We’d love to believe winning a job offer was as simple as sending a well-crafted resume to the right people or having a few well-placed connections. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Today, it helps to provide something else – something that says you are not only qualified, but on the cutting edge of technology as well.
That something is a digital portfolio. Not only does it offer people a chance to showcase their creative, computer and job skills in an innovative and intriguing format, digital portfolios can be distributed to several people in a matter of seconds.
Worth a Thousand Words
Workers and jobseekers of all professions and industries are beginning to recognize that a digital portfolio can paint a self-portrait that even the most outstanding resumes and cover letters cannot. Digital portfolios are "the new standard for delivering work samples to employers," according to Susan Amirian and Eleanor Flanigan, authors of Create Your Digital Portfolio (JIST, 2006).
"In the past, the only people who created portfolios were artists and designers, but that’s no longer true. Today, people in all types of jobs use portfolios," the authors point out.
Understandably, many people who have never had reason to create a traditional portfolio, like a photographer or graphic designer would, are baffled as to how to create a digital version, what to include in it, and how to make the most of it.
For those who need a few tips and tricks to ensure their digital portfolio is a hit with potential employers, Amirian and Flanigan recommend these digital portfolio do’s and don’ts:
Do include a treasure trove of materials that enhance your marketability. Items in your portfolio can include writing and project samples, media stories and clips about you, letters of recommendation, certificates of achievement, presentation videos, reports, photographs, a business head-shot, your resume, and more.
Don’t include material or information you wouldn’t want to discuss in a formal interview. Save pictures of your family, friends and pets for your personal scrapbook. Other portfolio no-no’s include: religious and political opinions, details about your personal lifestyle, and any information intended to be confidential with a current or past employer.
Do create an attractive, professional design and layout. While standard resume and cover letters rules typically limit people to using plain fonts and neutral colors, digital portfolios open the door for creativity and individuality. Amirian and Flanigan recommend taking advantage of the vast collection of designs available through PowerPoint templates.
Don’t clutter your portfolio with clip-art and over-the-top animation tricks. It’s one thing to demonstrate your software and computer skills through a well-crafted design. It’s quite another to cheapen the quality of your portfolio with distracting, amateur graphics.
Do design jewel-case inserts and CD labels to give your portfolio a finished appearance. No matter how outstanding a portfolio’s content, its presentation also makes a statement. No one will be impressed with a scratched CD labeled with Sharpie marker scrawlings and slipped into a dog-eared paper sleeve. So spend a few extra minutes designing the exterior of the digital portfolio and impress employers before they even view its content.
Don’t distribute your portfolio CD without a test drive. You wouldn’t want a potential employer seeing your resume and cover letter without letting someone proofread them first, and your digital portfolio is no exception. Ask one or two people to look it over for grammar and spelling mistakes, and get their feedback on your portfolio’s design and layout, usability, and their overall impressions of it.
Do create a printout of your portfolio and bring it to interviews. Some people prefer a hand-held copy, rather than having to view something on their computer screen. A paper printout will also allow you to reference items in your digital portfolio during an interview and leave them with an employer in case he or she has problems accessing any part of the CD’s content.
Don’t wait for a job search to create and make use of your digital portfolio. It’s a versatile tool for all kinds of career needs: asking for a promotion or negotiating for better pay, trying to prevent the loss of a job, or getting reimbursement for training or education you may have received to advance your job skills. Remember, the goal of a digital portfolio is not to win job offers, but to provide people with compelling proof of your skills and achievements.
Do store a copy on a flash drive, zip disk or CD. This is an absolute necessity to insure yourself against any number of computer catastrophes, such as viruses, tampering, breakage or accidentally deleting files.
In their book, Create Your Digital Portfolio, Amirian and Flanigan stress that keeping a copy of your digital portfolio on hand at all times will make sure you’re well prepared to capitalize on any opportunity that may arise. "These opportunities can happen at school, in the office, at a conference, on a train, or through a friend. Think about how much more effective it would be to hand someone a portfolio of your work instead of a resume or business card."