With every new year, there are a slew of predictions for workplace trends on the rise. While very useful for considering how to tailor a job search or providing tips on the best places to find one, it’s rare that these tips suggest something shocking that will significantly and permanently alter the job-market landscape.

But this year there was, when Elance, the world’s largest freelancer site, made a bold prediction for 2011: “Digital profiles push resumes to the brink of extinction":

Simply put, digital portfolios provide businesses and employers far more context and insight into a potential hire than any traditional resume ever could. Case in point: Throughout the course of the past year, records on Elance were continually broken as the number of individual online portfolio assets surpassed 1.2 million and the number of online worker profiles exceeded 300,000. In 2011, expect referencing of verified work history, digital portfolios, online test scores, online reviews, social graph and social media footprint to become the standard for hiring short or long-term employees.

Wow, the “brink of extinction” for resumes? That’s serious stuff, considering that the resume has been the foundation of the job search for decades. Is it hyperbole? Only time will tell, but other experts have been chiming in on the phasing out of the resume, including CIO.com, which, in picking digital portfolios as one of their six hottest workplace trends for 2011, concluded: “It's time to leave that resume on the printer, and build a digital portfolio.”

Whether or not resumes are on their way out, it’s clear that digital portfolios are on the rise. Perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing, considering that digital portfolios do provide a dynamic, much more complete view of a job candidate. But many people aren’t yet familiar with the concept. Here’s a basic description:

Digital portfolios provide a distillation of an individual's best work, typically generated over a year or a longer period of time. Most digital portfolios contain a broad range of information to properly capture the person's versatility. Information in digital portfolios may also be in a variety of media, such as text, photographs, illustrations, diagrams, web material, audio files, spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.

The idea of the digital portfolio is already a fact of life for many artists, who have always needed to keep a portfolio of their best work. Many discovered years ago that digital was a much easier format in which to present prospective employers or clients with their graphics and design work. Journalists and other writers have also come around to the possibilities of digital portfolios, from providing online links to their work instead of hard copies to excerpting their podcasts.

The best article I’ve read on portfolios, including digital, was written by Louellen S. Coker. Consider this perspective on the nature of a portfolio.

Portfolios are living, breathing things that change and evolve with your purpose and your audience. So, for those of you who think you are going to get a job offer or business by throwing together a few samples of your work, rethink your assumption. With careful planning, organization, and ongoing assessment, your portfolio in its various forms—hardcopy and digital—will be an indispensable asset.

Many experts say a resume and a digital portfolio are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, a digital portfolio might include a resume or some form of one, like a LinkedIn profile. It might also include a personal blog, or some other example of an online presence. It can also include any number of files, links and images.

When showing so much of your work, the question becomes “how much is too much?” Coker has a useful answer for that, as well:

As a consultant, I am very careful to show off my skills without giving them away for free. On my Web site, my clients will find thumbnail images of my representative projects with links to permanent homes on the Web. I am careful not to include documents or artwork in a format that someone can use to “snag” my template or layout without consulting with me. After discussing the project with the client, I then decide whether I am comfortable sharing the native files in a more complete electronic portfolio.

26 January 2011

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