When we talk about portfolios, most people imagine graphic design or writing portfolios. However, anyone can use a portfolio during their job search, including communications professionals. Online communications portfolios can work for people at the start of their career or those who want to open themselves up to new, or more, opportunities.
Most resumes are pretty dry. You can’t do much more than listing main your responsibilities and a couple of accomplishments because you’re restricted to one or two pages. It’s not the best way to display a person’s body of work or capabilities, yet we depend on resumes to do just that.
That’s why you should consider creating an online communications portfolio and use it to describe who you are as a person and as a professional.
You might be wondering: what about a physical portfolio? An online communications portfolio is not necessarily a replacement for a physical portfolio. It can be, but you can also have both and they can function very differently.
If you do only have an online portfolio, then it’s important to plaster it everywhere because it is meant to be seen! Hyperlink it in a resume or cover letter. Include it on your snazzy business card. Link it to your social media accounts. Add it to your email signature.
Creating an online communications portfolio that is impactful and useful during your job search takes a lot of effort. To make the most of the time and energy you’ll spend, you should do it right.
Here’s what you should include in your portfolio:
- “About Me” page
- Services, skills, and clients
- Career accomplishments
- Writing samples
- Testimonials or references
- Contact information
“About Me” page
Your “About Me” should have a mix of the professional and personal side of you. Employers are not just looking for a hard worker, they’re also looking for someone they’ll enjoy working with. After reading this page, people should come away with a strong understanding of who you are.
Have you ever noticed that so many LinkedIn summaries love to overuse the word passionate? Everybody is passionately curious or a passionate communicator on there. Avoid copying others and use a writing style that matches how you actually speak. Mention your work experience and education but also talk about your hobbies and interests.
You should point out what makes you unique and well-rounded. Many communicators at the start of their careers have a similar resume: they completed a post-secondary communications program and did an internship. That’s great, but it’s not very interesting. What is interesting is that you’re a master baker or part of an amateur soccer team.
When it comes to your social media accounts such as Instagram and Twitter, you don’t need to include them. Especially if they don’t do much to showcase you as a professional. However, it’s a good idea to include a link to your LinkedIn profile.
💡 Hot tip: If you’ve copy/pasted your resume onto this page, it may look kind of awkward. If that’s the case, add a button or link somewhere that will direct to a PDF version of your resume to download or view instead.
It’s understandable that some people are wary about putting their pictures in front of potential employers. All kinds of biases come into play here. However, it’s also kind of unavoidable in this day and age. A LinkedIn profile without a headshot just looks odd. But that doesn’t mean you should put your picture online if that makes you uncomfortable.
If you are comfortable posting pictures of yourself, it is best to include a headshot where you are well-dressed and the picture is high-quality.
Other than that, include pictures of you on the job. Sometimes the best way to make someone see that you’re their next employee is to help them visualize it. Include pictures of you at an event signing people in or taking photographs for social media. Or, at least, a picture of you sitting at your desk looking pensively at your computer.
Remember, this page is also about showcasing you as a person so don’t be shy to also include (appropriate) pictures of you enjoying your hobbies.
Services, skills, and clients
Communications professionals have a crazy array of skills. That is why it’s important to clarify what your skills are and what services you offer. Whether it is on its own page or somewhere else on your website, include a list of what kind of skills you have.
Here are examples of the skills and services you can highlight:
- SEO optimization
- Email marketing
- Social media strategy
- Media pitching
- Facebook advertising
Employers strongly value candidates who already proficient with tools that are regularly used at their workplace. That signals to them that after being hired, you can jump in and make a meaningful impact on the organization quicker. So, show off all the tools and software you have experience using.
This is not a place to mention you know how to use Microsoft Office. Instead, focus on tools that are more unique and not everyone has dabbled with, such as:
- Google Analytics
This is completely optional, but it is great to include a client roster in your online communications portfolio. It’s meaningful information for employers to see, especially if they can recognize the brands. You can also save this information for when you highlight your career accomplishments (we’ll get to that soon).
💡 Hot tip: Mention any certifications you’ve earned from training and courses related to your profession. Some certification providers send you a nifty digital badge that you can easily embed on your website.
Dedicate a page (or even a couple of pages) to your career accomplishments. This will be the most important part of your website so put the most effort into it. Think carefully about how you want to tell the stories behind these accomplishments and how to organize the information in a way that makes it easy to read and understand.
And try to maintain a uniform style, instead of making every section look completely different from the other. The people looking at your portfolio might not have a lot of time to spend. Make it really simple for them to get a snapshot sense of the work you did, but also provide details in case they do have a chance to read them.
An important thing to note is that you should exclude any potentially sensitive information regarding the campaign. Also, don’t badmouth your client or employer at any point by saying something like: this client’s product wasn’t selling at all until I came along!
If you’re not sure if you can share information about a past campaign, ask your employer for permission.
What kind of projects to include
You should highlight projects that you had a substantial impact on. Otherwise, it will too difficult for you to craft a story about something you were only minimally part of. Also, feel free to include school and freelance projects here as well.
Still not sure what to include? There are all kinds of projects you can talk about, such as:
- A social media contest that garnered a lot of engagement
- An annual conference that sold out
- A webinar series that generated many marketing leads
- A product launch that garnered news coverage in major publications
- An affiliate partnership with an influencer that led to a significant boost in sales
Not all of us have a great memory or keep detailed notes, so stick to highlighting projects you can talk confidently about. If you’re in an interview and an employer brings up one of these projects, you should be able to answer their questions and go into depth about the work you did.
Tell a story when sharing facts and figures
When we talk about accomplishments, it is most effective to point out how these initiatives were successful. It’s not a point in your favour to discuss the coordination of an event that no one attended.
So, even if you don’t have a lot of experience, it would be better to focus on a smaller set of projects that had big results rather than pointing out everything you’ve ever done.
And tell a story, rather than just throwing out big names and big numbers. Explain how you were crucial to a project and it succeeded because of your efforts and your ideas. But also include any statistics you do have because it is concrete proof that your idea made an impact.
Here are some figures you can include:
- Click-through rate on an email marketing campaign
- Follower growth of social media channels
- Circulation on a piece of coverage
- Number of attendees at an event
- ROI on a digital advertising campaign
💡 Hot tip: Visuals make your story more powerful. Include pictures of an event you coordinated, media coverage you obtained, or an influencer’s Instagram post that features your client’s product.
Since you’re in the communications industry, you have to prove you are a top-notch writer. Your online communications portfolio is the best opportunity to do that.
These days, some employers will ask for writing samples along with your job application. Sending them your portfolio is the most organized way to meet that requirement and also get them to learn more about you (as they’ll likely be curious to look at the rest of the website).
There are a few ways to approach this part of your portfolio and it completely depends on your experience up until this point. If you’re a student, you may need to depend on school assignments. If you’re a freelance writer, then this is a place to showcase your strongest work. Don’t worry if your writing isn’t outrageously exciting. It doesn’t need to be that; it just needs to be good.
If your work isn’t hosted on any other digital platforms, then consider linking it as a PDF or on an independent page on your website.
Here are examples of writing samples you can include:
- Press releases
- Event descriptions
- Social media captions
- Website copy
You can also create a blog inside your online communications portfolio. Post articles that show your expertise in a particular industry (i.e. sports) or skill (i.e. SEO optimization). This is effective for two reasons: it puts your writing on display and markets you to employers you want to work for.
In an article on how to upgrade your LinkedIn profile, I recommended you should seek out references to bolster your profile and strengthen you as a candidate.
Your online communications portfolio is also a place to showcase these references and testimonials. LinkedIn references can be a little perfunctory, but testimonials on your portfolio can be more informal, speak to specific projects and also describe your personality or working style. Because of that, they fit better in an online portfolio.
Wondering who to ask for a testimonial? Look at your school network, such as peers and professors. Consider people you worked with in full-time, temporary, and freelance capacities. This can include colleagues and supervisors who oversaw your work. Don’t become concerned with racking up as many testimonials as possible. Three powerful testimonials say a lot more than ten middle-of-the-road ones.
When you’re soliciting a testimonial, or posting a reference from LinkedIn to your portfolio, it’s key that you inform the referee about this. It’s professional and polite for the referee to understand all the places their words and name may appear. And it also gives them the option to opt-out if they’re not comfortable appearing on your website.
In most cases, the person looking at your portfolio already has your contact information as you’re likely in the middle of the hiring process.
But what if someone just stumbles across your portfolio? Or you just do a killer job promoting it through your social channels? In that case, you want to make it really easy for them to contact you.
Include your contact information somewhere that’s easy to locate, such as on its own page linked in the top navigation, in the website footer or on the homepage. Don’t force anyone to hunt down this information because they could just give up on the chase.
Be mindful of what kind of contact information to include. You don’t want to put your phone number and start getting text messages from strangers. Stick to a professional email address or create a contact form that will direct all questions to your email inbox.
💡 Hot tip: Most website builders provide an easy way to set up a contact form and they even filter out spam messages you may get.
Get inspired by these portfolios
Motivate yourself to create your portfolio by looking at what other Canadian professionals have done with theirs.
You’ll find that everybody has their own approach and style, and you don’t need to follow what any particular person has done. Instead, pick out the ideas that work best for you, follow our tips, and craft something that best represents you and your work experience.
Thank you to these professionals for giving permission to showcase their portfolios!
- Michelle Nguyen, Social Media & PR Strategist: michelle-nguyen.ca
- Brooke Brianna, PR and Digital Media Professional: brookebrianna.ca
- Tamara Jones, Publicist: tamarajones.ca
- Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Marketing Professional: laurenmarinigh.com
And to create your own portfolio, check these out website/portfolio builders: