For students about to graduate from college, the prospects of finding a job in this economy may seem rather daunting. Often, one of the greatest problems they face is what to provide their prospective employers to demonstrate their knowledge and skills, especially when they don’t have ample professional experience on their resume. Recently, more and more employers have been requesting digital portfolios from their applicants, which provide a more complete, holistic view of the applicant’s talents, skillsets, and knowledge. However, many students and recent graduates have never created a professional digital portfolio before, so we thought we’d provide some tips so you can help them get started:
1. Start early. Students should ideally start collecting their best work during their first or second year of college. Later down the line, they don’t want to be scrambling at the eleventh hour to find that social media marketing campaign they created during sophomore year, or desperately searching for a photo of that robot they built in mechanical engineering. Starting early will also help to frame their thinking about the work they do while in college, and it may encourage them to put in more time and effort knowing it will end up in their portfolio later.
2. Use a professional photo. Providing a photo in their portfolio puts a face to a name and helps potential employers remember the applicant better. However, inserting a “selfie” taken at a concert last weekend is not the kind of first impression they should be making. The photo should look high quality and professional, with appropriate clothes, posing, and location. High quality photos communicate that the applicant pays attention to detail, values themselves, and values the job they are applying for. They don’t need to hire a professional photographer; asking a fellow student with photography experience and a decent camera should suffice.
3. Curate a collection of relevant work. One of the great features of Pathbrite is the ability to create multiple portfolios for different purposes. Students should not treat their professional portfolio as a place to dump all their work. Just as they should tailor their resume to the job they are applying to, they should also carefully curate the items within their portfolio to be relevant to the position they want. This will be especially helpful when they secure the interview, as their portfolio can help them to guide the conversation towards topics that highlight their best assets.
4. Include references from others. Pathbrite portfolios have a feature that allows users to import actual recommendations from their LinkedIn profile. Recommendations from others, especially their professors and past supervisors, can greatly increase their credibility, which is invaluable if they don’t have abundant professional experience on their resume. Since many hiring managers will also ask for references, this may even eliminate a step from their process, and simplifying their job is a foolproof way to get into their good graces.
5. Tell a story. The resume is a great place to list job titles and responsibilities, but a portfolio is a visual narrative of experience. The strength of the portfolio is that it gives hiring managers a more complete, holistic view of the applicant, their personality, and their identity. It allows them to figure out whether or not the individual aligns with their company’s brand and fits into their culture, two very important aspects of an applicant that all hiring managers look for. Students should use their digital portfolio to tell the story they truly want employers to hear. It’s the perfect place to highlight skills, strengths, and talents that might not stand out on their resume, such as passion projects they completed in their free time, challenges they faced in their personal life, or even links to their blog or social media accounts (this is also a good time to encourage them to clean up their social media profiles, before they link them to their portfolios).
Creating a professional digital portfolio can be an invaluable part of the job hunt when done correctly, and following these tips will help to ensure your students’ success. Encourage your students to start early, represent themselves appropriately, and be authentic. This is their chance to position themselves for success and tell the story they want to be heard.
Getting started with a Pathbrite digital portfolio is easy and free. Create an account. Build a portfolio. Bring your story to life.
Encourage your students to register for a free Pathbrite account and try it out for themselves!
Contribute your tips for creating a professional digital portfolio in the comments.