Should You Use An Online Architecture Portfolio?
My regular readers will probably know my answer to this question. I am not a big fan of online portfolios, as I discussed in The Two Page Architecture Portfolio, you should always submit a PDF attachment.
However, since online portfolios are being used by more and more applicants, I want to address a few of the common "benefits". Since I am not one to be set in my ways, let's take a look at the pros and cons.
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1. It's Easy
All you have to do is upload your file then send the link to 100 architecture firms and wait for the job offers to roll in.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work. Why?
The fact something as important as applying for a job is suddenly made "easy" should be a red flag.
There are two separate issues here that often seem to go together. The ease of wanting to provide information and the lack of targeting to each firm. When I am asked by an applicant why they haven't heard back from any firms usually the reason is their lack of a targeted approach.
While you can create separate online portfolios for each firm, I rarely see it done. You need to take each firm as a completely separate application and develop a focused application.
2. Large File Limit Size
Most of the online portfolio hosting sites allow you to easily upload your 50 page portfolio. However, email job applications often restrict your file size limit to 5MB or less.
So if bigger is better, then sending a link to your complete portfolio should be a no-brainer? Right?
The goal with a job application is not to send your entire catalog of work. Just submit a sample portfolio of your best and most relevant work. This should be no more than a few pages.
The file size limit is a reminder that the information you are sending in an application should be as concise as possible. Provide just enough to get the hiring manager's attention and make him or her want to learn more about you.
The rights associated with intellectual property is often an overlooked aspect of the job search process. Most architecture firms have strict policies on material that can be shared. When you were a student, you owned all of the work you produced, so sharing it with a potential employer was not an issue. In the professional world this is not the case.
Even though you may have worked on a project from the ground up it does not mean that you own it. The firm owns it. This includes all of the BIM and CAD files, along with all of the project images. So before you go sharing all of your internship experience online, be sure to check with the office beforehand.
Depending on the firm type this isn't usually a major issue, but rather a professional courtesy. That being said, publicly sharing drawings or images of confidential, high profile or secure projects could result in some serious consequences.
4. Potential employers can see my portfolio
When an employer is scrolling through the 187,000 online portfolios it is unlikely yours will jump off the screen. However, I do believe that having a professional online presence in today's job market is essential.
Sites like LinkedIn have made it easier than ever to connect potential candidates with employers. You just need to keep in mind that once something is out there, you can't get it back. If someone were to Google your name ten years from now they might see your old portfolio and assume it is your current work.
5. Your Personal Brand
You want to be in complete control of your own brand. You have little to no control of what is shown on your online portfolio page. Often these free sites are littered with advertising and pop-ups making your well composed portfolio look like a distracting mess. This is not a great first impression for an employer.
Online portfolios seem like a great idea on the surface but when you look into the details, the downsides tend to outweigh the benefits. There are some more promising solutions on the horizon but until then just stick to the trusty PDF attachment for now.
I hope you found this helpful. If you enjoyed the article and would like to learn more, check out The Complete Package. below. This includes a free sample Two Page Portfolio to get you started. Thanks!
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Brandon Hubbard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C
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