• Focus On: Career E-Portfolios

    by Mary Ellen Guffey

    As the workplace becomes increasingly digital, students have yet another way to display their qualifications to prospective employers—the career e-portfolio. This is a collection of digital files that can be navigated with the help of menus and hyperlinks much like a personal website.

    What Goes in a Career e-Portfolio?

    An e-portfolio provides viewers with a snapshot of the writer's talents, accomplishments, and technical skills. It may include a copy of the student's résumé, reference letters, commendations for special achievements, awards, certificates, work samples, a complete list of courses, thank-you letters, and other items that tout accomplishments. An e-portfolio could also offer links to digital copies of artwork, film projects, videos, blueprints, documents, photographs, multimedia files, and blog entries that might otherwise be difficult to share with potential employers.

    Because e-portfolios offer a variety of resources in one place, they have many advantages. On websites they can be viewed at an employer's convenience. Let's say a job candidate is talking on the phone with an employer in another city who wants to see a copy of the candidate's résumé. The résumé is immediately available in the e-portfolio. (To be safe, students should remove personal information in résumés posted at unprotected e-portfolios.)

    E-portfolios can be seen by many individuals in an organization without circulating a paper copy. However, the real reason for preparing an e-portfolio is that it shows off talents and qualifications more thoroughly than a print résumé.

    Some recruiters may be skeptical about e-portfolios because they fear that such presentations will take more time to view than paper-based résumés. Nontraditional job applications may end up at the bottom of the pile or be ignored. It's safest to have both a print résumé and an e-portfolio available.

    How Are E-Portfolios Accessed?

    E-portfolios are generally accessed at websites, where they are available around the clock to employers. Some colleges and universities make website space available for student e-portfolios. This space is usually available for several months after graduation. In addition, institutions may provide instruction and resources for scanning photos, digitizing images, and preparing graphics. An e-portfolio may also be burned onto a CD or DVD to be mailed to prospective employers.

    At the University of California, Santa Barbara, students in the Writing Program prepare an e-portfolio as a major part of one of their advanced writing classes. Much help comes from application training experts who provide guidance. Check with your school to see whether such assistance is available to aid your students in developing an e-portfolio to showcase their talents.

    Source: Based on Guffey & Loewy's, Chapter 15, in Business Communication: Process and Product, 8e, to be released by Cengage Learning in 2014.