Can You Keep a Secret? How to Showcase Confidential Work

NDA work can be an amazing asset in your job search — it just takes a thoughtful approach and a dash of creativity.

Today’s top digital marketing and design professionals are helping develop some of the industry’s most innovative products — and often, that means handling confidential information and work product. Particularly among leading companies like our clients, Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are a common way to protect intellectual property.

If you’ve done work for a big-name brand, you’re probably excited to showcase it — and you deserve to! But if you signed an NDA, you may be worried that you’ll have to omit this impressive project from your portfolio altogether.

Well, I’ve got good news for you: even if the work is confidential, there are a number of ways to show potential employers the skills and value you brought to the job. NDA work can be an amazing asset in your job search; it just takes a thoughtful approach and a dash of creativity.

As a Talent Sourcer at Filter, I frequently help job seekers find the best solutions to their NDA-related challenges — and I always come back to these 3 main pieces of advice. Check them out… and get ready to show off that awesome work.

1. Understand what you signed.

NDAs vary widely, so don’t make any assumptions about what you can and can’t include in your portfolio. Some agreements allow you to show the work itself, but not the company’s name; some prohibit you from sharing any specifics whatsoever about the project. In some cases, internal materials can be shown in certain in-person situations, but not online. The way you handle your NDA work depends completely on the nature of the agreement.

Your first step should always be to make sure you understand the NDA front to back. Otherwise, you could unnecessarily limit yourself — or worse, violate the agreement (and what company would want to hire someone who’s shown that they can’t be trusted with sensitive information?).

Read the NDA closely, and don’t hesitate to contact your manager at the company with any questions — they’ll appreciate that you’re making sure to get it right.

2. Leverage what you can share.

Not even the strictest NDA will prevent you from using the experience to your advantage. Depending on the specific rules, one or more of these approaches can help you make the most of what you’re allowed to share:

  • If you can’t show the actual work product in your portfolio, replace it with “dummy” mockups or images. This is much more compelling than simply blurring out or omitting images. Just make sure to indicate that they are fictional with a brief disclaimer.
  • Shine the spotlight on the story, not the finished product itself. Ultimately, potential employers are looking at your thought process, problem-solving skills, and understanding of business goals — traits you can successfully demonstrate in the written description. The S.T.A.R. method is your best friend here!
  • In some cases, you may not be able to share any references to NDA work; but even if you can’t feature the project in your portfolio, it can still help you in your job search. Get in touch with your former manager or team members at the company, and ask whether they’d be willing to provide a quote or endorsement for your LinkedIn profile. Additions like these can give your profile a major boost, especially when they come from a widely-known organization.

3. Use the opportunity to reconnect with the company.

Handling NDA work has a big upside: it’s an opportunity to rekindle your connection with the company you worked for. Again, don’t be shy about getting in touch for any clarification you might need — you’ll be demonstrating that you respect their confidentiality, further cementing an already positive relationship.

This is a perfect chance to request a recommendation or endorsement from your former manager. Plus, you’ll be letting the company know that you’re actively seeking a new job — and you never know what doors that could open. Reconnecting with them about the NDA work might just land you your next gig!

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