What are Online Portfolios all About?

Whether you are an artist, a writer, a scientist, or even an events coordinator, you have the need to market yourself. As graduation quickly approaches, there will likely be one thing on your mind: finding a job. So what if you had the ability to not only find a potential employer, but the ability to direct them to a personalized site of your own creation containing an anthology of your best works, your resume, and a some basic information about yourself? Well friends, this is what an online portfolio is, and it could be the deciding factor between you and a candidate with equal qualifications.

An online portfolio serves many functions, here are a few:

  1. As I mentioned earlier, it can offer an array of work samples, your resume, etc. This allows an employer direct access to your best work and gives them a chance to get to you know you a little. Humanizing a name on a piece of paper is always a good thing!
  2. Going into job applications with a perfected portfolio communicates professionalism and passion for your given field.
  3. An online portfolio is more accessible than scanning and mailing your creations, or attaching them to an email.
  4. Online portfolios have endless potential for customization. So this means that you get to choose exactly how your site appears, and can design one that is tailored to the kind of work you want to show off.
  5. Online portfolios increase your visibility ten-fold. You can put the link on your LinkedIn, your business card, and even in your email signature. So anyone who is intrigued can check out your work, and even pass it along to colleagues.
  6. Online portfolios are ideal for digital works such as photographs, writing, graphic design, and more. You can’t beat the stunningly crisp quality a digital image lends itself to.

Now, how do you create one of these online portfolios? Well it’s simpler than you think. First, choose your site. WordPress, Wix, and Weebly are all good starters and they all offer a wide range of free options (with the potential for upgrades if you want to spend the cash). Each takes time to learn, but dedicating time to this will be worth it in the end. For help and tutorials visit JMU’s Lynda. Second, look over your work samples. Pick four or five of your best works that are relevant to the field you want to work in. If you feel you don’t have enough samples, then take the time to create some! Lastly, work on the aesthetics. Fields such as design or art leave room for a more creative look, whereas other fields like science or writing would be best presented in a cleaner, simpler style. Search for some inspiration if you get stuck, there are already a ton of portfolios out there, so don’t be afraid to mimic a style that you like.

To round this out, a few last words of advice: don’t provide links to your social media unless they are spotless, do present yourself in an honest and genuine way, and do put some information about yourself, but don’t make it overly personal; always be professional, and good luck!

Don’t Let This Ship Sail off Without You!

By Elaina Taylor

I remember very distinctly my parents encouraging me to intern back in high school. However, when I found out that most of them were not the paying type, I quickly dismissed them. I have plenty of time for that, I thought. Why wear dress clothes and uncomfortable shoes free of charge all summer while my friends are out and about raking in the cash? Well, let’s fast forward to the present.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am now one pretty broke college kid. Free stuff? Let me at it! Free food? Holy guacamole, where?! Looking back, it’s only after you fly the coop that you realize just how much you depended on your parents for well, everything. Now more than ever, come summertime I want to be making money and internships don’t always compensate for the work you provide. But before you write them off consider their value.

There are many benefits to interning, and the experience yields valuable tools that often cannot be acquired elsewhere. Chiefly among them is experience – this is quickly becoming a critical factor in hiring decisions. A potential employee with knowledge and experience in a given field is a much safer hire because they already have exposure to that line of work and clearly wish to work there. And with experience comes the acquisition of new skills not to mention confidence in your abilities and contributions. In a competitive job market, an internship can give you the boost you need to edge out another candidate with near similar qualifications. Additionally, internships can also provide course credit for some majors (take a peek at the undergraduate catalog to see if this applies to your major).
Lastly, internships give students the chance to network and create more contacts that could contribute to a possible job in the future. Getting a foot in the door can lead to entry-level jobs, if only because of the connections you established in the duration of your time there. But don’t forget that connections you establish with professors and fellow students could also lead to possible internships and later, job opportunities. Sometimes the best resources are right around you. I myself obtained an internship through a church acquaintance that happened to be the president of a non-profit organization headquartered in D.C. My point is that you can always find people who can help you along in your career, however adolescent it may be, and occasionally not in the most expected places. Take care to remember however, that these opportunities don’t always just present themselves, they have to be sought out and you have to be willing to work to earn your stripes.

Now that the importance of internships has been established, how do you find one? To start out, I’d suggest making a list of places you would be interested in working for and contact them directly. Also be sure to take advantage of the school resources available; JMU has job fairs and services that are specifically tailored to help students find internships and jobs. The Career and Academic Planning Center provides a wealth of related information under the Jobs and Internships tab, and beyond the biannual Career and Internship Fair also offers the Recruit-a-Duke service with recent job and internship postings. Check out Eric’s blog post below for a comprehensive summary of the services offered by the Career and Academic Planning Center!

Once you find an internship you’re interested in, send in an application and follow up! Even if you consider it to be completely out of reach you may land an interview, if only based on your tenacity to be given a chance. You may not have the skills they are looking for, but your persistence and willingness to learn just could pay off. Hint, this has happened to me before! Good luck to you all!

Looking for more information or know-how advice with regards to internships? Then be sure to take a look at my sources: Internships – Career and Academic Planning, Internship information – Academic Services Center under the College of Business

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Ask Me Anything

As college students, we are all too familiar with the looming anxiety that comes with entering the job market. Most of us will inevitably spend hours, days, even weeks searching and contacting potential employers trying to land a job—any job—or if we’re really lucky, one that we might truly love and be fulfilled by. Even getting a response about a job inquiry can feel like a massive victory- but don’t celebrate just yet! The next step in the process, the interview, can really make or break the opportunities you are afforded. Although it can be a nerve-wracking process, interviews are actually a great chance to let yourself shine. For those with a less than desirable resume, interviews allow you to make up for what you are lacking on paper by demonstrating your personality and capabilities firsthand. And if you are on the opposite end of the spectrum, the opportunity to demonstrate your interpersonal skills will only further compliment the spectacular resume you worked so hard to build.

Obviously, interviewing is a stressful and ongoing process; it is not only the interview itself that matters, but also how you prepare before and follow up after the interview that will make an enormous difference—and just may get you the job!

Before the interview:

  • Get to know your company and interviewer. Gathering as much information as possible about your potential employer is integral to a successful interview. Scour the company’s website, find any available information on the interviewer, or even call the company to speak with someone who is currently employed there. The more you know, the more prepared and interested you will seem.
  • Dress for success. Not only will dressing professionally show that you take yourself seriously (and that others should too!) but it will also make you feel better. By looking your best, you can feel your best and ultimately perform to your maximum potential.
  • Practice. Available online are a whole slew of potential interviewing questions. Make a list and practice answering each one. JMU’s Recruit-A-Duke offers two interviewing services: Practice Interview Program, in which students can schedule appointments to meet with employers and practice interviewing, and InterviewStream, which allows you to practice interviewing online using a webcam.

During the interview:

  • Take your time. Always think before you speak. When the interviewer poses a difficult question, take your time to compose an answer that is worthwhile instead of rushing through with an inadequate response, or worse, blathering on about nothing.
  • Ask questions. By either creating a list of questions beforehand, or writing down questions as the interview progresses, you will show your interest in the company and desire to grow as a future employee.
  • Remain professional. Of course it is important to remain calm, cool, and collected during an interview, but this does not mean you should let your guard down. Feeling too comfortable with the interviewer can allow you to slip up and come off as unprofessional. Remember: the interviewer is your future boss, not your new best friend.
  • Sell yourself honestly. It is integral to sell yourself during an interview, but it is commendable if you are able to remain honest at the same time. For example, the interviewer will most definitely ask what your strengths are, but will also expect you to know your weaknesses.
  • Provide examples. When answering questions or referring to your skills and experience, be able to cite concrete examples. Saying that you “volunteered at a soup kitchen in Baltimore” will come off as much more respectable and noteworthy than saying something vague like you “helped those in need”.

After the interview:

  • Say thank you. Just as you have gone out of your way to make time for the interview, so has the interviewer. Thanking them shows that you are grateful for the opportunity and humble enough to recognize the effort and time someone else put forth for you.
  • Call them back. If you don’t hear back within a reasonable time frame (say 2-3 business days), take the initiative to call or e-mail them back, express your continued interest in the position, and politely ask if and when you can expect to hear back. This will not only show to them that your interest is sincere, but it also will help you decide your next move within your own job search.

Interested in more information? Check out these sites that helped me out!

Monster Job Interview Tips, 7 Interview Tips That Will Get You the Job

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Let ‘CAP’ Help You Take That Next Step to Success.

After a few years here at JMU, I have come to realize that there is truly something for everyone. When I wanted to host my own radio show, WXJM allowed me to do that. When I wanted to play in an organized soccer league, JMU’s intermural program helped me make that a reality. When I wanted professional experience in my field, the Office of Technology and Design was there to offer me an amazing job. JMU’s vast expanse of extracurriculars and services cater to virtually every conceivable situation students would want to find themselves in.

I am now a JMU student in the twilight of his senior year, becoming exponentially more panicked each passing day about life after college, and much to my relief, JMU has something for that too.

The JMU Career and Academic Planning Center’s goal is to “provide opportunities and support that will engage students in the process of exploring, evaluating, and choosing academic programs and careers.” Whether you are a freshman concerned with choosing a major or a panicked senior trying to lock down a job, the CAP program has something for you.

After speaking to the very helpful communications coordinator Emily Blake, I learned that the ways in which CAP helps students can broadly be broken up into three categories.

Helping students find their direction. By providing knowledgeable and friendly professional liaisons for every major, CAP makes sure to cater directly to all JMU students. Whether you are a freshman trying to determine your major or a senior frantically researching graduate schools/potential career options, the CAP faculty is here to help!

Cleaning up that resume and sharpening those interview skills. Working in tandem with their faculty, CAP provides an extensive online guide to crafting the ideal professional persona. The numerous links on their website cover everything from resume building to networking techniques and everything in-between.

Job and internship opportunities. Job fairs and professional workshops are all held on a regular basis. Keep up to date with the latest events with the handy calendar located on their website.

Last but certainly not least, CAP offers students the “Recruit a Duke” service. This online amenity allows students to search through a wealth of potential employers who are interested in hiring JMU students. By using multiple filters, users of “Recruit a Duke” are able to create a personalized experience that helps bring you one step closer to landing that job.

Now that you know all about the comprehensive, available, and completely free services dedicated entirely to taking that post-grad stress off your shoulders, come check it out here!

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How to Connect with Interesting People

We have LinkedIn and other social media sites, which are great for communicating the quick and dirty, but how would you know if Joe Shmoe over here, who has a great resume, is someone you trust? You wouldn’t jump at the opportunity of hiring him if you hadn’t met him first, or at the least, ability to communicate in person. My case in point is that face-to-face contact is incredibly important. It is the whole concept behind networking, and networking happens every day. The person next to you on the bus might help you out down the road or think of you as the perfect match for an event, job, or who knows, leading a movement.

Meeting people and learning things is basically programmed into us. What everyone does with their lives is interesting and meaningful to some degree.

In high school I’d never thought of my social interactions as networking, but as I got older, as I got more involved and got deeper into my geography major, I started to realize that these interactions were incredibly important. My peers, parents, professors, community members have so much knowledge, desires and ideas and as my life unfolds I have found it invaluable to have these connections with them. I can call upon them, collaborate with them, exchange ideas and create new ones.

Not everyone is as social as I am though; in fact, being social is dynamic and varies in different social situations. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s awkward, and sometimes you have to make an effort and be curious in order to engage others. Taking the initiative really makes the difference.

Here are some ways to start a conversation. Whatever it leads to, an accumulation of knowledge or a punch to the gut (which shouldn’t happen…), you’ll be fine. If the embarrassment will go away in an hour or a day, then why sweat over it? You have a whole lifetime.

Conversation Starters with Professors

After class: “I really enjoyed that lecture. I particularly like the part about _____.”

  • Your professor might pick the conversation up or just say “thank you,” but you were noticed and now stand out from the crowd.

During office hours: “I’ve really been enjoying your class. What are your main academic interests?”…”What did you do between college and teaching?”…”I have really been interested in ____ and I want to learn more about it. Do you have any suggestions?”

Conversation Starters with Peers

In class or outside of class: “What made you interested in this major?”…”What are you involved in?”…”What do you like to do for fun?”…”How have you been enjoying this class?”

General Advice

1) Listen

2) Ask them questions and show your interest

3) Minimize your own stories

4) Approach people who interest you

5) If you feel speechless/awkward know that everybody does at some point in time and get over it

6) Get their contact information

7) Apply this in professionally situations and casual situations. These are how some friendships start.

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This Year? No Regrets

By Elaina Taylor

It seems that only yesterday it was FROG week and I was starting out as an excited freshman, eager to participate and engage in everything. But you know how time flies, and next thing I knew I was saying goodbye to my first year as a freshman and leaving this gorgeous campus for the summer.

I am now a sophomore and determined that this year will not be like the last one. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great year; I met some amazing people, took some cool classes, and completely fell in love with JMU and the community we have here on campus. Yet I look back and feel I neither accomplished nor discovered much at all. I barely scratched the surface of what this university or the surrounding community offers. I never ventured downtown, didn’t get involved in any clubs, hardly attended any events the university put on, and went to a grand total of two football games.

So, my motto of the year is discovery and thus far I think I’m doing pretty well. I’ve already:
• Explored part of downtown Harrisonburg
• Unsuccessfully attempted to participate in Thursday Salsa nights at the Artful Dodger (There is a dress code requirement!)
• Dined at Billy Jack’s, a cheap, but scrumptious “wing & draft shack” with a wicked cool atmosphere and décor
• Auditioned for a few of the A Cappella groups on campus
• Accidently found my bucket list item #22 – Union Tower!
• Finally tried Lakeside Express – a gourmet sandwich and pizza shop tucked away next to Mrs. Green’s in Chandler
• Attended a UPB Spotlight Sounds concert and absolutely loved it
• Toured White Oaks Lavender Farm
• Dropped in at the Rockingham County Fair (there’s such thing as a goat obstacle course?)
• Stumbled upon Lake Shenandoah, a cute little spot not five minute down Port Republic; picnic anyone?

This motto also means rediscovering everything I came to love last year. I encourage every freshman to attend at least one or two of the group fitness classes that UREC offers (Athletic, Cycle, Dance, Mind/Body, Step, and Toning). Or if you’re looking to just relax, check out the Student Activities & Involvement calendar, which has listings for $3 movies at Grafton (#dateworthy!), not to mention many other weekly events like Open Mic Night, TeaTime, and Get Down at Sundown. College is about finding your niche – so it wouldn’t hurt to check out the clubs on campus as well, and perhaps meet people with whom you share a passion or even unearth a new one. This university as well as the surrounding community have so much to offer if you just take a minute or two to search.

My point is I missed out on a great deal my freshman year, and I aim to fix that my second go around. Don’t be the senior who finds out that there are free concerts monthly at TDU and that an up-and-coming band you like played there just last month. Take charge of your time here at JMU, because the years roll by faster than you realize. So I implore you to explore my fellow Dukes!

JMYou

As a senior, I have watched JMU grow over the past four years. Actually, explode would be a more fitting word for the vast changes, renovations, and expansions that have taken place on campus over the years—and within even just the past year alone. With an incoming freshman class of 4,300 and 880 new transfer students, there are currently upwards of 20,000 students on campus daily. But when even the line for pizza at Topio’s (the option with typically the shortest line) in Duke’s extends almost to the entrance, you might feel like one of a million rather than a measly 20,000—a feeling we are particularly vulnerable to as fresh-faced first years. But, would you believe me if I said that a snow leopard with a blue tongue helped me combat those exact freshman year blues?

It all started on the first fall day of my freshman year. It’s always a wonderful day when you realize the weeks of backpack-shaped sweat stains on your back are through, and sweater weather is upon you. That day, like any other day, I woke up and peered into my closet to put together an outfit, excited at the prospect of finally slipping back into cozy autumn attire.

Normally, putting together an outfit is my favorite part of the day; I love to express myself through my clothing. But, since my arrival at Ikenberry Hall on move-in day, I had been trying to dress like the typical JMU student. I suppressed my need for self-expression and opted for wearing what everyone else wore in order to seem less like a freshman, and moreover, to blend in with the rest of my peers. In high school, I had worn whatever I darn pleased, often mixing multiple patterns, sporting my mother’s old high school geography bee jacket, and tacky sweatshirts bought at Mt. Rushmore over the years. But as an incoming freshman, I was more concerned about fitting in.

Inspecting the contents of my closet that morning, and gazing upon all of the awesome tacky sweaters, the velvet pants, and the leather jacket, I felt conflicted. I wanted so badly to wear the clothes that made me feel most like myself, but felt that I couldn’t–or shouldn’t– for fear of seeming different. Standing there in front of the sliding doors of my Village-style, wooden closet, I had an epiphany: Weren’t there upwards of 20,000 students going to this school? Did I really expect to please all of them? Weren’t there probably other students on this campus that dressed like me, or chose to express their style similarly? Feeling like an idiot, I grabbed the first tacky sweatshirt in sight, a black crew neck with an enormous blue-tongued snow leopard’s face down the front, and ran with it, desperate to make up for lost time.

I will always remember that day as the first day I decided to be myself at JMU—the day I began to fit in because I was no longer trying to be something I wasn’t. Now, I’m not saying that wearing an ugly thrift store find changed my entire college experience, but it was one of my first steps of many toward my own self-acceptance in my new environment. Although one can feel lost at sea on such a large campus, being yourself will give you the clarity of mind necessary to truly grow and thrive, try new things, and ultimately find your own personal niche in the JMU community.

The Heart and Soul of James Madison University

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