Saturday, March 7, 2009

Job hunting with an ePortfolio

I have an ePortfolio which is living document which I use for recording my achievements and facilitating my reflections on my work. I have developed it in a wiki and it is a 'one size fits all', but recently I have started wondering if this approach meets all my needs.

Function of my ePortfolio
Up until recently the main aim behind the development of my ePortfolio was my personal learning. I also wanted to show what could be done in the electronic environment to anyone interested in ePortfolios.

In three months time, my current contract will end and I will be looking for another job. So I am starting to think about how I can use my ePortfolio to support my applications for employment, or how I can feature it as I look for work as a consultant. But I am wondering if my ePortfolio will meet that need in its current state.

ePortfolios, employers and job hunting
I'll tell you what got me started thinking about the different types of ePortfolio.

I sent an email to a potential employer as a 'cold-call' measure. In that email I described my skills and experience, and offered my services as a researcher/teacher/project manager. I gave her the link to my ePortfolio so she could have a browse around to get a better sense of who I am and what I could offer her in terms of services. She very quickly acknowledged my email, but asked me to send her my CV.

This left me wondering if she had looked at my ePortfolio, and what she thought of it. When I reviewed it, I realized how much material there is in it - far too much for a future employer to wade through. This has left me wondering if it would put a future employer off, rather than attract the employer? If that is the case, how do I present my material in a way that will capture the essence of who I am and what I do, and also capture the employer's imagination?

Types of ePortfolio
A little while ago Michele Martin talked about the different types of ePortfolio in a post called "EPortfolios for Professional Development: Sarah' Stewart's Online Portfolio", and suggested I may need a ePortfolio that was a work in progress, and a presentation ePortfolio. I resisted this because I couldn't be bothered with keeping two portfolios up and running. But now I am reviewing that decision.

What do employers want?
In all the years I have been working in midwifery and education, I have never had a potential employer ask to see my portfolio. And I wonder they are that interested. Surely it's quicker to skim through a CV?

So my question is: if employers are too busy to look at ePortfolios, what is the point in me worrying about having different types? Are we doing people a disfavor selling portfolios as a tool for job-hunting when the truth is that an employer would rather read a CV or resume?

Presentation ePortfolio
I am not at all sure I need a presentation ePortfolio that is different to my 'working one', and if I do, I haven't a clue how it should look. Russ Gifford has talked about this in his post "ePortfolios - used in business?" and says it should be organized. So maybe what I need to do is to present select and key material to highlight my work. Ross also says that we should get out and promote our ePortfolios.

So that is what I would love to hear from you - do we need a presentation ePortfolio that is more focused than our 'work in progress' portfolio? How do we promote them to future employers?
Would we be better off making sure we have a tip-top CV? What are your experiences of using ePortfolios when you have been job-hunting? If you are an employer, would you look at an ePortfolio?


Anonymous said...

My thoughts on ePortfolios in the creation stage:

Organized: Like any communication, it should have a point. So I see an ePortfolio as having a theme, and being boiled down to items that really do point to what we are trying to say.

Meaning, culling could be important - and the most difficult point if we are using this as a job program. This could lead to us needing multiple pages to show the skills we want to highlight.

But as you said, do I want to have two (or more) ePortfoilios?

Not really. So I think I need some method to have a tag function that allows a person 'grab' just what they need to see.

A version of an ePortfolio that I created 4 years ago was on CD-ROM.

It worked well for me, but it was organized as a menu page that functioned as a CV. Each CV item was a links to an example of something I wanted to show - a certificate, a training outline, a media story on me, or an article I wrote. I also included examples of tech things, etc.

So perhaps it would be more accurate to say it was an electronic CV, with links that allowed the user to 'see' an example of what I'd done under that item.

I'm honored to be mentioned in your blog as a source, by the way.


Ray Tolley said...

Hi, Sarah,

You have just identified one of the unique features of my eFolio system, that of being able to present different 'views' to different audiences simultaneously.

When we get the urge to 'move on' we rarely apply for just one job. And thus we need to present slightly different views of ourselves. I might want to present myself as an accomplished teacher, a good HR manager, a technical whiz-kid or an ardent environmentalist.

The one e-Folio can use some common artefacts and yet at the same time use unique materials relevant to the particular post. Selecting different templates, colour schemes and images can all be done quite easily and the different audiences don't need to see anything else. For instance, applying for a community service post, I do not need to advertise the fact of all my irrelevant qualifications.

In this way, the reader is not distracted by having to wade through endless material which might not be so relevant.

Perhaps you should read my blog a little more often? ;-)

Best Wishes,
Ray T

Sui Fai John Mak said...

Hi Sarah,
How about these questions?
What is your potential employer looking for?
What are the essential selection criteria for the position?
What value will you be able to add to the organisation?
Then if you are to provide them with your eportfolio, do you think they will take time to go through them?
My understanding is: Most employers would still like to go through our CV and see How we could match the essential criteria - based on a limited number of pages. On one occasion, I was asked to present the CV within one page to three pages. Why? The employers haven't got the time to go through lengthy portfolios. And some employers may be have full trust on any virtual portfolios unless it is supported by trusted references.
It really depends on the type of employers, and the HR Manager you are approaching, in whether eportfolios could be used just like a CV.
So, do you need a second presentation e-portfolio?
Would this depend on whether the company is open to this form of presentation?
That's why I have to update my private CV for different applications. And for some organisations, a private CV is preferred, as these organisations DO NOT like to have the information revealed to the public. Nearly everything is CONFIDENTIAL.
I share your feelings when employers are looking for something other than our e-portfolio, and just a CV. Perhaps, that is what some employers are looking for!

Sarah Stewart said...

@Russ I certainly don;t want to cull my current ePortfolio because is ultimately it is there for my benefit and learning - if I cut chunks out of it, that will defeat the purpose it. Two portfolios - I know that that is too much work.

@Ray I think the difference between what you suggest and what I am doing is that you are able to present a particular view depending on which job you are applying for - and this is the advantage of an ePortfolio system like the one you have developed. My ePortfolio is visible all the time to any reader. I cannot manipulate it to suit particular readers, which is a disadvantage of this style of ePortfolio. On the other hand, as it is open to all readers, I am able to attract interest that I would not receive if it was in a closed portfolio system.

@John I think it depends on employers. It has been suggested to me that more and more employers look up their potential employees on Google. I would love to hear from employers to find out what they think.

Jeffrey Keefer said...

I wonder if an email portfolio is like a resume or a cv -- it has to get edited and tweaked on a per-job basis?