Hello Career Hacking Podcast Fans! I hope that you enjoyed our last two episodes that mixed things up with two knowledgeable career changers. If you haven’t yet had a chance to listen to them, I highly recommend that you do so.
Before meeting with either Laurence Bradford or Fernando Hidalgo, I wasn’t quite sure how high to set my expectations for the interviews, but both of them impressed me on the spot! The knowledge that they shared will truly help you find direction in your career change as well.
Laurence works full time in online education, and supports her community of followers that learn to code on their own. Fernando is a former teacher turned data scientist and basically walked us through the entire process to completely change gears by learning a new craft strictly online during his nights and weekends. His story proves that it’s truly possible for you to do the same in your own life. Listen to episodes 14 and 15 to hear their advice, and purchase our WehnerEd’s services to make it happen for yourself! Stay tuned for many more interviews still to come, and thanks as always for listening to the Career Hacking Podcast.
In today’s episode, we’ll answer a question from Kenzie in Memphis who writes:
You’ve mentioned creating an online portfolio as a way to stand out from the crowd several times on your podcast. Will you please share some specifics about how I can create such a site as an aspiring UX designer… and what content I should be publishing to show off my experience?
Thanks for reaching out, Kenzie!
This is an excellent question, and a key method that we teach our clients in 1-on-1 coaching calls. First off, you should know that applying online to hundreds of jobs that you are only kind of interested in, hoping that just one of them responds back with an interview, is NOT a good use of your time. Not only are you setting yourself up for the silent treatment, you’re also selling yourself short. In today’s day and age, resumes are a bland way to advertise yourself while an online presence is an accessible method truly sharing your brand in full color.
An online portfolio website is your best way to go above and beyond for a hiring manager and your ace in the hole to show off your work to get the tech job you most desire. Your site should clearly communicate your relevant work experience(s) and must provide a call to action for your site visitors to reach out and hire you. The site allows you to display similar information as a resume in a much more appealing format, and also allows you to demonstrate the unique value you have to offer. In last week’s podcast, Data Scientist Fernando Hidalgo, he found a company that he wanted to work for, identified a specific opportunity for how he could help them improve their business, and outlined details about how he solved a similar problem using publicly available data. Essentially saying, “you’re settling for less than you should be, and I’m the solution to help you achieve more. Hire me!”
Additionally, once your online portfolio website is up and running, we recommend that job seekers reach out to company representatives directly instead of through standard online job applications. From there you can craft a compelling message about the unique value you deliver and can share a link to the portfolio you’ve customized for them. Talk about a solid first impression! See what I mean, applying with resumes alone is so yesterday.
You may be asking yourself, what do I put in my portfolio since I haven’t yet worked professionally at a job? Here are some ideas you can use to show off what you’ve done so far:
- Earn a New Skill Badge and Highlight Your Education. You can use a program like Open Badges that rates your levels of mastery in particular skills, and you can earn badges to show your proficiency in different areas. Feature all your training and education you have received over the years, which brought you to this point in your career. Include all online courses you might have taken as it shows your dedication to constantly learning new things and improving yourself. From an employer’s perspective, this means you are constantly increasing the value you can bring to their business. You can also showcase projects that you are currently working on and the steps you did to create solutions for past projects. Screenshots can be used to show before and after views of the site or app you improved.
- You can also get immediate clients and build relevant work experience for your online portfolio by working as a freelancer for small businesses. These customers can advocate for you if you need references, and the work you complete for them becomes an immediate advertisement for future employers. WehnerEd is supported by a team of 8 freelancers hired through Upwork and Fiverr. Each of these individuals are critical to the business’ success, and I would be happy to speak highly of them if they asked for a testimonial. What’s keeping you from doing the same?
What Must Be INCLUDED On Your Personal Portfolio Site?
- Customize your site content for a specific audience. For example your site could say “Hello Google Friends!” at the top or your landing page at yoursite.com/Google or “Cheers, Avery Brewing Company” at yoursite.com/Avery. Your customization can also be more thorough for a specific audience, just as you should customize your resume for each job that you apply for. Of course this requires more work, but can also leave a huge impression on the right audience. Investing a few extra minutes to create copies of your landing page tailored to specific companies you’re interested in could pay off big time!
- Include a downloadable resume and links to your LinkedIn and other relevant social media accounts. It’s good to maintain a presence on industry-specific social media channels like Github for developers. However, don’t add social media accounts that aren’t professionally relevant. Potential employers are going to look you up on Google so make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.
- Ensure your email address is easily visible. You want them to know how to contact you, right?
Which Elements must Be EXCLUDED?
- Don’t use a list of bullet points to describe yourself – your personality needs more space.
- Don’t have a long list of ’urls as links to your work either. Include your content on the site locally instead. Tell stories about past projects you’ve worked on, how you approached solutions, how you implemented improvements, and the outcome that resulted.
- Don’t give users too many calls to action. Ask them to do one thing – reach out to you about a hiring opportunity.
This may seem like an overwhelming list of items to keep in mind, but it’s actually rather straightforward. As Fernando mentioned last week, borrow what he and others have done on their portfolio sites and change their content to tell your story. He and others have done much of the work for you, so once you’ve added your content and a few WordPress plugins and web tools make the rest a breeze.
And Finally, I’ll talk a little bit about the resources you need to actually start building Your Own Portfolio Site (contains affiliate links. See our affiliate marketing message on our website here)
Step 1: Buy a domain and hosting services from Bluehost or GoDaddy. This is how you obtain the rights to a custom “.com” “.org” “.me” or other web domain. These companies also provide the website hosting services such as a server for your website data to be stored. Basically, you’re signing up for access to powerful computers that will hold the information about your website and send it to everyone who visits your page.
Step 2: Download and Install WordPress. If you’re not planning to personally code your site from scratch, (which is a TON of effort) WordPress is a strong platform that allows you to get your website up and running in a matter of minutes. It provides endless number of customizable themes and page templates that will fit any page designs you desire. WordPress also has an extensive library of plugins to make your site come alive and provide interactive experiences for your visitors.
Additionally, services like Instapage or Leadpages can also create pages VERY quickly and can be used with or without WordPress. The companies pride themselves on offering page templates that are optimized for selling. That sounds like just the thing you need to get noticed, right!?
Finally, (bonus!) ThemeIsle and ThemeFusion are excellent sources for affordable and professional WordPress themes. The themes built into WordPress are a good start, but something from a 3rd party company will give your site a much more professional look and feel.