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Why You Need a Portfolio – Even as a Tech Job Candidate

Portfolios are a no-brainer when it comes to creative jobs. Few designers, UX pros and copywriters will walk into an interview not ready to show their work. It’s the ultimate way to “show, don’t tell” what you’ve done and what you can do.

So, why aren’t more developers putting this job-getting tactic to work for them?

A portfolio in today’s tech job market isn’t simply a flipbook of work snapshots from gigs past. It’s an opportunity to set yourself apart. When you include a portfolio link with your job application, you’re winning at least a few extra minutes of an employer’s or recruiter’s attention to show (don’t tell!) your skills at work.

Why should you show tech skills? Because it’s easy to type the words “full stack,” but it’s another to stack up against 50 other developers with the same qualifications. Your portfolio can show screen caps of your web applications, videos of them in action and bullet points that outline what role(s) you played, what challenges you overcame, what integrations or platforms you used in their development.

It’s just like a math problem: show your work.

Granted, some developers are hesitant to include their best projects in public portfolios because of proprietary code or copyrighted information. But you don’t need actual code and product names to demonstrate what you did on a project. Pull out the core concepts of what you accomplished (i.e., ensured bank-level security for a fintech application) and how your experiences from these projects make you a stronger developer.

What’s in a portfolio

So, you’ve nabbed a few extra minutes of a recruiter’s attention, and s/he has landed on your portfolio page. Now, it’s your time to shine. How do you do it?

One key to remember is that your portfolio isn’t simply about your code; it’s about you. Use your portfolio to tell a multi-dimensional – yet, easy to follow – story about yourself. Consider including these elements:

  • A professional-looking headshot. Don’t have one? Consider this advice.
  • Your bio. Tell your story. Keep it brief with a blend of personality and pro-status. Some inspiration for you.
  • Your current status. What are you doing right now? Summarize in a line what you’re working on or what type of work you’d like to do.
  • Work samples. Time to show your work! Include screen captures or video of an application at work, the project name (Can’t name names? Go generic, like “AngularJS App for Mortgage Industry.”), brief description, what you did on it, what tech skills, platforms, frameworks, integrations or languages you used to make it happen. Also consider: goals, results and lessons learned. Check out examples of how to do that.
  • Education. It doesn’t need to be a four-year degree to be listed on your website. Do include any degrees, coursework, certifications, boot camps, Codecademy programs or other online trainings you’ve done to boost your skills set.
  • Work experience. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to link your specific work experiences to work samples you’ve included in your portfolio.
  • Awards. Has your work been recognized? Use this section to highlight that recognition, and don’t be afraid to add a little flair to your work samples to denote their award-winning status. Kind of like this.
  • Social. They’re going to look you up. Make it easy to find the correct social profiles with your name on them. Be sure to include (at least) complete LinkedIn and Github profiles.
  • Call to action. Like any good web app, your portfolio should drive the user to take an action. Consider driving the visitor to your contact page, where you’ve been it effortless to get in touch with you about your dream job.

How to get started

Don’t get overwhelmed by the prospect of building your portfolio. The good news is once you get the first iteration up and running, you’ll simply need to maintain it with your latest work as your career grows. Focus on collecting your best work and building content to show your work on your new portfolio page.

Not sure where to build it? Check out our four favorite tools for building your developer portfolio on the Swoon Insights blog.