The E-portfolio: A Recent Grad’s Most Indispensible Tool
What would happen if a carpenter was interviewing for a job and informed the interviewer that he doesnâ€™t own a hammer? What about a writer with no computer, typewriter, or pen(cil)? Chances are they would be shown the door pretty quickly. I think the same is true for a recent college graduate without an e-portfolio looking for a job in advertising.
These grads looking for work in the competitive world of advertising face fierce competition, especially due to the hit the job market took from the economy. In order to be a contender for the most sought-after positions (and almost any credible one for that matter), it is important to have an e-portfolio.
What is an e-portfolio?
An e-portfolio is an electronic gallery of a personâ€™s work. It allows potential employers to get a feel for your experience, style and capabilities during the job application process. The most professional e-portfolios look up to par with some of your favorite websites, including having locations at personal domains (i.e. aklcreative.com or alexklevine.com), which are very affordable and well worth the investment. The work samples should be well-organized and have captions giving context to the pieces.
What should it (not) contain?
E-portfolios should contain the best work you have to show. This requires you to look at your work subjectively and through the eyes of an employer, weeding out anything that is not. A common mistake people make is putting work samples from very early on in their career to bulk up their e-portfolio and show that they have been working for a long time. Bad idea. Employers do not care about the progress you have made throughout your academic career; their primary goal is to discern your current skill level. If you include lesser quality work in a portfolio, you are selling yourself short. Often times, those projects you did in advertising class or your Graphic Design 101 class show a lot better in an e-portfolio than do their hard copy counterparts.
What should it look like?
The content itself is of course the most important part of an e-portfolio. However, another determinant factor of an e-portfolioâ€™s effectiveness is its overall aesthetic of the site. Within the first few seconds on a website, people decide if they want to view any more of it (or not). These days it is relatively easy to put together a website yourself, or do what I did and find a professional on Craigslist to do the job for you. This is the best option if you do not have the skill set to make a great site and if you donâ€™t have loads of time to dedicate to the project. Surprisingly, there are many professionals who are willing to work with budgets that are reasonable for college students. Count on spending around $300 for an amazingly impressive site, $200 for a pretty good one. To be safe, it is a good idea that both you and the designer sign a contract that includes 30-60 days of technical support. You may need it in order to feel comfortable with website maintenance.
The cleverly-disguised sales tool
While an e-portfolio serves to show off your work, itâ€™s really the best sales tool students and recent grads have to get a leg up on competition. Employers are often inundated with similar-looking rÃ©sumÃ©s, so a dynamic website will really make candidates stand out from the crowd. Write engaging copy, make the site easily navigable, and make sure the layout is not drab.
Your e-portfolio should contain all the information that a potential employer might want to know: a short biography, your rÃ©sumÃ©, links to your professional social media pages, writing samples, and contact information. It is recommended to put recommendations on your website, but be sure to get consent to publish them from the authors. I have heard and read a lot of varying viewpoints about whether e-portfolios should contain a picture or not. There are two schools of thought:
- Pro-photo: Everyone agrees that if you put a picture of yourself on your e-portfolio, it should be a professional headshot.
- Anti-photo: â€œLet your work speak for itself.â€ Those who recommend not to publish pictures of yourself say that pictures on homepages will distract viewers from your work and people may even judge you unfairly based on your appearance.
Take a look at online portfolios to get a better sense of how they are structured, and what they contain. Here are some examples:
- Pawel Kadysz This portfolio is everything an e-portfolio should be: it has a point of view, a distinctive voice, personality and a very professional yet personality-infused design. The cherry on top: it has a simple vanity URL. This site gives me e-portfolio envy. Though there are only a handful of work samples, the pieces show well and convey Kadyszâ€™s style and abilities.
- Myra Stringfellow This layout is distinctive, has a specific style and it clutter-free. However, there are far too few examples of her design work.
- Kelly Sutton Though this design is decidedly minimalist, it provides all of the information an employer would be looking for about this Loyola Marymount student in a compact, easily-digestible layout: comprehensive contact information, downloadable rÃ©sumÃ©, social media links, and 5 work samples.
- Alex Levine (that’s me!) Might as well check out my e-portfolio while youâ€™re here.
For pretty much and recent college graduate in a creative industry, an e-portfolio can help you get your foot in the door at companies that may not have otherwise considered you. Let the site convey your style and voice, and youâ€™ll be getting much more attention from potential employers.