In the blog, I’ve talked a lot about resume tips and emphasizing skills to help you get hired. I realize in doing so that some skills are more visual and creative than others, with everyone from coders to technical writers needing an ideal place to showcase their work.Resumes are necessary of course, and just the first part of the job search, but an online portfolio could be what sets you apart from other candidates. Sure LinkedIn is great too, and I encourage you to include links and samples there, but having a personalized online presence is even better.It’s important to recognize that while samples of your work live in your portfolio, that it is also your opportunity to show who you are and define yourself as a branded professional, in a sense.After all, 90% of the information our brain processes is visual and research shows using visual aids makes you 43% more likely to convince people to do what you want.
Here’s How to Get Started:
- Figure out which skills you want to showcase. Even though your portfolio is more expansive than a traditional resume, you’ll want to choose the best projects and be strategic in how you lay out this online portfolio. Ask yourself what the purpose of the portfolio is.
- Push the boundaries on what defines visual and creative. Don’t be afraid to emphasize the creative process, like brainstorming and prototypes. This gives hiring managers a better idea of the scope of projects you’ve worked on, as well helps them to understand how you work, which is essential when bringing someone new to a team.
- Keep the layout simple. You may want to consider using only one page or organizing your online portfolio with tabs. If you choose the tabs option, be sure the most important/ relevant work is on the first page in case viewers don’t navigate any further.
- It’s not just about your work. You’ll also want to include your background, story, goals, motivators, etc. In addition to painting a clear picture of the type of employee you are, it helps hiring managers direct their questions and make your interview more personal.
If you’re having trouble building your online portfolio because you’re new to a role or industry, don’t worry. You can try creating mock projects. Just having something to show off, even if it’s not for an actual client can still represent your abilities. Or, you may want to consider getting freelance work if you’d like to showcase your creativity as well as your capability to deliver a project per specific requests.Sometimes you’ll have an agreement with a client not to share work you’ve done, or some of your projects will involve proprietary company information. In this case, you can still describe the project in general terms, then create a mock article or image that you can use as evidence of the type of work you were doing.Once you have your basic outline of your portfolio’s structure, the next question that probably comes to mind is which platform is right for me?
Where your Portfolio Should be Hosted:
Luckily, there are many to choose from, so I’ll narrow a few down here. If you are looking avoid niche platforms, you may want to consider a CMS like WordPress. For me personally, having an online portfolio on WordPress was an added bonus because many of the companies I applied for hosted their sites using it. My familiarity with the interface and basic coding skills gave me an edge up.Now, for the list.
- GitHub is a repository for open source coding projects and chances are, if you’re a coder, you’re already there. According to SkilledUp, “It is especially useful for programmers who generally won’t need to create a code portfolio, but would greatly benefit from participating in open source code projects that act pretty much like a portfolio within the programming niche.” You may want to consider contributing to GitHub in addition to creating your own online portfolio.
- Coderwall is similar to Facebook, specific to coders. Once you create your profile, it will pull work from outside sources like GitHub and Bitbucket and put that work into a dashboard.
- Behance is a portfolio network for designers, which allows creative folks to commercialize their work.
- Dribble, although invite-only, can be useful if you want feedback on your work.
- Contently is a site that aggregates all of a writer’s articles from various publications.
It is up to you to decide whether or not you need to take the ‘niche’ route. For some, it may be a best fit, but keep in mind if you want to focus on your personal brand and how you work, the personalization on these sites is limited. A CMS may not be right for you either, even when customized. So, consider making your own personal site. If you’re in web development, this may be a no-brainer.Once you have these beginning decisions mapped out and have chosen what you want to highlight, it’s time to take your portfolio to the next level.
Taking your Portfolio Further:
- It may go without saying, but you’ll want a consistent theme that best represents you. Spend time reflecting on ‘your brand’ and play around with various colors and moods. Even if you’re a writer, making something visually appealing can help stage your work in a more favorable way.
- Get testimonials. Whether it’s from a manager, professor, client or peer in the field, testimonials are a great source of social proof that can help influence others (the right way).
- Include links to social media, when relevant. If you want to present yourself as a thought-leader who shares interesting articles in the field, consider including your Twitter handle. Or, if you’re more visual, Instagram may be a best fit. Just make sure all the content on these media are appropriate for professional view. As always, include your LinkedIn.
- Show your education and certifications. This is where the visual aspect of certifications comes in handy. Plus, as I mentioned when you include them in your resume, certifications help to portray the type of worker and learner you are.
- Don’t just show, tell. “Describe the specs or goals for the projects, how you came up with the solution, the tools or methods you used, the obstacles you overcame, the lessons you learned, the skills you gained, the benefits of the end result, etc. This helps companies and clients both understand what you can offer them and what they can expect working with you – which is invaluable when you don’t have much experience under your belt but are dying to be chosen as their next developer,” advises Skillcrush.
- Feature community involvement. Another non-digital aspect to point out in your portfolio is your participation in any groups or organizations. If you attend tech meet-ups or are part of professional organizations, this gives you an added boost.
- Feature how you use your skills to benefit others. This can be especially useful for students or those new in the field. Do you tutor, host webinars, or teach a class? I bet you didn’t know that now you can create courses on Cybrary, here. Great portfolio builder!
Your Portfolio is a Dynamic Resume:
This may seem a bit overwhelming, and I’ll admit getting started takes time and effort, but once you have your portfolio in place, it serves as a dynamic resume that will grow as you do. (Be sure that it does stay updated). The most important thing is being able to share what you do.You work hard at learning new skills and honing your craft, so online portfolios are simply a method to prove that to employers. By utilizing these tips, you’ll have a site that showcases your strengths and gets your closer to achieving your goals.For inspiration, I suggest checking out how others capture their strengths online. A simple Google search of ‘Best Online Portfolios’ should do the trick. There are also plenty of free templates available online as well. With the right tools and your skills, I’m certain you’ll create something awesome.
Olivia Lynch (@Cybrary_Olivia) is the Marketing Manager at Cybrary. Like many of you, she is just getting her toes wet in the field of cyber security. A firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword, Olivia considers corny puns and an honest voice essential to any worthwhile blog.