I’ve traveled to many art schools, being asked to review senior student portfolios and speak on professional practices in the design business and the one thing I always notice is the lack of direction in student portfolios. Even with professionals, there is often no idea what or even how to present work to a client. Without senior level courses on portfolio preparation or classes taught by those who have been out of the field too long to know current trends, it is confusing and students are left with their own thoughts on what a client wants to see.
The biggest misconception is you need printed or live web pieces to show a client. To this end, as many professionals complain, students will do free or lower paying work just to garner a few “professional” samples to say, “SEE! Someone has actually hired me.”
If you think about this practice, what students are actually doing is chipping away at their own future and the industry itself. By doing this underpaying work, they are just teaching clients that they can get work for little or nothing. Contests and crowdsourcing are the equivalent to slave labor. You are doing free work, which the source will own all rights, in the hope for an iPod or pat on the back but, in the long run, it just negates your professional standing.