, backpack, briefcase, car or anywhere else you can think to keep them. If you always have your laptop or tablet with you make sure you have a digital copy of work samples saved on your device. Speak up and do not be timid to tell others about the work you do. You will be surprised at the amount of projects you can generate for yourself.

I would love to know what worked for you. How were you able to grow your professional portfolio? Let us know in the comment section.

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