Developing a Digital Portfolio

The following post accompanies a presentation that I and Dr. Guiseppe Getto will give in an hour at ECU’s new Digital Writing Studio.

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with Guiseppe Getto

Job candidates, both in the academy and in industry, are increasingly leveraging social technologies—such as social media, blogs, and drag-and-drop web design platforms—to attract the attention of prospective employers. Social media networks like Twitter and Linkedin, blogging platforms like Tumblr, and web design platforms like WordPress are becoming an important addition to traditional CVs and resumes, or at the very least are being used to get CVs and resumes in front of employers.

Within this context, below we introduce ways to design an effective professional network around your CV/resume that promotes your strengths, helps you foreground what you can add to an organization, and most importantly helps you connect with potential colleagues, recruiters, and employers who are scouring the social web every day looking for new talent. After a brief overview of recommended tools, we provide concrete exercises for helping you build a toolkit for yourself that you can develop on your own as you prepare for applications and opportunities.

Designing a CV/resume that is searchable and appealing

CVs and resumes are still important, but employers will never see them if they can’t find them, and recruiters and employers alike are increasingly looking for resumes that match key terms in social engines like LinkedIn. This is why it’s important, when composing your resume (or curriculum vita), to be critical about the key terms you choose. Consider what terms are important and current in your field, and make sure you are using them to describe the work that you do. If you don’t know what key terms are hot right now, search LinkedIn or Twitter for what’s trending. If you are just getting started in your field, it may also help you to include a “Skills” section that highlights your abilities and deemphasizes your limited experience. Also remember that employers like to see action words (e.g. tutored instead of performed tutoring).

Also consider how your audience will most likely view your resume. Will a prospective employer be looking at a printed version, or are you designing a resume that will look good on a website? Remember that even if you load your resume to your website, a viewer may still print it. You should do your best to design for both venues.

You should also pay attention to the effects of overall layout, white space, typeface, font size, and more; many resources for thinking about resume design are available online, including free resume templates, but make sure to make the design your own.  You want to design something that will stand out while remaining professional.

  • Links to additional resources: Scribd is a great digital-authoring tool for writing and featuring documents; folks have uploaded lots of resume templates to the Job Search Section of About.com
  • Examples: Erin’s CV; Guiseppe’s (aka WCD) CV
  • Activities: Compile a short list of key terms relevant to your field. If you have a LinkedIn account, try searching LinkedIn’s skills database or professional databases in your field. Twitter is also an interesting source of what’s hot right now. Drawing on those terms, write a 1-2 sentence description of your career goals, and save this statement for later activities

Developing a professional website

When preparing to design a website that will be the central hub for your online portfolio, your first step is to consider the tools available. If you have experience in web design, you might be prepared to pursue a design-intensive portfolio. If you’re new to designing for the web, you’ll be better served by choosing a system that offers ready-made designs.

Depending on your industry, it may be more or less important for you to display web design skills in the construction of your portfolio. If your industry highly values web design or you are listing that as a skill set, avoid systems like Bravenet that don’t allow you to tinker with code. Several systems like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla also offer both ready-made and more design-intensive approaches.

Begin by looking at some of the options available for website hosting in the Links to Resources section below. In general, you’ll want to purchase a custom domain that is your first and last name (or some derivation if it isn’t available). Avoid systems that force you to append their company name onto your name (i.e. guiseppegetto.wordpress.com). Sometimes these systems will charge a fee for hosting that enables you to use a custom domain. You’ll want to select that option to avoid looking like an amateur. Shop around for the cheapest hosting you can find that meets your needs.

The next step will be to locate a CMS or content management system that will allow you to add content and design that content, unless you’re doing a from-scratch design. As you review each option, search for samples of completed portfolios/websites and see what you like or don’t like about them. Some hosting platforms are designed for certain types of sites; for example, Moonfruit is especially useful if you’re setting up an online shop as part of your portfolio, while WordPress lends itself to a wide range of portfolio styles. Choosing the right platform for designing your website is important because it will influence what you can and can’t do down the road. Thus, by the time you choose a platform, you should also have a pretty good idea in mind of what you want your finished site to look like.

Social media

Now that you’ve started to develop an online persona, you need to push it out to audiences. Social media can be a phenomenally useful vehicle for doing so. A few main guidelines can help you to manage your social media presence, regardless of which networks you choose to utilize:

1) Ensure that you have a purpose for your profile and that there are members of the audience you want to target present in the network you’re joining.

2) Second, be consistent in what you post so that audience members come to expect a certain type of content from you.

3) Third, develop a social media strategy to help you manage content across platforms and ensure consistent quality.

Blogging and microblogging

As with social media, blogging can greatly increase your effectiveness in putting your online persona in front of key audiences. The same principles apply: 1) have a purpose for your blog, 2) be consistent, and 3) manage content effectively to maintain quality.

The difference between blogging and microblogging, is that the former lends itself to longer posts, posts that are typically part of your main website. Many CMS’s have the ability to integrate a blog into the design of your site. Microblogging, on the other hand, has been popularized by sites like Tumblr that enable quick, to-the-point posts that people don’t have to read through. They are image-driven, often funny, and meant to generate interest without a lot of follow-through.

One advantage of microblogging is that the threshold is much lower for producing content. You might reblog or repost content from other blogs in your network, or post images you encounter across the Internet. Running a full blog can be a much more time-intensive activity. If you’re looking for a good place to store content, and occasionally contribute content, a platform like Tumblr may be for you.

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