Five tips to help you nail your online portfolio

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Person drawing lists and making wireframes of online portfolio

Written by Greg Murphy, Originally Published on JobPostings.ca

Congratulations! You’re nearly done some of your most challenging years, slaving away behind a computer screen in the confines of life in academia. It’s a scary thing, having the world in front and Red Bull-induced insomnia behind. But embrace it, it’s almost yours.

First thing on your list of priorities after you graduate may be to find a job. Whether you’re studying architecture, media studies, or anything in between, the ticket to landing the job you’ve always dreamed of lies in the hopes an employer will read your portfolio for long enough to want to meet you. Here are five friendly tips to help you nail your online portfolio.

1. Your online portfolio is like a mirror.

Alright, let’s be honest. I think it’s safe to say you’re a knockout and you know it. You probably spent, a good 10 minutes perfecting your hair this morning, a solid 20 shaping your face with makeup by Sephora or MAC, or (if you’re a guy) 30 excessive minutes shaving that cut jaw line and petting the stubble away. So what’s the purpose behind doing this every morning, day after day? It’s because you know you have an image to maintain—something you know fell straight from the white heavens above, something that makes you, you—that you want to share with the world.

An online portfolio is like an extension of your image; you know you look awesome and so should your portfolio. What I’m saying is take the time to make sure the content in your portfolio best represents your image, who you are, and your story.

2. Ask yourself, what is my story?

Consider the years you’ve spent in your college or university program. Now ask what the ride has been like and be honest with yourself! When it comes to your portfolio, your work at school often reflects the experiences you’ve had, so try remembering those ups and downs. This should make it easier for you to distinguish what you think are your best and worst pieces of work. The good times at school (and no, I don’t mean the parties, pubs, and pranks), often produce the best work. Sifting through the piles of possible assignments to include in your online portfolio can take some time, and that’s just the start. Sometimes what you think is your best work may not be your best to others, so variety and professionalism is key.

3. Review your portfolio with a friend or professor.

You’ve finally finished washing the dishes and wiping off the counters in your now not-so-disastrous apartment. It smells like lemons, (that’s nice). Ben and Cindy just came over after their 6 p.m. class to watch Netflix. Don’t let them turn on your TV just yet—ask them if they’d be interested in looking at your work selection for your portfolio. (This is important.)

Have your friends look over your work selection and ask them to be critical. Getting a second and third opinion is crucial to putting together a stellar portfolio. Asking your professor to review it can also be worthwhile. Having a well rounded opinion on what your best work is will give your online portfolio variety, increasing the chance a potential employer will find something he or she likes about you and your work.

4. Put the most important work, first!

Employers are super busy people. They probably only have a few minutes in their schedules to look through portfolios—they might have 30 of them to look through. Avoid making them search through your online portfolio to find your notable work. Organize your pieces in a clear, presentable way that’s easiest on the eyes. Placing a selfie and a long bio on your home page and listing your work examples in a sidebar is a big no-no. Have your work easily accessible on your online portfolio. You only have a few seconds to attract his or her attention. Help them out by keeping the design simple and clean.

Place all other information to the side. Where your resumé is concerned, only include relevant data (we’ll talk about this in another article, so don’t sweat this for now). Your resumé can be accessible through a link or on a separate page where the employer can see your photo, bio, and contact information. If you attract the employer with your work front-and-centre, then they’ll take the time to read the rest.

5. Keep your bio brief and catchy.

Your life story is interesting because you’re an interesting person. While an employer may decide to give your portfolio a read, it’s important to keep your bio brief. Take your life story and make it into something like an action movie catchphrase (just don’t start it with “in a world,” or “in a time”). Write something you think would sound good if Morgan Freeman narrated it and keep it between two to four sentences. Keeping it short and memorable turns your long (but interesting) bio into a tease, enticing the employer to want to know more about you.

I wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of greatness (and employment)!