To successfully enter the job market, your students need to stand out and demonstrate what they know and can do. According to a recent ExecuNet survey, 77 percent of employers use search engines to learn about candidates. One approach is to coach students not to post anything online that could reflect poorly on them during the interview process. But why not be prepare them to make a great impression? A portfolio showcasing student projects and highlighting their digital literacy creates positive search results. And of course, having your own portfolio as a faculty or staff member doesn't hurt either.
These tips will help your students prepare and publish strong portfolios.
Know yourself, but consider your audience.
A strong portfolio presents a point of view about who you are and what you can do. It reflects your unique skills, interests and specialties. But, like any communication, it should also meet the needs of your audience. Who do you want to impress or attract with your portfolio? What types of people, institutions, companies or organizations are your targets? Whether job searching or positioning yourself as a leader in your field, you'll want to have a good idea of what your intended audience would like to see.
Explore online portfolios of your peers as well as individuals you admire or who hold positions you aspire to achieve one day. What do you like about what you see? What do you dislike? What types of projects are highlighted, and how are they summarized? What's the appropriate look, feel, design and style of a portfolio in your industry? Take notes on what you see to refer to later.
Decide on the type of portfolio you want to create.
As you explore the competition, consider where portfolios in your field are hosted. For example, if you're a creative, you might find that your peers use Behance or Adobe Portfolio to create social portfolios. As a researcher, perhaps your peers use ResearchGate or another aggregator to highlight their work. In other fields, a strong LinkedIn profile is key. Or, you might find competitors have built their own professional website. There are a number of great services such as Adobe Spark Page that allow you to do this easily. Or, build a website using a template or from scratch with Adobe Muse. Decide now what your approach will be, and remember you can always move your portfolio to a new platform in time.
Curate and select the projects to feature.
Now comes the fun part. Review your work over the past few years, and identify a few projects to feature. Keep in mind the following best practices:
- Be representative
Choose projects that demonstrate the breadth of what you can do, not just what you know. A mix of different types of digital communication projects such as excerpts from written work, digital presentations, and video show you are adept at communicating in the various media required for success in today's world.
- Be selective
A natural tendency for anyone preparing a portfolio is to include too much. The most impactful portfolios highlight just a few excellent projects that clearly demonstrate excellent work and range.
- Be consistent
Consider featuring projects around a theme related to your job search or area of expertise. Avoid the temptation to include "cool" or "interesting" projects that aren't connected to the rest of your work or don't align with your message.
Create assets for your portfolio, regardless of the format.
Once you select your projects, create and store the assets for your portfolio. Create a folder on Adobe Creative Cloud or another file storage system and save everything in one place for easy access later. First, upload project files or make note of the URL where your project is stored online. For example, find the YouTube embed link for a video. Then, write a brief description for each project, and give it a short, descriptive title. Finally, select an eye-catching image for each of your projects to inspire the viewer to dig deeper. Create a snapshot cover photo for each project using Adobe Photoshop, and size it appropriately for your chosen portfolio platform. Finally, write a brief biography, and update your headshot.
Build the portfolio and gather feedback.
Now it's time to get technical. If you're using an online portfolio or website-building service such as Behance, Adobe Portfolio, or Adobe Spark Page, just choose a template, upload your assets and fine-tune. If you're building a portfolio website from scratch using Muse, you'll have a bit more work to do, but more control over the final product. Regardless of your chosen platform, take time to share your portfolio with trusted peers and advisors to gather feedback. Ask: does my portfolio reflect me? Will it resonate with my intended audience? What impression does it create?
As an educator, provide guidance and feedback.
Building and curating a portfolio can be challenging for students. As an educator, you can serve as a facilitator and a coach. Provide feedback to guide students in the right direction. But ultimately, students should take ownership over their own work and portfolio. After all, these portfolios should continue to grow and evolve long after these students leave your class. Focus on providing guidance, teaching communication skills, and setting students off on the right foot.
Ready to get started?
Explore these additional resources to implement the best practices shared in this article:
- Jan Holmevik, faculty, Clemson
- Student Porfolios, English 8530, Clemson University
- LaDale Whaley, staff, University of Tennessee
- Adobe Portfolio: Examples
- Will Hart, Architecture, Auburn University
- Megan Gibbs Talley, Public Relations, Louisiana State University
- Manoj Manduva, Masters student in Interaction Design, National Institute of Design, India
- Sang-won Leigh, graduate student, MIT Media Lab
Professional Development Workshops & Courses
- Create a Digital Portfolio
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