Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Digital Portfolios Help Students Build Credibility

Today’s hiring managers are looking for evidence of ability, passion, skills and knowledge.  It’s not enough to say you know how to do things – you need to prove it!   It’s important that students can demonstrate their skills in a way that’s meaningful and authentic to employers and optimize their academic experiences to obtain meaningful internships and jobs.

Digital portfolios provide a visual, tangible and compelling approach to showcasing work samples and achievements. They are a great way for any student to market themselves professionally and show what they know in a way that goes beyond a two-dimensional resume or transcript.   For example, while a traditional resume allows a film student to describe a film they directed and produced, a digital portfolio gives the student an opportunity to share the actual film /clip.

This presentation of concrete capabilities often increases interest and confidence in a candidate resulting in students getting more interviews and having more successful hiring outcomes.  In addition, more employers are requiring that ‘work samples” be submitted with job applications and a random collection of links and attachments just doesn’t cut in today’s sophisticated digital media environment.  

If you’re in a creative industry, you may already know that a portfolio is an effective way to prove your street cred.  But digital portfolios aren’t just for students in creative fields. Virtually all students with any major can use a digital portfolio to showcase their skills and talents as well.   No matter what your major is, digital portfolios should focus on accomplishments, applied practice and demonstration of skills. 
Here are some content ideas that all students can include in their digital portfolio:

  • Case studies, research reports, project overviews, and presentation that you participated in as a team member or worked on yourself. This is a great way to show your strategic and creative thinking skills, and how you conceptualized and executed a project.
  • An expanded bio that allows you to go into more detail about yourself than on the LinkedIn or resume (make sure it’s professional and relevant).
  • A statement about your personal brand – this might be part of your bio, or perhaps an additional overview of what’s really important to you as a professional, where your talents lie, or how your personal values have influenced your goals and career choices
  • A web-based version of your resume that you can link to.
  • A flattering photo of yourself
  • Links to all of your relevant social media profiles or other platforms. A portfolio site serves as a great central landing page where all of your networks come together under a cohesive brand.
  • Your contact information – which is surprisingly hard for recruiters to access on LinkedIn (not an advantage for job seekers who WANT to be found).

Choose a Platform:
Thanks to the growing popularity of content management systems like WordPress, Wix, and Weebly, you don’t need to know anything about web design or programming to create a digital portfolio or simple website. There are many free options (upgrades to the basic services usually require a fee but are not necessary). You just need a strategy around why you’re creating the site, who your target audience is, and the overall message that you want it to convey.   Even LinkedIn can be used as a platform by enhancing your basic profile with more advance portfolio display features: add links and upload files.

And regardless of the platform you’re using, or the strategy behind it, remember that portfolios are all about the work – the focus should be on showcasing quality content and relevant information, versus spending time on a flashy design or complicated functionality. And if you don’t know what to include, start with a couple of your best pieces/projects that show a range of your capabilities and build it from there.

Some basic tips to keep in mind:   Select your strongest samples. Think of this as a showcase that presents the best of your best work, whether from your courses, employment, volunteering, freelance, etc.  Add detailed caption information. Include a brief description of each item; explaining either why you selected it and how it is important to you and your career or main goal and challenges of the assignment.  Any positive results? Did your work help increase sales or boost online traffic? Did the project win any awards or was it presented at an industry conference?
And on a personal note, I wanted to share that I am leaving Hofstra, relocating to be closer to family and friends.  It has been a pleasure working with Hofstra students and I encourage you to seek out help and guidance from the fantastic professionals at the Career Center.

Best Wishes,

Lisa Kornberg, MBA

Career Advisor
The Career Center

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