Career Strategies for Librarians
Using Portfolios and Profiles to Professionalize Your Online Identity (for Free)
by Susanne Markgren
Do you know that you have an online identity? Do you care? You should. Your online identity will, if it
hasn’t already, permeate your professional world and influence how others perceive you. Even if you do
not blog or tweet or Facebook, there is information about you online and it is your job to make sure that
information is factual, current, and professional.
Your online identity can consist of information created and maintained by you, by people you know or
work with, or by people you have never met and never will. The first thing you should do is search for your
name to see what’s out there. Use variations of your name and other keywords such as city, state, job
title, place of work, etc. Your ultimate goal, in building or revamping your online identity, should be to find
your professional self on the first page of search results.
Like many academic librarians, I am required to submit a professional portfolio to a review committee for
reappointment and eventually tenure. A few years ago, while I was gathering and printing out my
materials to include in the portfolio (a boring black three-ring binder), I had an epiphany: Create it online!
Much of what I do in my role as Digital Services Librarian, is… well, digital. I create websites, tutorials,
graphics, newsletters, guides, online classes and surveys; and I maintain social media outlets,
electronic resources, and library systems. These types of materials/skills/accomplishments are often
difficult to print out and stick in a binder. Even though I was (and still am) required to submit a print
portfolio, I decided back then to create an online version at the same time, as a companion.
In its most basic form, an online portfolio (also called e-portfolio) is your resume, deconstructed on a
web site. In reality, it can and should be so much more. When you imagine who might use online
portfolios for career advancement, you probably don’t immediately think of librarians. Online portfolios,
like print portfolios, are used to house bodies of work and years of professional materials. They are
used to visually represent and showcase a productive career. Some people are required to create one
for work while others are expected to use one while looking for jobs. Online portfolios are more
commonly seen in artistic, technical, and educational professions and the majority of publications
written about how to create online portfolios are geared for people who work as designers or artists or
educators. Online portfolios are becoming quite popular in schools. Many secondary and higher
education institutions use commercial portfolio products and require or encourage their students to
create online portfolios in preparation for the job market.
Reasons for Creating an Online Portfolio
Do you know where an up-to-date version of your resume lives? Prior to creating my online portfolio, I
didn’t. My director once asked me for a copy of my resume to send to the provost and it took two days and
a search of three computers and four USB drives to find the most current version. Ugh. I realized that an
online portfolio will help me organize my professional existence and provide me with:
- A storage space for all my important professional documents, which makes it easy to find things
from any location (like the most current version of my resume) when I need them quickly.
- A professional display space for my documents and materials.
- A simple way to share my information.
- An accessible (in the cloud) site that I can edit from anywhere.
Deciding on a Tool or Platform
Since my institution did not have a commercial portfolio software program at the time I was preparing my
portfolio, and I was pretty sure that I did not want my portfolio to be housed on my institution’s server, I
decided to look for something else. I came up with the following five criteria for selecting a tool/platform
to use for my online portfolio:
- I wanted to do this for free.
- I didn’t want to spend a lot of time creating it.
- I wanted the tool to be easy-to-use, and I wanted built-in functionality like a search box, tagging,
comments, and pages.
- I wanted it to have enough storage space to house numerous large files, and I wanted to be able
to upload different formats (DOC, PDF, SWF, JPG, MP3, etc.).
- I wanted it to be free of ads and reliable (i.e., not a brand tool/service).
After a bit of research and testing of different tools, I narrowed it down to three: PBWorks, WordPress,
and Google Sites. These three tools met all of my criteria and the best part was that I already had
experience using all of them, for various professional purposes, and I was quite familiar with the
functionality and capability of each one. I liked different aspects of each of them, so I tested them all
before deciding on what would work best for me.
Tips to Think About When Building Your Online Portfolio
- Upload or embed items and documents that you own, link to ones you do not.
- Keep it organized and think about navigation and design (e.g., create a separate page for each
section of your resume).
- Include materials that you would show your current employer.
- Make it easy for people to contact you: include brief contact information (name and email address
will suffice) – do not include personal information (like home phone or address). This is true for
any online presence or profile.
- Use tags/keywords (if available) to help in searching.
- Be creative. It shouldn’t be just an online version of your resume.
- Keep it current.
- Use it to promote yourself. Your online portfolio is a link – use it in your email signature, link to it
from your library’s staff page and your resume and cover letters, send it to your director and your
Once you’ve created your online portfolio, you want it to be seen. The best way to do this is to create
professional profiles on sites like LinkedIn, Academia.edu, ALA Connect, and BrightFuse.com, and link
your portfolio from these sites. If you are already using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter,
and Flickr, you can link to your portfolio from the profile pages of those sites. You should also create a
quick Google Profile which will display in the first page of Google results when your name is searched.
By creating more professional pages and profiles, you are professionalizing your online identity and
pushing the good stuff to the top of the pile. If you are job hunting, this is especially important because I
can guarantee that search committees will seek you out online.
As someone who has chaired and served on many search committees over the years, I can confidently
say that having a professional online presence will not only assist a potential or existing employer (or
review committee) in researching you and your accomplishments, it will show that you are taking charge
of your online identity.
About the Author
Susanne Markgren is the Digital Services Librarian at Purchase College, State University of New York.
She is also an adjunct faculty member at Manhattanville College and a consultant for LIScareer
Consulting Services where she can assist you in creating an online portfolio. She has co-authored the
"Career Q&A with the Library Career People" column/blog since 2003. She received her MLIS from the
University of Texas at Austin. Her online portfolio is: http://smportfolio.pbworks.com/.
Article published October 2010
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily
represent the views of the LIScareer editors.