JPL FAQs: I need to improve my portfolio. Is going back to school the only way?

When it comes to your career, it is rarely a smooth, easy path. In an effort to help guide you along your journey we’re starting a new series, JPL FAQs. We’ll be sharing some of the questions we hear repeated and the answers to help alleviate those worries. We hope it helps.

Q: Everyone I show my portfolio to says I need to go back to school. That means two more years for a graduate degree. Is that the only way to get a better portfolio? Can’t I get a job and learn on the job?

A: Going back to school is one of four ways to improve your abilities and your portfolio. The other three are learning on the job, teaching yourself, or a personal coaching program like Job Propulsion Lab.

Few graduate programs offer excellent programs. Regardless of what stats they tout, there is a good reason to vet the plan carefully before going that direction. It’s a significant investment, so we recommend that you go to graduate school only if you want an MBA. The second choice of learning on the job is flawed. You won’t get a good job with a lousy portfolio. Bad jobs do horrible work, and they will teach you to do bad work. Educating yourself is similar. You don’t know what you don’t know, so as you prepare yourself, you will learn bad habits. Perfect practice makes perfect. The real obstacle with teaching yourself is that it takes too long. The industry moves fast, and if you aren’t on the right path within a few years, your chances of working in a great place are minimal.

You’ll learn in any of these options, but they will not accomplish the goal you seek.

The reason we created JPL was that of the difficulties in the other options. Obviously, it is what we recommend for people in your situation. With guidance from a mentor who is in touch with what is going on in the business today, you’ll learn the skills required to work at some of the best agencies in the business.

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