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THE DAILY ILLINI

January 27, 2015 View Original Article

Online portfolios play a role in helping students land the job

Along with resumes, cover letters and up-to-date LinkedIn profiles comes another important tool for self promotion: the online portfolio.

The use for online portfolios can vary depending on the major, said Michele Plante, career services coordinator for the College of Fine and Applied Arts. Students in fine arts will include their personal statements, those in Urban Planning provide examples of their InDesign clips and landscape architecture students supply their work samples with explanations, she said.

However, one thing remains the same across all fields: When it comes to creating an online portfolio, “each student needs to be aware of industry standards and what individual employers value,” Plante wrote in an email. “A student interested in print design jobs will use a different approach than a student interested in mobile app design jobs.”

For Taylor Carlson, graphic designer and senior in FAA, an online portfolio is a forum to showcase career-related skills through projects, jobs and work done outside the classroom. A portfolio also allows students to visually show what they work on, by “giving a face to yourself” that may be more than just a written clip.

Additionally, an online portfolio is a way to expand upon your resume with concrete evidence of what you’ve accomplished, said Sean Keane, senior in urban and regional planning. Keane, who will graduate in May, created his portfolio this academic year to better market himself to potential employers.

“It shows you took the initiative to showcase what you can do, rather than just saying that you can do it,” Keane said.

In starting a profile, Plante recommends that students review job opportunities and then display necessary skills in their portfolio. Plante said to be selective on uploaded projects, by tailoring “your portfolio carefully based on what would appeal to your ideal employer.”

Online profiles can aid in the job search, as they provide substance to skills that one claims to have, Keane said. In this way, it “shows initiative to the employer.”

For Manish Singh, a graduate student in urban planning, the essential things to include in an online portfolio are a resume, work samples, a short summary paragraph or bio page and contact information.

However, it can be a disadvantage to create an online portfolio with a specific job in mind, he said.

“(A portfolio) is a website and you don’t know which employer is going to check it at what time, so you cannot customize it for every job,” Singh said.

For this reason, he said he doesn’t change his portfolio for each job he applies for; rather, he keeps it current by updating his profile with his most recent projects.

On the other hand, Carlson displays the projects she feels most strongly about, and switches around the content depending on where she applies for job opportunities.

Another advantage of creating an online portfolio is the ability to display all work in one convenient place.

“If you try to send all your projects as a PDF, you are limited with the number of pages, whereas in the online portfolio, you showcase all your projects ... and the employer has the option to go check each of them separately,” Singh said.

There are a variety of outlets students can use to create a free online portfolio, including wix.comweebly.com andstrikingly.com. Students can also purchase a domain at a set rate.

Plante recommends Squarespace.com, an online portfolio tool, since “the templates are visually sophisticated and the drag-and-drop interface is extremely easy to use.”

Carlson pays to use Squarespace, but claims the cost is worth it for her, as the site saves her a lot of time because it is easy to navigate and update. The outlet offers a simple interface that ensures that the site layout is not “louder than the project you showcase,” Carlson said.

Singh uses wix.com, but pays $75 a year to host his own domain. He said he likes the drag-and-drop feature, and the number of templates that the site provides.

Keane uses strinkingly.com, which he also believes is user-friendly. He said it took him less than a week to complete the whole profile.

“I’m by no means tech savvy with website design, and I had no problems. It’s kind of intended for portfolios and people who aren’t too familiar with websites,” Keane said.

Plante said that it’s all about using the most effective and appropriate tool to reach an audience.

“Once you have a portfolio, market it,” Plante said.

This can be achieved by including the portfolio URL on a LinkedIn profile and Facebook page, Plante said.

“Make it as easy as possible for employers to email you ­— put your email link on every page, don’t make employers fill out a form. So what if you risk getting some spam?” Plante said.

Plante also suggested placing your resume on the website.

“I’ve seen some students forego a resume in favor of using an ‘about me’ page, talking about their childhood experiences. An employer wants to hear you’re a person, but more importantly, they care if you have the skills to perform the work,” Plante said.

Singh said an online portfolio also helps him share work samples so that employers can see the kind of quality he can produce. This, Singh said, leads to a more efficient interview process, because employers can be prepared with questions from viewing the interviewee’s portfolio, and the interviewee can gauge the type of questions that will be asked.

“It helps both the employers and the interviewee,” Singh said.

The biggest benefit for Singh is that an online portfolio allows for sharing “work with more confidence, to anyone at anytime.”

An online portfolio is not restricted to design students, as Carlson, Keane and Singh all agree that it can be beneficial for anyone, regardless of major.

It is an opportunity to show personality online, so Keane recommends making the profile unique by personalizing “it to your goals and what you want to do with it. I don’t think any time is too early, even freshmen. It’s just a good way to get your name out there and kind of brand yourself,” Keane said.