If there’s anything we’ve learned from Facebook, it’s that being able to get the CliffsNotes on any one person at any moment in time without having to directly ask them in person is a powerful thing. Companies like Google receive well over a million job applications a year, and considering that it’s…let’s just say “competitive” to keep an impressively high GPA at Tech, students need to be able to demonstrate that they’re able and learning just as much, if not more, than many other students at competing colleges.
A good grade in a class can mean anything these days. It can mean you understand the theories and fundamentals of a subject but it in no way indicates any sort of practical knowledge. If classes don’t make time for them, personal projects can help scratch that itch. If there’s any one way to show in a tangible way that you love what you do, it’s doing it when you’re not forced to.
One of the most common catch-22’s that college students face is that many companies require a few years of experience yet getting a job to gain that experience is impossible in the first place. That’s a perfect position for a portfolio to come in to play.
With a portfolio, you gain the power to control the message, to leverage personal projects as real world experience, to show that you really love what you do, to share with the world your talents and skills, and (if you’re lucky) to even have a way to gain exposure. You may not even have to apply for a job; they might contact you instead.
“But I don’t have anything to put in a portfolio.” Nonsense. Unless you quite literally haven’t been doing anything—which would be a pretty stunning feat without dropping out of school—you have material for a portfolio. No, it’s not too embarrassing. No, you don’t have to redo it all and make it “look pretty.” People like a story. People want to know where you’ve come from and how you’ve gotten to where you are. A punch-line with no set up stirs no audience; there’s no impact to a story with no build up.
So take what you’ve done and figure out how you can showcase it, because a potential employee with tangible evidence that he or she can do something is a lot lower risk than a candidate with a GPA that’s 0.2 points higher. If you write, put up your musings. If you paint, upload pictures of your paintings. If you’re an electrical engineer, take pictures of and write about your projects. If you’re an industrial engineer, write about how situations in your daily life could be made more efficient. If you’re an international relations major, write up better laws or proposals.
Showcase. That’s a key word and the Facebook analogy was there for a reason. A portfolio made / updated once at the time of job applications, is about as useful and live as your application itself. Few people put information into Facebook once. For most, it serves as a living and current digital representation of you. Having a personal website and a portfolio in that same vein provides just as much—if not more—of an opportunity for serendipity between you and a future employer.
As the world continues to become digitally focused, it is imperative to position yourself positively online. Many employers are seeking internet savvy employees with excellent credentials. Online portfolios can showcase your credentials while also showing your professional persona to employers and potential clients online.
For business professionals, online portfolios can increase online visibility amongst those in a particular field or niche market. This can also increase the number of companies that are interested in your skills.
For students, online portfolios can help secure internships and future jobs by allowing companies to see your accomplishments.
For entrepreneurs, online portfolios can promote your business by allowing potential clients and investors to gain insight on the expertise you possess in your profession.
For authors, online portfolios can allow readers to learn more about your personal story and your writing background. This will help to engage readers and increase interest surrounding your books and publications.
If you can show employers that you actually do things, then they will be a lot more willing to take a bet on you. Once they’ve seen your work, once they’ve bought in, you’ve created something that very few of the other applicants will have. You will have created demand. Once you accomplish that, you’re in.