The days of choosing the perfect shade of ivory heavyweight paper for your resume, then mailing it off in a matching envelope on a wing and prayer, are gone.
In today’s electronic world, jobseekers impress through digital portfolios, not paper stock.
“Finding ways to show how you can do the work, and what you’ve done in the past, if possible, is always preferred versus talking about it or the dry resume,” said Greg Ambrose, co-founder and CEO of Stack Talent, a candidate search firm in Chicago.
For Cesar Rodriguez, a graphic designer in Chicago, an online portfolio is essential for finding a job.
“If you don’t have a website, especially as a graphic designer, you’re toast,” he said. Rodriguez has even referred to it during interviews, bringing out his laptop to showcase his work.
But digital portfolios are applicable to more than creative fields such as graphic design and photography. They can be helpful to anyone searching for a job, especially those seeking a career change or who have limited professional experience, said Dana Leavy-Detrick, founder of New York-based Brooklyn Resume Studio.
“You can have, obviously, the resume, the cover letter, the LinkedIn profile,” she said. “But when you see someone who’s put a lot of thought into their digital presence, and it’s consistent across different platforms, I think that really shows a lot of effort and a lot of integrity as well.”
There are a few must-haves for digital portfolios, Leavy-Detrick said. Top on her list: A bio. A couple of well-thought out paragraphs can provide more insight into the jobseeker as a person, in a way that’s not possible on a resume or even a LinkedIn profile, she said.
“It gives a little bit more of a look for employers, of who a candidate is, what’s important to them, their personality,” she said.
The bio is valuable real estate for those looking to transition to a new career, as they can talk about their reasons for the change, Leavy-Detrick said.
Also important are work samples that showcase skills or side projects; a web-based resume, perhaps available for prospective employers to download as a PDF; and a contact page with an email address, a phone number or a form to fill out. Leavy-Detrick says to add a photo and links to personal social media pages — LinkedIn as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — only if their content is appropriate.
There are websites and online tools for building portfolios galore, and many have user-friendly templates for creating a static page or basic website, Leavy-Detrick said. She suggests checking out About.me or SquareSpace.
“You can be as creative as you want without any technical skill,” Ambrose said. “You don’t even have to create your own domain, although it’s not a bad idea.”
As a freelance data journalist, Sabrina Karl is always seeking work. Karl sprung for a professional account with JournoPortfolio.com, so she could use the domain name she purchased.
“My work being a visual medium definitely drove my desire to create an online gallery-style portfolio,” said Karl, who is based in Madison, Wisconsin. “Since I want to demonstrate I’m skilled in telling numeric stories with visuals that engage readers more than stories based on words alone, my portfolio clearly needs to show that with images, not tell it with words.”
Karl includes a link to her digital portfolio in her email signature and references it in emails seeking work. She also tracks hits using Google Analytics.
She spent around 30 hours putting her website together, and then more time rejiggering how she presented her work samples a few months later.
“Nowadays, though, it’s not much work,” she said. “Since my design is set, I just need to prep each new graphic I want to include.”