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Landing the hot job interview these days calls for a multimedia presentation, also known as a digital portfolio.
A digital portfolio allows you to bring your old paper or electronic résumé to life. And since you’re not limited to the traditional single-sheet résumé, you can include photos of your work, video clips of you receiving awards, copies of your letters of recommendations, and more. A portfolio -- either stored online or on CDs or DVDs -- allows you to develop a self-portrait that makes a stand-out first impression.
“You only have a person’s attention for a limited amount of time, so you have to make maximum use of that,” says John Lasiter, a theatrical lighting designer and owner of Qfolio, a digital portfolio company based in Montclair, N.J.
Before crumpling up your paper résumé or deleting your e-résumé, you’ll want to assemble your digital portfolio carefully. Choose an easily accessible format, determine what you want to include, and make sure you’re aware of potential privacy and security issues.
Professions that should go digital
The digital portfolio started with designers, photographers, and artists who formerly had to lug heavy paper-based portfolios of their work from job interview to job interview. But digital portfolios are no longer only for those in the creative trades. The digital format is really appropriate for a growing number of professions in a variety of industries: landscape architects, public relations executives, journalists, teachers, and software designers, among others. In the academic environment, many colleges and universities now require students to maintain digital portfolios of their semester’s work for grading purposes -- and then for the job hunt once they graduate.
If you have photos, video, articles, or other materials to bolster your traditional résumé, a digital portfolio works well, says Eleanor Flanigan, a Montclair State (N.J.) business professor with an expertise in digital portfolios. Flanigan encourages her students to create digital portfolios of their work.
If you’re a writer, for example, you might include copies of articles, cover pages from books you’ve written, or reviews of your work. If your career is in information technology, you might include examples of coding you’ve written in a certain programming language, or a video clip of a networking project you completed.
Putting together a 21st century portfolio
Digital portfolios can be assembled using a variety of formats. Your main choice is whether you want to develop a Web-based portfolio that prospective employers could access over the Internet or whether you would prefer to store your portfolio on a CD or DVD that you bring to an interview or send with your résumé. A portfolio that would be stored on a CD or DVD can be assembled using Microsoft Office PowerPoint or Adobe Acrobat.
But if you’re looking to upload your digital portfolio onto the Internet, it’s time to think about professional help. This is your career we’re talking about, after all. There are many businesses that will design an online portfolio for you. Expect to pay around $500 for the design, then about $15 a month for the company to host your portfolio on the Web.
The rise of social media -- blogs, wikis, and social networks -- has also created more places where your digital portfolio can gain exposure. You can post a link to your online portfolio on your blog or on your profile pages on social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook. There are also services that allow you to create a portfolio and use it to network with professionals in your field. This is particularly popular in the academic world, where such services as Epsilen and Digication allow students and teachers to create digital portfolios and share the work with other educators, students, and prospective employers across their social networks.
Portfolio privacy 101
Before deciding on a format, you need to consider privacy and security concerns. Sure, you want potential employers to look at your portfolio, but you’ll want to maintain slightly more privacy than, say, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. In other words, if you’re posting your digital portfolio online, you might not want to list your home address or telephone number, Lasiter says. “Anything you put on the Internet is there for the world to see,” he says. “It’s like putting your telephone number in every laundromat in America.”
It’s smart, says Lasiter, to list as your contact information a free email account you can set up through Yahoo or Google, because spammers harvest any email address they find on the Web and add it to their mailing lists.
Web-based portfolios can also be password-protected by your Internet hosting company or a digital portfolio service, such as Qfolio. That means the only people who can see your information are people you invite and provide with the details.
Dos and don'ts of portfolios
Put together a slick professional digital portfolio and you land the interview. Slap together the equivalent of a B-movie and your would-be boss will move on to the next candidate. Here are tips on how to use digital portfolios the right way and how to avoid the pitfalls:
- Do take time to organize your material Create a table of contents to help guide your prospective employers or customers through your digital portfolio. Divide your material into categories that make sense (e.g., professional experience, education, and references). “Take the idea of a résumé with its different categories and think of your table of contents in the same way,” Flanigan says.
- Don’t forget to make it easy to navigate Think of the portfolio as you would a Web site. If you go to a Web site where you can’t find the information you’re looking for or there are annoying graphics, you’re going to head somewhere else. If your digital portfolio is on a CD or DVD, avoid using animation features that may take time to load or may appear amateurish. If your digital portfolio is online as opposed to on a CD or DVD, set up hyperlinks within categories to actual letters of reference or other source material.
- Do include relevant materials Be bold and go for the social media, such as digital video, podcasts, and blog posts. If there’s a video of you making a speech or accepting a professional award, you might want to add that in an appropriate section (i.e., Presentations and Awards). Photos, video, and letters of reference all enhance your selling points, in a graphic and interesting way.
- Don’t throw in the kitchen sink If you climbed Mount Everest, it might be appropriate to include if you’re applying to a sporting goods manufacturer. Otherwise, leave out most extraneous hobbies if they have nothing to do with what you can do for the employer.
Above all, you want to craft a digital portfolio that helps generate buzz. In a competitive world, it’s important to show a potential boss that you’re on the ball when it comes to the latest technology, such as a digital portfolio, and that you can keep up with the times. “It doesn’t get you the job,” Lasiter says, “but it gets you the phone call that gets you the job.”
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