While crafting the perfect resume or cover letter is pretty standard, you should always make an online portfolio to showcase your work. Regardless of the career path you’re interested in pursuing, putting your best work in one place is a great way to showcase your skills, especially when you’re just starting out. Whether you're a student applying for internships or you recently graduated and are applying for jobs for the first time, here’s how to create a professional online portfolio today.
- find portfolio examples for inspiration
Keep an eye out for what you like, and what you feel would reflect your work well. A quick online search yields plenty of results where you can find professional portfolio examples. Be sure to narrow down your search terms to make sure you’re finding portfolios that are relevant to your interests — and try not to feel overwhelmed or scared!
My favorite way to find online portfolio examples is by searching on LinkedIn using hashtags. Try using words that are specifically relevant to your field, like “#datascience” or “#photography” and add “portfolio” to narrow down the results.
- Choose a platform that suits your type of work
Creating a website where you can compile and showcase your projects and talents offers lots of versatility, and for a first portfolio, starting with an online template can be a great step. Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress are all options for building a website to showcase your work. People in creative fields might use Instagram to create their portfolios, and many aspiring journalists, for example, point to their author profile on Muck Rack, which is specifically designed for writers, editors, and public relations specialists. I was able to create my first portfolio using Adobe Portfolio, which you may have access to if you’re a student at a university.
You’ll also want to consider how much you want to pay for a website (if anything). If you’re an avid coder, you may also consider making your own website using GitHub or another service — there are plenty of examples available for these as well, along with templates. Pro tip: find someone in your industry of interest, and consider what types of websites and templates they use for their professional portfolios.
- find the projects you want to showcase
Whether your projects were for class, work, or simply a hobby, it’s important to organize your content so you can showcase relevant material through your online portfolio. Look for projects and creations you are proud of, whether it’s a quality paper you wrote in college or a design mock you feel showcases your artistic abilities. Once you’ve collected your work, it’s time to organize these projects into different categories, depending on your skills and interests.
If you, like myself, indulge in a variety of creative work, from writing to photography and even graphic design, think about whether you want these to be separated on your portfolio, or whether you’d like to show all the work as individual projects rather than by category. Then, consider the online platform you’ve chosen to see what method of organization is doable. Also keep in mind any relevant examples from your industry, and consider what type of portfolio a hiring manager would be looking for.
- Start creating your portfolio
One of the most difficult parts of creating an online portfolio is getting started. Know that once you start, your vision can 100% change, and at times, you may be unsure of the direction you want to go. You’ll likely change up the color scheme and layout many times. The dimensions and margins might be off at times. However, this is totally okay! The most important thing is getting started. Commit to your platform of choice (for now) and simply start creating.
If you’re unsure of how to get started, you can always start with your “About Me” page. Consider what you want people to know about you when they first land on your page. Make it inviting by writing in your own, authentic voice. Include a professional image of yourself, a brief bio, your contact information, and perhaps direct links to your LinkedIn or ways employers can contact you. Your “About Me” page is also a great area for you to add some (appropriate) humor or highlight aspects of yourself that may set you apart from other job candidates.
When uploading or showcasing your professional work, make sure you include a brief description to contextualize each project and demonstrate how you created the work. You may not need to include every detail, but for example, if you used a particular tool or software that’s a sought-after skill for a future role, you may want to mention it.
- keep your materials consistent
Once your portfolio feels “complete” (psst: it’s okay if it changes and evolves, just like your actual resume!), cross-reference your portfolio with your LinkedIn profile and your other professional materials to make sure the information is accurate and consistent. This will help ensure that the relevant work, projects, and skills mentioned on your LinkedIn profile and resume are also demonstrated on your portfolio.
Keep in mind that visuals matter, so the more consistent and organized your materials are, the more impressive you will appear as an applicant — before a future employer has even met you! If you use a particular logo or style on your resume, consider implementing that into your portfolio as well.
- Update your portfolio regularly
Chances are you’re juggling a lot right now, and it’s super easy to let your portfolio slide to the back of your mind during busy times. However, you should still try to update your portfolio every time you have a new project to add!
Something to be wary of when adding new projects is making sure your work is protected, especially if it’s something that has not been released to the public yet. For instance, if you’ve worked on a project that includes something integral or confidential to a company or brand, or they have some trademark or copyright to the work, you may want to ask your manager if you’re able to display this work in your personal portfolio first. You can also create a password-protected page on your website if a portfolio is required for an application, but you don't want your work to be completely public yet!
For many people, the idea of creating an online portfolio is daunting, but it can also be a very creative and rewarding process! You can update it over time, and I guarantee you’ll make changes as you learn, grow in your field, and work on new projects that align with your goals. Once your portfolio is complete, share the link on your LinkedIn profile, or perhaps write a post announcing it. This step is totally optional, but you may be able to reach more people and get your work out there, which can be helpful for the job search. Remember, your online portfolio isn’t just a space for your future employers — it’s also a space for you to show off your hard work. Good luck!