Tip #1: Ask for SPECIFIC feedback about your portfolio.
Far too often, I get messages or see posts on forums like:
“Can you look over my portfolio? I would love your thoughts.”
“I just updated my portfolio, any feedback is appreciated.”
“Please point out any issues you notice.”
This isn’t helpful for the person looking to provide feedback. The generalness of these requests makes it really overwhelming for the person who is reviewing your work. In these situations, we never know where to start, especially if we see a bunch of issues.
Instead, ask for specific advice about your portfolio. What do you want to know? What do you believe isn’t working well? Perhaps you want to make sure everything's easy to understand. Maybe you want to make sure that a recruiter/hiring manager could scan your case study in less than a minute, yet dig into the details if they need to. Maybe you want to make sure the layout and visuals look great.
Whatever you want to know, ask for feedback on that specific thing. If people end up giving you feedback about other things as well, that’s gravy.
Tip #2: Review your portfolio one-on-one with someone and treat it like a usability test.
Treat getting feedback on your portfolio like a user interview or usability test. You’ll learn so much more by actively watching someone go through your portfolio and hearing their thoughts. Ask specific questions, observe, and take notes. You can even ask to record the session.
This method is so much faster than asking someone to type out their feedback through an email, DM, or forum. Typing out feedback is slow, so you’ll likely save that person a good amount of time. Additionally, because it’s a live session, you can ask clarifying questions as they go through your portfolio. This has always yielded the best results for us.
Tip #3: Ask the right people for feedback.
This one can be challenging, especially if you’re new to the field or if you don’t like reaching out to strangers (which we get). We've seen a lot of junior designers asking for feedback in different forums and then receiving feedback from other junior designers. While it’s good to get their thoughts, they aren’t the intended audience of your portfolio. Hiring managers, recruiters, and currently employed UXers are.
What's worked for us, is to reach out to people on LinkedIn and ask about them, their design process, their team, basically something that’s specific to them. Have a genuine interest. Don’t just come out asking them to review your portfolio.
Also, don’t copy and paste the same statement to a bunch of UX professionals across LinkedIn. Instead, try to forge a real relationship and ask direct questions about that person. Express that you’re new to the field and that you’re trying to learn more about UX and would love to hear more about them. People love to help others. If you come at it from a helping lens (i.e., asking for help after you’ve gotten to talk with them), it can really improve the odds that someone will actually provide you meaningful feedback. This leads us to the next tip.
Tip #4: Be courteous, appreciative, and grateful.
Unfortunately, some people have acted as if they were entitled to our feedback. Like we owed them somehow and they deserved our time and feedback. That’s exactly the opposite of how you want to come across.
If someone agrees to provide you feedback, they’re taking time out of their day to do so. That’s a lot to ask of someone you probably don’t know. They don’t owe you anything, yet they are choosing to help you out of the kindness of their heart. Be sincerely appreciative and grateful for their time. Make sure this shows.
With this in mind, follow up after the session with a thank-you note expressing gratitude for their time and feedback. Doing this will help with the final tip.
Tip #5: Establish a relationship with the person providing you feedback.
If you are truly finding the right people to give you feedback, build a relationship with them!
Ask yourself, are you more willing to help someone who was polite, nice, and genuine or someone who acted ungrateful or entitled? The obvious answer is the polite, genuine person.
If you make an impression on this person, they're more likely to help you in the future. Maybe they continue to be someone you ask for feedback. Hell, maybe one day they'll end up hiring you.
We, as human beings, are intrinsically motivated to help each other. And it's easier to help people we like and respect. You also might consider offering your help to them in some way. Ask yourself how you can provide value to them. Again, this isn’t a one-way street.