Haley Petcher, Consultant
The weather is still pretty warm, but somehow it’s already October. October means that graduate school applications are beginning to be due, and for those of you graduating in December, the “real world” of jobs is right around the corner. You want to get into grad school and to get a job, but how will the committees and employers know the real you? How will the people writing your rec letters know details about what you did during your undergraduate career? The answer is what you would expect from a University Writing Center employee: by writing.
These days, though, everything is digital. With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc., we have a large digital footprint with details about ourselves, but none of those footprints are professional. At my undergraduate institution, Auburn University, I learned about ePortfolios, which are basically personal websites that showcase your experiences and skills by contextualizing pictures, papers, and projects. I created one for an English class, but I have a confession: I didn’t finish one in time for applications. Guys, I regret that. However, I recently completed one that represents my experiences in undergrad, and I hope to complete another ePortfolio by the end of my MA program.
Before you say, “I don’t have papers to share,” I promise that ePortfolios aren’t just for English majors. I’ve seen examples of ePortfolios by by engineers, pharmacy students, business students, artists, nurses, and vet students. They pick some of their best projects and presentations to showcase and contextualize.
Creating an ePortfolio is like writing a paper with pictures. Here are a few quick tips to get you started:
- First, think about your audience. Often it’s professionals, like a professor who is writing your rec letter or a graduate or hiring committee.
- Next, write a “thesis” for your ePortfolio. That is, what do you want to prove to your audience? One of my friends, for example, majored in English and minored in business. He wanted to prove that his experiences in English, tutoring, hiring committees, and leadership meshed with his love for books. After getting his MBA, he hopes to find a job at a publishing company.
- Consider how you want to organize your ePortfolio. Should each page have to do with a verb, like “research” or “teach,” or should each page relate to words like “teamwork” or “service”?
- Pick the most important things you did that are connected to your “thesis” and organize them according to your pages. When you write about them, try to explain the project and to explain what you learned from it.
- Pick an online venue, like wix.com or weebly.com. (They’re free!)
- Start creating your ePortfolio! (Remember to use appropriate pictures. Pictures of you outside – by yourself – are often good.)
When you complete your ePortfolio, you can put the link on your resume or email signature. (If there’s something to click, people will probably click it. Take advantage of other people’s curiosity!)
You’re probably wondering what happens if your future employer or grad school doesn’t review your ePortfolio. The great thing is about creating an ePortfolio is that by analyzing and writing about your work, you will begin to better understand what you enjoy about your studies and experiences and how your time in undergrad will help you reach your goals. The ePortfolio shows that you can think critically about your interests and allows you to explain how volunteering at the animal shelter or starting a club for students who enjoy tap dancing makes you an attractive and unique candidate for the job.
If you want some more examples, try checking these out! Also, since an ePortfolio involves writing and is like a paper, you can always bring it to the University Writing Center for a writing consultation.
Note: I received most of this information from presentations I attended while working with Auburn University’s Office of University Writing (OUW). You can learn more about ePortfolios by reviewing the OUW’s website.