Tips for Creating a Stellar ePortfolio

To start, let’s answer a few questions.

An ePortfolio is basically a professional, personalized landing page; you can think of it as a customizable LinkedIn.

An ePortfolio is like your LinkedIn on steroids. You can include whatever content you’d like, not limited to the fields LinkedIn provides, and add your own personality flares through design (which is great for reasons described later in this article).

By the time you’re asking this question, you should already have a resume and LinkedIn, which is convenient since there’s a lot of overlap in content on each.

An ePortfolio should definitely include experiences (jobs) and education (degrees, certificates). Your other sections depend largely on where you are in your career and your area of expertise. As a college student, I include relevant college courses under education, and a few involvements and awards relating to my field. I have a section to showcase some coding projects, but similarly you could include a design portfolio or articles you’ve written. Something nice to include is an interests section (which I’ll talk about more in depth later) to give insight into your personality.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

So now that some of the foundational questions are answered, let’s get into these 6 tips for creating a stellar ePortfolio.

3 Do’s

Your resume, LinkedIn, ePortfolio, GitHub, business cards, and whatever other professional platforms you’re on should be aesthetically consistent. Using the same photos, style, colors, verbiage help comprise a cohesive look, which demonstrates to potential employers that you’re organized and can see the bigger picture.

For example: I use a handful of photos from the same photoshoot on all my platforms so there’s a little variation but everything’s still coordinated. On my ePortfolio, the main color used compliments the photos, which helps established a clean look.

I bet if we spent 10 minutes chatting, I’d discover 847 awesome things about you. Unfortunately, a potential employer is only going to spend 30 seconds (tops) glancing through your ePortfolio. You have to make those 847 awesome things apparent on first glance, and I’m not just talking about the skills you have that would make you a great candidate for the job.

You want to show them you’re a person they want to work with,
not just someone who would be a good employee.

You can do this by expressing who you are and what you’re about on your ePortfolio… after all, it is your personal landing page where you get to control the narrative about yourself.

I think a lot of times we hesitate showing our true personalities on LinkedIn or our personal websites because it could potentially be seen as unprofessional. However, there are tasteful ways to express personality without sacrificing professionalism.

  1. With Visuals: choose designs, layouts, and colors that reflect your personality.
  2. With Content: include a little bit of humor in your about section to show your light-hearted attitude, create a personalized photo strip of places you’ve travelled, highlight a few articles you’ve written on Medium… including these things shows the depth of your personality and helps humanize you to potential employers. Plus, that stuff is fun!

Showing your personality on your ePortfolio also helps companies that share common interests and values with you realize that you’d be a great fit, so in the end you’ll find a place to work that also works for you.

In other words, if you seem plain online, you won’t attract colorful companies.

Often we list things like “strong written and verbal communication,” “time management,” “organization,” and “collaboration” in our skills section, but when you have a personal website, you have the chance to show instead of tell about your skills. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

  • Show your strong communication skills by having stellar verbiage describing your experiences.
  • Show time management by listing a job that you had while also in school.
  • Show organization by having your website layout clean and even having your content across platforms consistent (like mentioned earlier).
  • Show collaboration skills by listing group projects or teams you’ve been on.

In addition to demonstrating your skills, you can show your work by including external links. If you do have any work on other platforms that you want employers to know about, this is your ultimate tool! For example, I not only link to my GitHub repos, but I also have a “projects” section highlighting some of the best projects I’ve done. These projects have their own links to GitHub or even a demo video on YouTube. You can get really creative here!

One thing you don’t want to link to on your website is your paper resume… it defeats the purpose of having an ePortfolio. Your website should include everything on your resume plus some; linking it reiterates information that’s already there.

3 Dont’s

ePortfolios are one of those things that if they’re done right, it scores you major points with a potential employer. If it’s done wrong though… it could hurt you more than help.

Yes, it’s your personal website that should showcase your personality and your work. But at the end of the day, you’re creating it so that potential employers can see if you’re a good fit for the company and position.

That means that the content should contain only what potential employers would care about. The best way to do this is to reduce noise and emphasize highlights.

To reduce noise, think: is the hiring manager at the company I want to work at going to think this would help me in this role? Are there transferrable skills I got from that involvement that I could bring into this role? If the answer is no and no, then omit it.

There is a line between what’s relevant and what helps you express your personality; a rule of thumb is if you’re trying to keep something in the sections of experience, education, skills, involvements (basically the meatier sections) that helps express your personality, it doesn’t belong. Instead, think about dedicating a separate section (like “interests”) for these.

For example: I’ve been heavily involved in music my entire life, but I’m going into a career in software development, so none of my music involvements are listed under “experiences” or “involvements.” Instead, I included a photo strip at the bottom of my website where I highlight my interests, including music. This is a good compromise because I’m including those fun things that help express my personality, but don’t have them distracting from the primary sections.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what to filter, you can also get input from friends, family, university career office, etc. I’ve found having that outside perspective is really helpful in deciding what to keep and what to toss.

Emphasizing highlights will be partially done after reducing noise; by taking out that clutter, the focus is on what’s left… which is the stuff that matters.

Another way to emphasize highlights further is visually; literally highlighting things or making them a different color/font/size help draw attention to them. For example, I highlighted words in my experience section that are also skills that an employer would look for. This ended up being a great replacement for my “skills” section too!

Reducing noise and emphasizing highlights ensures that you’re not creating a website for yourself. And in the end, creating a website with content that’s relevant to them also demonstrates that you’re more focused on what they want than what you want, which is a great attribute to have as a potential employee.

After you reduce noise, you might feel like there’s not as much to work with and have a tendency to add in filler content. But remember… less is more.

For example, I didn’t list all the points from all my jobs, just the most important points from recent jobs. I listed my relevant college courses, but not all of them. If someone asked me about one of these courses in an interview, I’d be able to talk with them about what I learned and how it’s relevant to the position.

Putting in extra filler material is like adding more ice cubes… it’s not any more effective than the original content, and just waters everything down.

This is more about your experiences section; using bullets is fine, but they shouldn’t be random points with no correlation. Whatever you add under an experience should tell a story about it, or give a bigger picture idea of what you did in that role. This isn’t exclusive to what you contributed; it can include any way you added value or even what you learned.

For example, in my current internship, I resolve support tickets, but I don’t list that on my ePortfolio. Instead I include the core skills that I use to resolve support tickets (aka transferrable skills). Focusing on the bigger picture of the technologies I use and the way the team works gives a clear impression of what it is I do.

Also, you don’t just want to tell a story about what you have done… also tell a story about what you can do in the future. By focusing on those transferrable skills and what you’ve learned, you’re also demonstrating what you can bring to future employers.

Thank you to Anna Sirmeyer for being a great mentor and including me in the webinar in which I first shared these tips.

Let me know if you found these pointers useful! Happy ePortfolio building :)

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Data Scientist & SWE | NASA | BS Computer Science & MBA Student

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