Some professionals say that the portfolio is the new resume. Nowadays, having a portfolio is often just as valuable, if not more so, than having a resume. Why? A resume tells employers what you can do, without showing any evidence. A portfolio demonstrates your actual job skills through projects or products that you have actually completed. Potential employers can see firsthand demonstrations of your abilities through your portfolio. If it comes down to a choice between a candidate with a portfolio and a candidate with just a resume, the one with the portfolio will get the job.
What Your Portfolio Should Look Like
Nowadays, most professionals who have portfolios keep them online. Digital portfolios are required to stay competitive. Many tech industry professionals have a website or blog, with a portfolio page included. Some professionals simply have an online business card, some include a resume, some include only a portfolio, and some only upload work samples to LinkedIn. One great thing about an online portfolio is that you can change its format to suit your needs whenever you like.
To get started, think about why you need a portfolio:
- What knowledge, skills, and abilities do you want to demonstrate to potential employers?
- Who do you want to show the portfolio to?
- What other job-related traits do you want to demonstrate?
- How will you showcase your work?
Think about your answers and use them to help you design your portfolio. That will help you decide whether you need your own website, whether to use a professional network such as LinkedIn, or whether to go with another solution. Consider that you need to look as professional as possible, so choose a site design that looks professional, and ensure that your portfolio includes only your best work.
There are many low-priced designs available on sites such as ThemeForest. Basic content management systems such as WordPress or an HTML template will usually be sufficient to showcase yourself and your work. For inspiration, find portfolios for other tech professionals who are doing what you want to do, and look at how they have structured their site.
What Your Portfolio Should Include
On your portfolio, links to the projects, code samples (if you have permission from the owner), or screen shots of the working program should be accompanied by a project description. The description should include the skills — for example, Ajax, Oracle, Zend Framework — that you used in the project.
If you are a student without on-the-job experience, then class projects, volunteer projects, or personal projects are enough. Keep in mind that employers look for knowledge, skills, and abilities that are relevant to the job you are applying for, so your descriptions should focus on how you used your skills to complete that project.
Things to remember:
- A portfolio should only include projects relevant to the types of work you want to find
- A portfolio is not a resume or an autobiography: only focus on your work samples
- Only include your best, most professional examples
- Include recent work, to show employers you are still active
As with resumes, employers spend very little time actually looking at your portfolio, so be concise. There is no need to write a long description for each project. Once you have completed your portfolio, you need to get it seen by employers. Consider going above and beyond a portfolio by building an online presence through social media, LinkedIn, and online outlets such as forums or blogs. A strong online presence can only add that much credibility to your portfolio, since employers regularly research prospective employees.