Will an e-portfolio help you get a job?

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Source: Quora

For final year students, the pressure to get a job can be overwhelming and terrifying.

According to a report released by Brotherhood of St Laurence in 2017, almost a third of Australian young people (15-24 years old) were unemployed or underemployed, the highest rate ever since the count began.

That’s 650,000 young people who wanted work or more work hours.

Meanwhile, a survey done by the Adecco Group on college students and recent graduates in 2015 showed that 74 per cent of them felt their schools “failed to fully prepare them for the professional world”.

Source: Morgan’s ePortfolio

With your uni days numbered and all this competition, we can’t help but worry about all the things that we need to know and do to get a job, can we?

Am I making my CV right? How do I pass the application phase to the interview? How do I stand out from other job seekers?

An e-portfolio might be the answer for you.

I talked to three experts on job-seeking matter to delve into this matter:

  • Vice President of Career Development Association of Australia Carolyn Alchin,
  • Senior Career Educator at Deakin University Sharon Berman, and
  • Senior Work Integrated Learning Coordinator at Deakin University Ross Chapman.

What is the impact of having an e-portfolio when you’re applying for a job?

An e-portfolio is a collation of one’s work online that can be showcased to potential employers or buyers.

The question is, does this medium will help someone in getting a job?

A potential employer looks for two things in choosing their candidates: their competency and cultural fit with the organisation.

The chosen candidate has to have adequate knowledge and skills for the job they are applying for, but that person also has to share the same values and suit the organisation’s workplace culture.

Senior Work Integrated Learning Coordinator at Deakin University Ross Chapman thought that using an e-portfolio is a great way to prove competency.

Ross Chapman
Source: LinkedIn

“The world of work is very competitive and it’s only becoming more competitive. And it’s not enough to say that you’re interested in working in the company… you’re much more likely to succeed in an application for an internship or a job if you can show an employer what you can do,” Ross said.

Ross also thought that you can show your interests and knowledge in the industry through an e-portfolio.

“For example, when you see a journalist whose portfolio has ten articles they’ve written, the portfolio gives you an idea of their interests. They might be interested in news, they might be interested in sports, they might be interested in current affairs. And having a portfolio that shows your familiarity with those issues is a real advantage,” Ross explained.

However, Vice President of Career Development Association of Australia Carolyn Alchin thinks that you don’t have to use portfolio to show your skills.

Carolyn Alchin
Soure: LinkedIn

“In my experience, the best way any student can demonstrate their skills to a prospective employer is through utilising their resume, their cover letter and strong references with online presence like LinkedIn,” Carolyn said.

“An e-portfolio is an example of your work, but realistically you can often describe a time when you’ve used those employability skills in a resume, in your cover letter, or for that matter as part of a recommendation on LinkedIn. And it means that you don’t need the e-portfolio in those circumstances, unless you’re from an industry that specifically uses them regularly,” Carolyn further explained.

Meanwhile, Senior Career Educator at Deakin University Sharon Berman thought that an e-portfolio can help you provide a more comprehensive proof of your competency.

Sharon Berman
Source: LinkedIn

“You can only give one or two examples [in social media platforms], whereas e-portfolio ties things together. You can have an entire page of examples of a particular facet of your work. The examples [in social media platforms] are also not as comprehensive [as in an e-portfolio]. So I think the two things need to work hand in hand,” Sharon reasoned.

Sharon also thought that having an e-portfolio is a “differentiation factor” that can help someone stand out from other candidates.

“If you go into an interview having developed your portfolio as a student and really reflect it on what your skills, strengths, weaknesses are and examples that support your claims, it comes across as you’re much more confident because you’ve done all that thinking as a student,” Sharon explained.

What employers think about e-portfolios?

Recent research shows that many employers haven’t come across e-portfolios. They are still relatively new, but the research also showed that employers thought e-portfolios help them “provide a body of evidence”, “help employers get a ‘feel for the person’” and “offers an in-depth understanding of the applicant.

However, the research noted that employers also worried that e-portfolio might be time consuming to check and verify.

Recruiter checking the candidate during job interview.
Source: efinancialcareers

All three experts that I’ve interviewed agreed that an e-portfolio is expected in some industries more than others.

“[The industries that expect e-portfolios] that I know of definitely are education and nursing, in these industries you need an e-portfolio to progress pay grade to pay grade,” Sharon said.

“In certain industries, for example creative industries, film and television, anything in the arts, an e-portfolio is really useful. And similarly in education there’s a lot of e-portfolio use… but if you’re doing a Bachelor of Business degree and you’re going for graduate roles, you need to have a strong online presence but you won’t be expected to have an e-portfolio,” Carolyn said.

Ross, however, added that you shouldn’t approach the matter “narrow-mindedly”.

“Just because your first job only requires a certain amount of preparation, it doesn’t mean that a job in five-years-time won’t. You may need this later down the track. And as far as being your university, we want to prepare you for that world of work… so we recommend you [creating your e-portfolio] while you’re in university,” Ross explained.

If you’re not in the arts, education or nursing fields, what should you include in your e-portfolio?

According to Sharon, students from other disciplines can also showcase their work through e-portfolio.

“So if you’re a law student at Deakin, there’s clinical work that you can do. So you’re actually working as a lawyer in the city, taking on cases. Perfect example for you to put on your portfolio. So there’s evidence that you have actually worked on a live case. If you take that to an interview to the employer, there’s evidence that you’ve actually worked. If you’re just talking about things in your interview, there’s no tangible evidence. [Portfolio] is a tangible aspect,” Sharon explained.

Other examples Sharon gave that you can include in your portfolio:

Event management – all resources that you use to help plan that event

Business – e.g. a marketing plan.

How to start creating your e-portfolio?

Here is a list of things you need to include in your e-portfolio done by Forbes.

Some free websites where you can start your e-portfolio are:

Personal blog websites: WordPress, Weebly, Wix and Blogger

Specific e-portfolio websites: Pathbrite, FolioSpaces and PortfolioGen

If you’re a Deakin University student, there are services that can help you with this matter.

Deakin Talent helps Deakin students in their preparation in getting a job. They organise two employment expos every year, check your resume and cover letter, post job vacancies and conduct one-on-one consultations.

Tips from our experts:

Carolyn Alchin – Vice President of Career Development Association of Australia

Having a strong social media presence that is professional and appropriate is paramount. There’s a lot of e-portfolio program and many of them are great, but I would suggest straight online presence using whether it be LinkedIn, whether it be Instagram, whether it be Twitter, take your pick. Having that strong online social media presence is really important.

Having a strong image of yourself in your online presence is very important, and making sure that that image is positive and professional and clean lines all those kind of things. In relation to talking about the kind of skills that the world of work is looking for now and into the future, you’re looking at adaptability, flexibility, communication, teamwork, network, problem solving, digital literacy, the capacity and capability to use technology appropriately to solve problems for a range of industries. Those kind of skills are integral now and into the future, so people skills and digital literacy.

Ross Chapman – Senior Work Integrated Learning Coordinator at Deakin University

How you fit in in a particular organisation. If you work for Fairfax newspaper the editorial line is quite different to what the editorial line is in Murdoch paper. And if you do aspire to work in one of those places, a folio is a great chance to demonstrate the issues that you’re passionate about.

And some of our most successful students will have a folio that talks about their issues. And talks about the things that fascinate them. That makes them a very rewarding career, if you can live your values through your work. It’s not just about finding a job that pays you money, but find a job that is the best realization of yourself through your work.

So I would recommend that students set up an e-portfolio, that they align it with their interests and their values and that it’s really clear to an employer who doesn’t know the university, who doesn’t know our majors, who doesn’t really know the structure of our courses, they don’t need to know. But they do need to know what you can bring to the office and what you can bring to the job.

Sharon Berman – Senior Career Educator at Deakin University

Don’t overcrowd it, only hold the best examples. Tailor the portfolio to the position. So don’t expect a potential employer to search through. You need to do the curating, you need to do the sorting through.

For example, to have a page that’s purely focused on your communication skills, and have another page that’s tailored purely on your teamwork skills. So that you can then very easily put  together a portfolio that is specific for each job that you apply for. 

The other really important thing I think is that you actually have a reflection, why have you included this in your portfolio, what did you learn from it, and how do you think you’re going to use this information or knowledge in the future.

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