Job Searching / Technology

How to Stand Out in the Job Search Crowd

Over the last couple of weeks, we have brought you a series of posts about preparing yourself for the job search. Ashley gave you general advice she gleaned from an interview with a hiring manager. Rose brought you advice on filling out your job application and creating a cover letter. Then Laura talked about tips for how to dress when you go to an interview or job fair. Today’s post talks about a tool you can add to your job search toolkit to help you stand out: the eportfolio.

The portfolio concept has been around for a long time within the art and architecture fields. In a portfolio, a student builds a collection of examples of his or her work to showcase to potential employers. This concept, however, is a relatively new one within library and information science schools. Some schools, such as San Jose State University, require all their students to complete one [Correction: SJSU gives students the option of creating one over a thesis, and most students do chose this option.]. Others, such as the University of Tennessee, are in the process of implementing the eportfolio as an alternative to the thesis or comprehensive exams. Today, I’m going to answer four questions to introduce you to the eportfolio and explain how it can be an asset to your job search, namely:

  1. What is an eportfolio?
  2. What are its benefits?
  3. Why should I consider making one?
  4. How do I get started?
What is an ePortfolio?

An eportfolio is an online showcase and demonstration of your skills and knowledge. It’s a website where you discuss your education, showcase and exhibit products you’ve created, and accent your improvements and growth throughout grad school and beyond. The eportfolio also provides a platform for collection of “learning artifacts.” Learning artifacts are actual examples of your learning. They can be in the form of exams, projects, presentations, or research papers. You can also use an eportoflio for visualization of important material and knowledge. For example, you can display concept maps for each of your classes to display what you learned to strengthen and enhance your learning.

What are its Benefits?

One of the major benefits of preparing an eportfolio is that it provides a place for active learning and reflection. Active learning is the opposite of passive learning. Passive learners sit in the classroom — maybe taking notes, maybe not — and listen to the teacher. They study and take exams, but rarely give the material another thought. Active learners constantly reflect upon what the material is teaching them and how they can apply it to their future goals. When their tests are returned, they analyze what they did well on and what they need to work on. They write a journal entry about it to solidify the experience and extract the important details to take away from it. They might even attempt to redo the exam questions they missed to improve them. This form of learning causes the students to truly synthesize the material into their thinking, not merely memorize and regurgitate it for an exam.

Another benefit of an eportfolio is that you can demonstrate how you’ve grown and improved over the course of your graduate school years. This is key, because employers want to see that you can grow once they hire you. They expect you to continue learning and growing as an employee, so accentuating this in your eportfolio proves to them that you’re capable.

Why Should I Consider Making One?

Even if your program doesn’t require you to make one or offer it as an option, you should create one. Contributing to your eportfolio throughout your career will place you above the crowd in each of your classes because you will have synthesized the material far more deeply than your classmates. You will also stand out when you graduate because you will have proof of your skills, knowledge, talents, and growth to show your potential employers. Simply telling an employer what you can do in a resume and cover letter is one thing, but showing them examples of where you’ve actually done it makes you stand out.

How Do I Get Started?

Creating your own eportfolio is easy! You can use any web content management software you are familiar with, such as Drupal or WordPress. I suggest you start with WordPress because it is very easy to operate. Almost anyone can get started in WordPress with almost no web design experience. Simply set up a free account in WordPress and get started. There are plenty of WordPress tutorials on Youtube to help.

My eportfolio is still being built (I’m in my second semester at the University of Tennessee), but I’m happy to share it with you. It’s a work in progress and will constantly be changing. There is still a lot I want to do with it that I haven’t done yet. I’m happy to hear suggestions from those of you with some web design experience on how to make it better. Just click here!

Would you consider setting up an eportfolio? If so, do you have any other questions about it that I could answer? If you already have an eportfolio in some form or another, tell us about it and provide a link to it, if you don’t mind.

54 thoughts on “How to Stand Out in the Job Search Crowd

  1. Excellent post, Chris! I have been wanting to create an e-portfolio but wasn’t sure where to start. Your post has pointed me in the right direction. I also think that yours is extremely well organized.


  2. I just wanted to clarify that at San Jose State University, students have the option of either creating an eportfolio or writing a thesis. Very few students choose the thesis route over the eportfolio. I’m hoping to write a thesis, but I think at some point I’ll also work on an eportfolio.


  3. Having just finished my eport (I’m at SJSU)…. It’s such a stressful thing! I’m glad I did it but wow… lots and lots of stress.

    I would provide a link but SJSU rules require that I don’t make it public until after graduation😦


      • Trying to figure out how to make my evidence work for the competency; how to write about the competency, especially the ones I didn’t know much about or never took any classes in. Not to mention, having to rewrite many of my comps to fix things, though it got better when I started having someone else look at my papers.


        • I understand that. SJSU has something like 15 competencies that you have to address, right? At Tennessee, we’re designing our eportfolio to be more flexible. We’re not tying it to a list of competencies, but letting the student’s skills and aspirations play a bigger part (I’m on the committee). However, each student will have to address the core competencies taught in the core courses.


          • There is 14 plus an introduction, conclusion and statement of philosophy. While there are specific statements, each competency is pretty personal. Each competency requires individual pieces of evidence that the person wrote. I used different pieces than others. Each class has supposedly teaches parts of each of the competencies, but many of times, it doesn’t work out that way. Take for example, my Management for Information Professionals class. In my class, we did not anything about learning and teaching theories but it’s supposedly part of what we’re suppose to learn in the class. It all depends on the professor. I also used pieces from my work which, is very individualistic. So the portfolio is definitely individual to each writer.


  4. I do not know if anyone can relate to this, but during my undergraduate work (Majored in History with a focus on going into teaching) I had to create a subject competency portfolio in order to not have to take the History CSET. We analyzed our past work and focused on how our course set related to the framework standards and how we would teach it. We were to use examples of our past work to further display these ideas. ePortfolio sounds eerily familiar. I was wondering if anyone who had to do a similar subject matter competency portfolio in their undergrad and have also created a ePortfolio had any input on the matter? Same concept it seems.


  5. At UT, our e-portfolios aren’t quite as structured as they are at SJSU–they’re really more of a professional website to showcase our philosophies and projects. Nevertheless, I really want to show mine off to potential employers! Instead of a mailing address on my resume, I have my URL, which is…controversial, to say the least. But I don’t know how else to alert people to it. What does everyone else do?


    • I plan to do both, have the URL to my blog/site as well as my “traditional” contact methods (address, phone, email). I’m also thinking about putting the URL of my LinkedIn profile, since it has my complete work/volunteer/university history where my CV drops off, for example, part time and some volunteer work from my undergrad years so that I can keep my CV shorter, sweeter and more focused on my currently relevant skills. However, LinkedIn seems to be even more controversial than an ePortfolio/blog URL.


        • Maybe “controversial” isn’t the right word, but it doesn’t seem to be as recognised or seen as valuable among librarians I know as it did among business people I worked with. I think it’s a powerful tool for connecting with other people and sharing a complete work/volunteer/education history — it also allows me to manage what employers seen when they inevitably google for me — but maybe non-business people think it’s still too close to a social network.


  6. My school (St. Catherine University) is about to implement an eportfolio requirement for graduation. Although I don’t have to do it, I had read about eportfolios and created one a couple of years ago because I thought they seemed like a great idea and a possible way to get a leg up on the competition in this tight job market. However, after applying for dozens of jobs in the last couple of years with my eportfolio link included in the application, I have to say that it really hasn’t made an impact. My stats show that very few people reviewing my applications actually visited the site. When I had interviews–and there have been several–the portfolio was not part of the discussion. When I finally was hired for a library job a few months ago, I had given up including my portfolio on my resume, so I was hired without it. It still seems like a good idea in theory, but in practice, it didn’t do much for me. Was that because I was thinking of it as a place to market myself and not as a reflective learning experience? I’d be interested to hear if others found their portfolios useful (or not) in getting hired.


    • Thank you for your story, even if it is discouraging. The way the eportfolio was marketed to me was as a way to reflect on my professional growth AND as a way to showcase my talents and personality to potential employers. I do include my link in my resume, and haven’t gotten any interviews, so you might be on to something.


      • I have a hard time believing there is an inverse relationship between including a link to an eportfolio and getting interviews. I think the job market is such that it’s just hard to get an interview period, regardless of whether or not you put a link on the resume.


    • And as for getting the job once the link was removed, I’m sure it’s strictly coincidental.

      You may be right that hiring managers don’t look or look only briefly at the eportfolio before an interview. And maybe it doesn’t really help in getting the initial interview, but if you make it to their short list, I see it as an added boost. It is that well of information about you that will set you over the top when they’re having to really narrow it down between two or three candidates.


      • I suspect, too, that some of this might change as the new “generation” of librarians moves into management positions. Quite honestly, I suspect some of the people who are making hiring decisions don’t really know what got make of an eportfolio. But if any of you folks were looking at hiring me, it would be a different story.


  7. I’m planning on making an eportfolio for my final project in an introductory technology class. It will be great to have a place to showcase finding aids I create, etc. online rather than try to send links as part of a resume. I’ll definitely be referring back to this post as I code my eportfolio!


  8. Just to play devil’s advocate, I’d like to link this post from Ask A Manager which characterizes portfolios as something schools love and employers are a little snarky about:

    I think e-portfolios are a great tool for self-evaluation and reflection, but I’m not sure how many employers really want to take the time to go through them. Hmmm, a question for my next survey…


    • It looks like that post might have been more about physical portfolios, but I think the idea is much the same. As I’ve been thinking more about this after commenting above, it occurred to me that *of course* most people doing the hiring aren’t going to want to slog through a website about every little thing you’ve done. Maybe–maybe!–for an academic job they would delve into it since academia seems to want more info. But, for the rest of us, the whole lesson of writing a good cover letter and resume is editing for concision and addressing exactly what the job posting requires, and a comprehensive portfolio is the opposite of that.

      I’m thinking now that perhaps just as important as encouraging students to create an eportfolio is teaching us how to use it effectively. There’s something to be said for having all your achievements in one place and knowing how they fit together for the sum total of your awesomeness. But, maybe instead of sharing the link and expecting others to do the work, we should be thinking of ways to proactively use targeted pieces of that information ourselves. For example, maybe bringing an ipad to call up and quickly show items if they arise in discussion during an interview is a better use of the portfolio.


      • I like your suggestion of having a tablet with you to show things as they come up in the interview. The most important thing interviews care about is if you can fill the need they have, and showing them how you’ve done in the past what they need to be done there is a very good selling point.


        • When I interviewed for my current graduate assistant position, I happened to have my iPad with me (I had a bit of a wait before my interview time, and wanted to read a book) so it was pure coincidence that I had it, but it proved to be really useful as a talking point and way to show off some of the work on a blog I’d done at my previous position. I’ll certainly have it tucked in my bag at my next interview!


    • The author says, “…I think it is ridiculous for a business student to hand over a folder full of records of participation, awards certificate and writing samples from a theory class.”

      If I were a hiring manager, I wouldn’t want to see this stuff either, but this isn’t the same as what I described above.


        • The eportfolio is not a scrap book, which is the first thing I thought when I read that article. It’s a place to show your skills. I would not include awards in it, unless it specifically showcases a skill you have. The ep should show real life skills, not just theory. And it should show how you have progressed as an information science professional — from student when you came in to a professional when you’re done. Am I making the distinction any clearer?


          • Yes but I’m not sure that distinction would matter in the mind of a hiring manager. It would still be a great deal of work to slog through, and I’m not sure that handing over a link to a big packet of skills would be of interest.

            If you read the comments on the article they do talk about e-ports and there are a few comments specifically from librarians. They make the point that some libraries do ask for specific examples of work, and that an e-port provides a place for you to have those examples stored.

            I have also personally encountered libraries which ask for responses to supplementary questions such as “describe your experience with promoting diversity” or “what role does technology play in public libraries” I’ve re-purposed some of my writings on the SJSU competencies for those purposes.

            I also might consider that work done in school, even skill-based work, is at its heart theoretical. Making an IL screencast for class, is not the same thing as making one for a population of students that will tell you “this doesn’t make sense” or “this helped me find resources” or “what screencast, where?”

            I really agree with you that the e-port is a great tool for reflection and deeper learning. And I know that schools love them because they can say “look at all the great work our students did!” But I think there are limitations as to how they can be used in a job hunt. I think that they are a tool that can be leveraged, but that they are probably rarely useful in their entirety.


    • Hmm, then again – I don’t necessarily want to avoid doing something just because someone will snark at it. It’s very easy for a prospective employer to ignore it if they find it to be a time-suck, but perhaps well worth it for the employer who finds it valuable. I can say from the perspective of someone who worked in higher education admissions, no one appreciated a certificate that you won a spelling bee in middle school (this actually happened) but items like a link to your website or online portfolio were valuable in addition to all of the other required materials.


  9. I am an SJSU student who will be working on my eport next fall. I consider my eport to be a valuable process (and of course, required to graduate for those not writing a thesis) but I don’t really consider the final product to be “employer friendly”. Frankly, it’s a lot of content for someone to review. I have a substantial amount of work that is digital (recordings, videos, online presentations) in addition to work experience and traditional coursework and want to create an attractive, concise presentation of it online.


    • I don’t know how you guys do it at SJSU, but we talk alot about the eportfolio back end and front end. The back end is where you do most of the work, deposit the learning artifacts, and write your journal entries documenting your progress through grad school. The front end is the side you make pretty for a potential employer to showcase your skills and progression. You have to take something that was meant to be a graduation requirement and transform it for the job search.


  10. I’m an SJSU student currently working on my e-Portfolio. The most valuable aspect of the experience for me has been reflecting on and synthesizing all the knowledge I have gained throughout my MLIS program. Although my coursework covered various topics such as information retrieval, instructional design, and information-seeking behaviors, I believe that I now have a much more sophisticated understanding of these concepts. I doubt that most employers would take the time to read the 75+ pages of writing that I estimate my final e-Portfolio will include, but I will be able to draw from the knowledge I have gained in creating it when applying and interviewing for professional positions. I feel like I am already a much stronger candidate for professional jobs than I was just a semester ago, and it is in large part due to the experience of writing my e-Portfolio.


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  26. Correction to the correction: SJSU only say you have a choice; being approved for a thesis is rare and actively discouraged by faculty and administration. One problem is that there is no real academic advisement. Not only are 99% of the students forced to graduate with an e-Portfolio, despite the “Information Science” in the name of the school, the entire portfolio and its evidence have to relate to librarianship. If the student focused on other areas of interest, they have nothing to use in the e-Portfolio, and have to rush to create something in the final semester, when they’ve figured out that they should have only focused on topics in librarianship (as opposed to mixing archival, information, or technology). The e-Portfolio ends up being a joke, with many students paraphrasing chapters out of the primer they read in the first year. The standards are very low all around, at SJSU.


    • Here to second this about SJSU students being discouraged from doing a thesis. In fact, doing a thesis is one of the big things I wanted to do in grad school, and I was told by an advisor that it makes everyone (staff and students) “pull their hair out”. I was devastated and angry. I’m currently considering another MLIS program.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely, if I could turn back the clock I would have transferred to a real school.
        I heard the same or similar comments, and turned down for a thesis with the most irrelevant excuses, which were wholly ignorant of the subject matter.


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