I strive to help my students understand how to visually communicate their work with people. One way of reaching people is through their professional portfolio.
If your school or department does not help students present themselves professionally online, your students will struggle finding employment. To help my future students and other people, I post my Online Media 305 students’ portfolios every semester. I was asked to present on how I help students with this task at the Journalism Interactive conference. In my presentation, I shared some of the advice I give my students.
1. Clean Design
You must help people “see” your content. The “seeing” of content can be enabled through the design principle of contrast. Our eyes like contrast. To create contrast, vary up site font size and type. A trend that some site creators are following is a minimalist design with big headings. Marie Catrib, Brian Hoff, and Jacqueline Guiterrez are examples.
Color is also another way to create contrast. Your website should not always be painted with blocks of your favorite color. One tip is to use color as an accent. I am not a fan of pink, but Jessica Goldberg used it effectively by including touches of it in her headings throughout her site. Remember, site design can affect your credibility.
2. Clear Navigation
Keep your navigation simple. One of the best ways is to categorize your work rather than forcing the visitor to scroll through a maze of unrelated clips. Some good examples of navigation include Dave Hill’s photo portfolio and Julia Tylor’s use of folder icons. You could also consider creating a tab for your latest projects.
3. About Me
One way to connect with the web audience is by sharing your passion for your work and people. A bio should not lead with “I am a student studying at XYZ university. I will complete my degree in 2014.” It is important to lead with your professional foot rather than your student identity.
People connect with faces and smiles. Post a natural-looking professional photo of yourself. Do not include the high school photo of yourself with a guitar or dance club pictures. Good examples include Laura Parkinson, Molly Smith, and Etka Poudel.
On a contact page, you should post your full name, a professional email address, and social media identities. Social media and community building skills are attractive to employers. Social media skills reflect that you understand how to connect your content to people. I would suggest Googling for free social media icons.
For SEO purposes, I require my students to post a portion of their resume in text. Stephanie Paeprer created beautiful contrast on her resume by using both a serif and sans serif font. Remember, a resume should be well-designed and the job responsibility section should include powerful verbs and specifics about what you did.
In addition, it is important to clearly communicate that a PDF copy of your resume is available for download.
6. Content Motivation
If you are a journalist, self-motivation is an expectation. The ease of publishing has enabled any almost person to publish content, but most people are not motivated to publish content on a regular basis.
- Blog: As you write, you learn more about yourself and the topic. I have posted tips on how to encourage students to publish blog posts, think of blog topics, and connect content to readers.
- Clips: Michael Pollen linked to his articles appropriately by providing a headline, publication, summary and date of each article. To make increase levels satisfaction, add a summary paragraph for each multimedia project. You should aggregate PDF copies and links to your articles. It is important to capture PDF copies of site pages because link stability can be an issue. You capture PDF screen grabs by selecting File > Print > Save as PDF.
- Multimedia Web Series: A few ways to show your multimedia work is by creating a YouTube channel (e.g., Peter Hadfield), sharing social media releases for a company, launching your own radio program, or starting your own video web series on a issue in your community.
Angela Grant clearly communicates her desire to get paid for her talents on her homepage. You should do the same. For example, Aaron Lavinsky created a separate tab listing his photography costs. This is an opportunity for you to earn freelance money and learn how to continue doing what you love following graduation.
People are attracted to images. Anyone who uses Facebook can attest to the lure of images. Most people have access to a camera, and thus, there is no reason why you can’t post a photo portfolio such as this slideshow created by using Flickr.
If telling stories on the human condition is your dream job, show me humans. Photographs that display emotion and human faces can affect the visitor. Selena Larson included a photo from her volunteer efforts in Africa to show the type of work she desired. Stephen M. Katz and Poh Si Teng designed their portfolios with a similar intention.
9. Video Resume
More than 80% of U.S. internet users have watched an online video. People spend more time on a website if a video is present. One way to elevate your video resume is by making it interactive. Mashable reported on Graeme Anthony who used YouTube Video Annotations to help visitors more easily digest his video resume reel. Annotations enable you to create a video with clickable chapters.
There are some simple tools to use to create a graphic that visually communicates your skill knowledge areas. Jeremy Pennycook‘s circles, Jessica Goldberg’s WordCloud, and Heather Billing’s interactive graphic are examples.
Take advantage of free services that help you present your resume in a creative way. I suggest to all my students to sign up and complete bios on free sites such as About.me (e.g., Lee Semel), Flavors.me (e.g., Jade Rehder), and Visualize.me (e.g., Erica Swallow). Also, some sites for design inspiration include WebDesigner Depot‘s web design trends, flavors.me directory, and Leslie-Jean Thornton’s aggregated list of examples.
I tell my students that the only limitation is your mind. Give yourself or your students’ time to be creative. To help them transform a blank page into a website, tell them to list words and draw pictures that come to mind when they think about their lives and their career. Every semester I am taken aback by what they accomplish when given the time.