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Gain an advantage in your job search with an online portfolio

John DiMarco Ph.D. Professor at St. John’s University and author of “Career Power Skills.” St. John’s University

A recent article on job prospecting by Emily Driscoll cited a report on the most successful places for generating candidate interviews and hires. The report by SilkRoad stated that the top place where companies find candidates online and actually hire them is their own personal website, aka an online web portfolio.

An online web portfolio is a website that serves as a literal pressroom for highlighting your skills, abilities and accomplishments in an interactive, digital form. Your online web portfolio is a platform for you as an individual to get the most out your past work and experiences. By providing evidence of what you have done, employers can see your true value beyond a resume. I have been teaching people how to create web portfolios to help secure jobs for close to fifteen years. People of all backgrounds and disciplines can create an online web portfolio with some planning, a little time, and some creativity.


Do make your online portfolio industry specific

The best thing about an online portfolio is that you can cater it specifically to an industry. Using an online portfolio gives you a platform to reinvent yourself by telling your story online in the form of text, images, photos, and videos. For example, in communications, writing and using social media are key skills that should be represented in the portfolio.

Do keep your online portfolio updated

You want to make it a habit to update your online portfolio at least every 4-6 months or when you have new accomplishments or projects. It’s hard to keep up, but it is important to chronicle what you do soon after you do it. Otherwise, we tend to forget.

Do explain the work in the portfolio by using captions or cases

Make sure that you have a caption or case study for each project, image, and photo you have posted. You need to have something that explains the work briefly. Writing these is good for you. It will help you when you need to talk about your work on an interview. For a case study, provide vital information in one-two sentences. Use headings like:

  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Deliverable
  • Role

Do ensure portfolio designs clean and clear

If you can use a template, do it, unless you feel that you have true design skills. Designing a website for proper appeal and usability is difficult for the untrained. You could do more harm than good by using type and images that don’t project a good aesthetic. Templates are a great way to have a starting point that can be modified in color, content, and length. Plus, with templates you don’t have to worry about designing a poor functioning or bad looking online web portfolio.

Do cross promote your site on your social media sites

Place your online portfolio URL everywhere. Use it in your email signature, on your business card, and on your LinkedIn profile. The more exposure your portfolio has, the more potential there is for it to be seen by industry professionals looking to hire you.


Do not pay for a web hosting company until you have tried free products first

With the abundance of Do it Yourself (DIY) websites, anyone with simple abilities can create a stunning personal website or online web portfolio complete with social media connection, a blog, photo and video galleries, and a bunch of other content widgets. Look for a site that provides free server space, a free subdomain name, a free online website maker with tools and templates, and free educational resources; anything less and you should look for a different one.

Do not mix business with pleasure in the online portfolio

Keep your professional online web portfolio dedicated to your career, not your social life. Don’t link to a personal FaceBook or Twitter page. Instead, link to your professional LinkedIn page so that potential employers can easily contact you without the burden of personal pictures that may be off-putting.

Do not use other peoples work or restricted images in your portfolio

If you didn’t play a role in a project, don’t include it in the online portfolio. You can and should include it if you had a small role or better. Make sure to include a case study that explains what you did in the process, and be careful of work that needs permissions. You may need to get an approval for work that you do at your job or a previous job that you have in an online web portfolio.

Do not worry if you only have a few pieces of content at first

The online portfolio is a dynamic project that grows as your career grows. Try to have at least two to three projects or samples in the initial portfolio. Add your resume, a bio or profile, list of accomplishments or highlights, and even a video if you have the motivation to get on camera and describe your value.

Do not forget to have others click through and check your site for style and errors

Ask friends, mentors, and colleagues to preview your online portfolio before you unleash it on prospects. Ask folks to consider the look and feel of the site, and request that they write down what they like and don’t like in addition to any errors that they may discover. You’ll be happy you did. It’s better they find the errors rather than the hiring manager.

Jumping cartoon

An online portfolio is a fantastic way to highlight your skills and accomplishments to potential employers. Ingest these chunks of advice, and you’ll see your online portfolio become a potent weapon in promoting yourself during a job hunt.

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Photo Credits: Job Search by Flickr: Tax Credits; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

John DiMarco Ph.D.Professor at St. John’s University and author of “Career Power Skills.”

John DiMarco, Ph.D, is an Associate Professor of Communication at St. John's University in New York City and the author of Career Power Skills (Pearson 2013), Digital Design for Print and Web (Wiley 2010) and Web Portfolio Design and Application...

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