By EILENE ZIMMERMAN
Published: June 30, 2012
Q. Some of your colleagues and friends have created Web sites listing their professional experience, credentials and samples of their work. Should you have some sort of online portfolio, too?
A. You may want to consider it. These days, one of the first things a recruiter or hiring manager does after receiving a promising lead is to search for the person on Google. Creating your own Web site or displaying your work on a larger platform gives you some control over what is found.
Even if you aren’t looking for a job, keeping an online portfolio can be a way to keep track of your accomplishments and industry activities. Be sure to let your boss know about the site and make clear that you are using it to showcase your work as part of your long-term career goals.
Q. What does an online portfolio typically include?
A. It usually includes samples of your best work, including articles, reports, PowerPoint presentations and links to blog entries. Portfolios are especially useful for work that can be presented visually, like photography, illustrations and ad campaigns.
Lisa Vaughn-Olstad, a lead agent at the Boston-based staffing firm Aquent, recommends including an “About Me” page that lists work history, education, affiliations and accolades.
An online portfolio can also illuminate your thought processes. Scott Belsky, chief executive of Behance, an online platform for creative work, says that when managers look to hire or promote someone, they want to see more than just experience. “They are also looking for that person’s process, how they do their work, who they collaborate with, how they test ideas,” Mr. Belsky says.
Some portfolios show an early version of a project, the final version and the iterations in between, he says, or reveal a process by telling the story of how the project was accomplished.
Be sure to check with your company, though, to make sure that none of the information you are displaying is proprietary. And make sure you explain clearly whether you worked on a project individually or as part of a team.
A blog on your portfolio, or a link to your presence on a site like Tumblr, shows visitors what is interesting to you professionally and personally, says Ms. Vaughn-Olstad. “You might be blogging about your work with disabled children or on the membership committee for an advertising club,” she says.
Q. Online portfolios seem a natural fit for creative professionals, but are they useful for those in noncreative fields like accounting, finance or law?
A. Yes, because having a consistent, online record of your accomplishments will make you visible on the Web and stand out to recruiters, says Angela Hills, an executive vice president at Pinstripe, a recruitment company in a suburb of Milwaukee. People with very specific technical skills, like engineers and programmers, can show examples of Web sites they’ve built or projects that used a particular programming language. “Don’t just tell me you have this knowledge; show me how you used it,” Ms. Hills says.
Analysts in finance or health care might use a program like SlideShare to post their presentations or papers. But in highly regulated industries like financial services, it is especially important to be careful about posting company information. Always check with your organization about what you can legally add to your portfolio, Ms. Hills says.
Q. Where on the Web should you place your portfolio?
A. Platforms are available for creative professionals to display their work visually, including Behance, Carbonmade and Dripbook; depending on the platform and package, the cost ranges from free to about $40 a month.
Platforms like these can be lead generators, too, as they are often searched by people looking to hire, Mr. Belsky says. You can also register a domain name — often for less than $10 a year — and create your own regular Web site. Designing your site can cost thousands of dollars if you use a Web site designer, or less than $50 a month if you use a site building tool.
Q. Are there certain things you shouldn’t include in your portfolio?
A. Don’t put everything you’ve ever done in your portfolio, because that will overwhelm visitors. Choose your finest work, which may not necessarily be your most recent but represents you best professionally, says Avishai Abrahami, chief executive of Wix.com, a Web site building platform.
And think carefully before linking to your social media presence. “If you use Twitter to tweet about industry topics, definitely link to it,” he says. “But if you tweet about your dating, don’t.”