Students go paperless, use digital portfolios in job search process

Published by adviser, Author: Rebecca Marcucci - Rocket Contributor, Date: September 20, 2012
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“Brand yourself.” “Market your skills.”

These are among some of the things students hear employers are seeking when students create portfolios to reflect these mottos.

Traditional hard-copy portfolios that most have been accustomed to presenting in an interview have seemed to shift in more recent years toward today’s digital age, according to business professor Dr. John Buttermore.

“You’ve got the technology in your pocket,” Buttermore said. “To me, it’s a no-brainer that digital portfolios are more beneficial. But I also think it is situational. If an employer asks to see a visual, it’s impressive to be able to pull out your smart phone and show your work to employers.”

Buttermore also said digital portfolio options are what employers expect to see most of the time, and that it is also crucial in impressing them.

“It is very quick and efficient to save things on a flash drive to show,” he said. “And I also think it’s amazing what we can do through linking tools like the iCloud that can be right on some of our phones.”

Buttermore said as a former employer, he is familiar with what potential employers want to see and as an educator he is hoping students will catch on.

“It’s our job as professors to convince students of visuals an interviewer might want to see, but this sometimes seems to be the bigger issue,” Buttermore said.

Communication professor Dr. Valerie Swarts said careful attention to detail is still very important with any first job.

“It’s about the story behind the bullet points,” Swarts said. “Your portfolio should illustrate all of your skills, [but] it’s your job to make the employer truly believe it.”

Swarts said the communication department at SRU frequently meets with an advisory board of employers to discuss what they want to see from job candidates. The faculty interprets these examples into their curriculum while in turn educating students on what will set them apart in an interview.

“It’s so easy for employers to lose hard copies of a portfolio or even a DVD,” Swarts said. “It’s not for lack of trying, but simply because they can easily be shoveled in with the crowd. And now employers want to see your personal brand to access your website and look for the skills their company values.”

Swarts said she can see a clear distinction between portfolio presentations of yesterday versus today and tomorrow.

“Taking the effort to put out your best product is timeless, before maybe it meant being extra careful at cutting things out for a portfolio and now we see the content and layout of your personal website is crucial. This all reflects your brand,” Swarts said.

Professor Doug Strahler, also part of the communication department at SRU, said he is a firm believer in the benefits of digital portfolios and personal career websites, but he also stated some of their drawbacks.

“It’s great if you really understand the power of the web,” Strahler said. “You can leverage that power in becoming visible and wanting people to find you. At the same time, you need to be careful about the work you do have visible and what that is telling companies.”

Strahler also said a student’s personal website is not to be confused with a social media site like Facebook or Twitter.

“Once certain things are posted on the web, it is more difficult to hide them, but it isn’t impossible,” Strahler said. “Websites like weebly.com and www.about.me, if harnessed correctly, can offer the professional tools students can use to originate their brand.”

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