by Chris Eaker
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve 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:
- What is an eportfolio?
- What are its benefits?
- Why should I consider making one?
- 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 and get started. There are plenty of WordPress tutorials on YouTube to help.