SPRB’s Career Help 101 Series continues today with a how-to post for creating an online portfolio. As I mentioned yesterday, an online portfolio can help you in your job search for a few of reasons.
- Showcases your work experiences with actual samples & allows you to offer more in-depth info than what you can include in a one-page resume
- Demonstrates your understanding of the digital world
- Helps protect your personal brand by showing up high in search engines if a potential employer were to Google your name
So how do you go about creating an online portfolio? Here’s how you can do it in eight steps:
1. Buy a domain name.
Sure you can put your digital portfolio on a website like wix.com, but it’s not going to help you as much in search results and it won’t come off quite as professional. Use your name as the domain name. For example, my portfolio is at ChristyHammond.com. If your first and last name are not available, add a middle initial. If that’s not available, do the entire middle name. If you don’t have that option either, find something else that sounds professional but conveys the purpose of this website.
You can purchase the domain name through whatever hosting site you will use. Personally, I use Site5.com. I’ve never run into any problems with them — quick with customer service and reliable. But I also host quite a few other websites there so you may not need as good of a hosting site. There are other cheaper ones including GoDaddy, but do your research and figure out which service would be the best for you and your needs.
2. Figure out a design.
Before you can actually start adding content to the online portfolio, you need to figure out how you want it to look. If you decide to use WordPress, you can install any WordPress template you find and use that. I think that WordPress themes are fantastic for blogs, but not necessarily so great for online portfolios so I went around searching for website templates. I came across this free, open source website template website and modified the HTML and CSS to fit how I wanted my website to look. However if you don’t know any HTML and don’t know how FTP works, going the WordPress route is probably the best. Just take some time to find a template that really works as a portfolio.
A professor who teaches PR at Auburn University requires all of his students in one of his courses to create their own digital portfolios and that’s what actually inspired me to create my own. Anyways, you can see a list of his Spring 2009 students and their portfolios to see the different website designs each of them used for their portfolio. You can check out even more of his students, dating back over the years at PRProspects.com.
To find pictures for the portfolio, you can visit iStockPhoto for low-priced images or search for photos under the Creative Commons license at Flickr or Google. Of course you can include your own photo if there’s one that fits. I took a photo off of Navy Pier in Chicago in the bitter month of February, capturing an icy Lake Michigan as the sun set and used that image as the head photo for my portfolio.
3. Write the resume portion.
Every online portfolio needs to have a strong resume section. Take your one-page resume and break it down into multiple subpages on your website. I personally broke mine down into education, courses, activities, work experience, skills, honors, and recommendations while still allowing the visitor to download my one-page resume.
This is your chance to better explain yourself than what you could do in just one page. Some of the sections you may keep just as short as you would on the print resume (e.g. education, skills), but your online portfolio gives you a chance to expand upon your work experience and even include recommendations. For example, I wouldn’t include the courses I’ve taken in my resume because I don’t have enough room to do so. But my online portfolio/resume lets me list all of the relevant courses I’ve taken in sports business and communications.
So just think of your online version as an extension of the print resume you would hand out when applying to jobs. But don’t forget to include a URL to your digital portfolio on your print resume so that hiring managers can view it so they catch the extended version.
4. Work on your portfolio section.
Now that you’ve finished your resume portion, you need to work on the portfolio section. Go through all of your writing samples (press releases, clips, articles, bios, class papers, etc.) and decide if you want to include them all or a select portion. As of right now I have included all of my samples since I’m still a college student, but I will go through and keep only my best pieces before I start applying for full-time positions. If you were to hand in a physical copy of your portfolio, you wouldn’t include every article you’ve ever written but does that count for your online portfolio as well?
I helped a friend of mine create her own online portfolio before she started applying for summer internships (it paid off — she’s interning with a TV station in Myrtle Beach this summer) and she simply included video clips of her work in her portfolio section. Nothing else. You can always add or subtract from your digital portfolio so don’t be afraid to change it around.
5. Create a contact page.
This is a very important step because you want to make it as easy as possible for an interested individual to be able to contact you. Don’t just put your e-mail on the page. Add links to how they can contact you on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, or any other social networking site you would want them to contact you at. If you want to keep your Facebook page private for only friends, leave that off the contact page. Personally, I have my e-mail address and links to my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts as well as my PROpenMic and Sports Networking 2.0 social networking sites that I belong to. Whatever you want to include, it’s up to you but just make it easy and simple for them. And triple check to make sure that it’s the correct URL or e-mail address — you wouldn’t want to mess that up!
6. Try to make your website as SEO friendly as possible.
Freelance Switch suggests going through your new website and trying to insert relevant keywords into it when it makes sense. You don’t want to go overboard and become obvious at what you’re trying to do, but at the same time you want to increase your chances that someone searching for someone to hire in the industry that you want to work in can find you.
7. Add a hit counter.
Why is this important? First, it lets you know how many people are actually visiting your digital portfolio. If the number is not as high as you’d like, you’ll know that you need to get out there and promote it more often. Second, a hit counter will tell you how people are getting to your website. Did they find it from another blog? Twitter? Facebook? Google search? It always amazes me how many people Google “Christy Hammond” and I know that they all aren’t looking for me. There are other people with my same name out there, but when someone does search for a Christy Hammond they’re going to find my online portfolio near the top of their search results. A hit counter will also tell you who is visiting. While you can’t tell which individual from a certain company is visiting you, you can tell the company. I know when someone from CBS Corporation to a PR agency to a sports team visits my portfolio. It’s really nice to have that type of information.
8. Promote your portfolio.
What good is going to all the trouble of making an online portfolio if no one will ever see it? Put the URL in your e-mail signature. Be sure to include it in your print resume and business card. Link to it from the about page of your blog (if you have one). If you leave a comment on a blog or website, enter the URL for your portfolio when they ask about it. The more blogs/websites that link to it (and assuming your portfolio mentions your name a lot), the more likely it is your portfolio will be one of the top links on the search results for your name.
Did I miss anything else? Do you have an online portfolio? Share in the comments.