Sydney Kchao, PharmD; Evan Lantz, PharmD; and Timothy P. Gauthier, PharmD, BCPS
Published Online: Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Creating and owning a student-specific website portfolio can help students stand out on their applications to pharmacy residency programs.
Acceptance into pharmacy residency programs is more competitive than ever. A study published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education (December 2013) found a consistent decline in the proportion of applicants accepted to a residency program from 2008 to 2011.1 According to the same study, the reported median residency match rate was 61.5% for the 3277 pharmacy graduates who applied to programs in 2011. More recent data confirms the trend. Approximately 75% of panelists surveyed in the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Pharmacy Forecast 2013-2017 did not expect the situation concerning the shortage of PGY1 positions to improve by 2017.2
As the competition for a spot continues to increase, students need to seek innovative ways to stand out on their applications. Standard requirements for pharmacy residency applications will include a curriculum vitae (CV) that provides an overview of a candidate’s professional experiences. Students looking to gain a competitive edge can go beyond the CV by developing a professional portfolio.
Professional portfolios are often printed in hardcopy to supplement a CV during an in-person interview. A website portfolio, however, can help to showcase students’ work from the beginning of the application process. Online portfolios allow applicants to convert content from a CV and portfolio into an easily accessible online format. Residency candidates can augment details about their education, qualifications, and experiences by complimenting the conventional written text with digital photos and links to files, projects, and publications.
Should I Make an Online Portfolio?
Using basic computer skills and an electronic library of previous work, students can expand significantly on projects noted in their CV while portraying more of their personality.
Although website portfolios have various potential benefits, they may not fit the needs of every applicant. Creating a website can be a frustrating challenge for users who are not technology savvy. For these students, the process will require a serious time commitment, which may be an issue for those with a busy work-school schedule.
If the proper time and care are not taken when creating the site, the portfolio could do more harm than good. A less-than-perfect portfolio can portray unprofessionalism, disorganization, and carelessness.
Privacy is another concern when considering an online portfolio. Although website preferences and privacy settings can be tailored, photos, contact information, and other personal details will need to be openly accessible on the site.
How Do I Make an Online Portfolio?
- Choose Your Content. Standard sections of a portfolio include an introduction, a background, professional goals, education, licensure, certifications, awards, recognitions, publications, presentations, clerkships, and professional references. You can customize the sections of your website to highlight your specific interests and unique skills. Applicants with an interest in informatics or administration pharmacy specialties, for example, can use the site to demonstrate technical skills and creativity. You can also include links to Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media accounts you use professionally.
- Get Organized. Having a central location for all your files or even using cloud storage websites such as Dropbox will make it easier to upload your content and maintain the website. It is also important to keep your files organized in terms of document names and folder locations. Not only will you be able to locate projects easily in the future, but your documents will appear with professional names on the website.
- Get started. Website builders such as Squarespace, Wix, and GoDaddy provide user-friendly interfaces for amateur level users to create a website with professional visual appeal. The cost of a domain name and use of a website builder varies, but can be as low as $11 per month. If your technical skills are not that advanced, using a less complex website builder with fewer customization options might be a good choice. When creating a website address, a professional-sounding domain name, such as your full name, is best.
- Keep it Professional. Although a website may seem less formal than a CV and other traditional application materials, remember that the portfolio is meant to enhance your application. The site should promote yourself as an ideal candidate for the program, and shouldn’t detract from your application with unprofessional language or pictures. Keep in mind that anyone will be able to access the website. In addition, remember to proofread all content on the website for spelling and grammatical mistakes. Once the website is up and running, you can measure its impact with tools that measure traffic, such as Google Analytics.
Why Should I Make an Online Portfolio?
Creating and owning a student-specific website portfolio can offer post-graduate training applicants an opportunity to stand out. If done properly, it serves as a novel tactic to enhance a candidate’s experiences and accolades beyond the traditional paper CV and hardcopy portfolio. In today’s competitive pharmacy residency matching environment, an online portfolio could be the difference between earning the opportunity for an on-site interview and receiving a rejection Email.