Six Things I Learned When Creating My Own Online Portfolio

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The job and internship hunt is aggressive. It’s competitive and stressful and college students everywhere are trying to strategically set themselves apart from the pile of resumes.

In my case, I have one semester left until graduation. My two minors are completed, I have one class left in my major and my course load for spring is light with the sole focus on setting up a job for post-graduation. It’s exhilarating and it’s absolutely terrifying.

I took a page from my interior and graphic design friends and considered employing an online portfolio. That would be the ace up my sleeve for my resume — a website that hosts all sample work from writing to content created. I plugged in my laptop, made PDFs of published work and prepared for the task. Here are a few things I learned along the way.

I’m not the only one recognizing the value of online portfolios and it’s not a new idea.

It was important for me to realize early on that I was not the only person creating a portfolio for my work. Journalism, photojournalism, interior and graphic design majors, they were all encouraged to have one. Plus, there were so many articles online about how everyone should utilize an online portfolio. *Cue internal groan*

As someone trying to get into PR, I leaned on my education. We look at a new project and we ask: how is this different, innovative or unique? Is it true to the brand? Are we creating the brand? So that’s the perspective I took on this endeavor that I hoped would set me apart from the other graduating seniors doing the exact same thing as me. It’s kind of ironic: I needed to set myself apart for jobs, which led to me needing to set myself apart with the way I chose to do that.

There are plenty of free websites that specialize in portfolios.

I researched this just like I do before any project with my good friend Google. So many websites and blog sites are available to personalize your own portfolio. I decided to use Weebly, which is super easy and requires no coding ability. Other websites include Squarespace (free trial,) Portfoliobox, Adobe Portfolio (included in Creative Cloud subscription,) Crevado and Pressfolios (free for basic version, targets journalists.)

 You will have to pay for a more professional domain name.

The address to your website, if you have the basic version, will usually include the website in the URL. If you don’t want this, you will have to pay for it. That’s when websites cost. A positive characteristic of these websites is the ability to edit your domain even after publication. If desired, you can always upgrade.

 There’s a fine line to walk to maintain professionalism but utilize creativity.

I love color; I love flowers, bold brush strokes and graffiti walls. As a public relations major, I know I have more creative freedom than someone who is strictly business. However, I might say I have less than someone in graphic design. As I selected stock images, I had to ask myself questions:

  • How do I want to brand myself?
  • Is it professional enough?
  • But does it reflect my creativity and personality?
  • What else do I want my employer to know about me?

More pages and text means more to proofread.

No one wants to be the candidate who includes “detail-oriented” in their skills but includes typos throughout their portfolio. Reread your text over and over and then do it again. Then find someone else (or 2-3) to read it. Be aware of commonly misspelled words and make sure you aren’t one of those people falling through the cracks.

 I’m not done.

The best professionals are ones that continually innovate. I’ll need to update, edit and improve my website somewhat regularly. Right now, mine is still pretty basic. I like the quote by William Pollard that reads, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

Ultimately, I do not fool myself into thinking I have the best online portfolio or that I am the first to do it. However, I acknowledge and appreciate the ambition in myself to attempt to stand out, improve and market myself as best as I know how to. I can only hope that it’s enough to get my foot in the door after graduation, maybe even before if I’m lucky.

I wish you all the best.

Laryn Hilderbrandt is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in public relations with minors in marketing and journalism writing. She loves new opportunities, new challenges and new perspectives. In her free time, she can be found watching movies or reading an ebook. Follow her on Twitter @Laryn_Hildy or connect on LinkedIn.

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