Your Digital Portfolio - Social Media Explorer
Your Digital Portfolio
Your Digital Portfolio

In my last post I wrote about how to show, don’t tell, as you look for jobs and build your resume and profile. In just the few weeks since I wrote that post, I’ve been reading more and more about the problems that recent grads are having in finding jobs, and it’s gotten me thinking.

What’s the most efficient way that today’s job seekers, including recent grads, can get hired for jobs in today’s economy? I think every job seeker, particularly those in creative or tech fields, must have a digital portfolio.

Beyond the Fancy Education

A really eye-opening post on Medium, “Don’t go to art school,” argues that the nearly $250k you’d spend getting an undergrad degree in art, from a school like Rhode Island School of Design, is wasted money. Author Noah Bradley, a successful commercial artist, instead outlines a $10,000 education obtained online and in person, and partly accomplished using free resources. I think that’s incredibly smart.

Frankly, if I’m going to hire a designer to work on a web project, I don’t really care if they have a fancy art school education. Most importantly, I want to see their work. I also want to know that they’re going to be responsible, deliver work on time, and be communicative about their questions and progress. An art degree won’t tell me any of that.

If I’m going to hire a writer or community manager, I feel the same. I don’t necessarily need an English major or journalism major to do the work. Give me examples, back up your resume with actual work, and prove to me that you can write, or you can community manage.

Work Product in the Digital World

My bias in thinking about the jobs market is, naturally, for the digital world: not just designing and writing, but the coding and architecting of the websites, apps and operating systems which make the digital economy function. There will only be an increasing need for these skills, as a greater percentage of the world’s population gets online, and mostly via smartphones.

Even though these jobs are in digital media, they’re also all quite tangible, with specific work product; if you want someone to hire you to do any of those things, you again need to show, not tell. Save everything you work on, even if it’s student work, and create a portfolio of your work.

Bring your portfolio together on a website (which you can make password-protected, if you wish), or, at minimum, as links in an email. Your digital portfolio can be as simple as an site, or as complex as your own website.

If you code, you’ve got code or finished products to show. If you design, you have websites, banners, print work or email templates. If you write, you’ve got marketing copy, blogs, white papers or other copy. You may have video, or podcasts, or links to your social media presences or that of companies you’ve worked with. Include as much as you can to tell the story of who you are and what kind of work you’ve done, and can do.

Build Your Digital Portfolio

Of course, someone just starting out in a digital or technical field (whether straight out of school or later in a career) may not yet have enough work to create a portfolio, so it’s important to do some work for friends, family, or local businesses at a reduced rate or even free. That’s really no different than a college student or recent grad working in an internship (paid or unpaid). While you’re building your portfolio, work another job to bring in the income you need, and, as your side job, create as much work product as you can in your desired field. This will help you to later attract the job you really want.

Hopefully, adding a digital portfolio to your job search will help you outrun the statistics: as of June 2013, 44% of young college grads are underemployed. I’d like to hope that a well-prepared young person with a portfolio in digital marketing or tech development would fare far better in their job search. If you know of a grad or job seeker for whom a digital portfolio has made the different, will you please drop me a line in the comments? I’d love to hear the stories.

About the Author

Stephanie Schwab
Stephanie Schwab is the Principal of Crackerjack Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in social media planning and execution. Stephanie is also the founder of the Digital Family Summit, the first-of-its-kind conference for tween bloggers and content creators and their families. Throughout her 20-year career, she has developed and led marketing and social media programs for top brands and has presented on social media and e-commerce topics at numerous conferences and corporate events. Stephanie writes about social media at, sometimes hangs out at Google+, and tweets @stephanies.
  • rheasons

    Having a digital portfolio is very helpful especially if you are a fresh graduate and wanted to apply. This will prove your skills and worth.

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  • Leah Marsden

    Stephanie, thank you for saying this. As a fairly recent undergrad, I find it shocking how many of my friends and former classmates have been stuck in the same dead beat job since graduation, and haven’t yet been able to hack into the marketing world.

    I think it stems from two crucial problems with the way my generation has been taught to succeed. First, many graduates don’t understand that to get a job in marketing, they need to be able to market themselves. If you portray your personal brand, then many organizations simply won’t be interested. This means everything from keeping up with a consistent social media presence to a personal website or blog, or if you’re a designer, making your work visible on the plethora of design sharing sites (Dribbble, etc.).

    The second crucial problem is that my generation has been taught to value academic success over real-life skills. Growing up in a very competitive time for college admission, so much relied on a sterling academic record and a perfect activity attendance record. When I was faced with the real world, it took me a long time to understand that academics only go so far. You need to be able to prove your performance ability, demonstrate your willingness to take on challenges, and show how dynamic an employee you can be.

    Ultimately, unless you stand out from the crowd, you’ll never find your dream job.

    Now for the self-endorsement: I’m working on my own personal brand at I’d welcome any feedback :)

    • Hi Leah! Thanks so much for reading and tweeting! I think you’re dead-on in your assessment; a related problem is that most professors don’t do, they only teach, and therefore they can’t impart those real-life skills that college grads need. I’d love to see more adjunct instructors even at the undergrad level (they’re more common in grad classes, from what I can see), who can bring some reality into the classroom.

      Your site looks great! I’ve added it to my RSS reader (feedly), so I can follow your progress. Good luck!


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