Journalism is an incredibly competitive market place, and you need to do all you can to stand out.
The standard résumé is not the best way for a young journalist to stand out. The New York Times just published an article about how low grades in college can hurt a person’s job search. If all you do is show someone a piece of white paper, listing what you have done, your grades will count for a lot.
That’s why you need a digital résumé. It’s so far beyond the boring and basic résumé that most people have. It’s a way to showcase your skills to anyone in the world and better illustrate those skills.
With a digital résumé, people won’t notice something like a low GPA as much because they’ll be immersed in your talents. How much can you really gleam from a piece of paper?
And I understand that a lot of us have writing clips, but not all journalists are writers and a lot of newspapers are looking for people with varied skill sets. With a Web site you can show off a wide array of skills. Don’t tell people your skills, show them — that’s what us journalists do.
My digital résumé can be found at www.patthorntonfiles.com, and it has served me well. It’s much easier and impressive to send people there than to just hand them some boring piece of paper.
My paper résumé looks a lot like your résumé. I can’t really stand out with it, but my Web site is unique.
It has my own design with my own creations on it. It’s me in a nutshell. That’s why you should create one, and it’s not as hard as you think either.
Here are a few good examples of digital résumés:
Those are a few of the many good examples out there using varying degrees of difficulty. Some use a lot of off-the-self parts, while others a very custom, but they all work.
1. Gather all your content
Figure out what you want to showcase. Are you a writer? Grab your best clips and make sure they are ready for the world to see.
Maybe you also take photos. You should find your best photos and divide them into relevant categories. If you do Flash, video or audio it would be wise to put those files on the site too.
And of course link to any projects you have done that you are proud of. Yes, this site will still have the standard résumé features like your past employment, your skills, where you went to school, G.P.A. (if warranted) and so forth, but it will also show people what you can do.
Remember, this site is for your best works. Don’t go putting tons and tons of your work on there unless you think it is all worth viewing. Potential employers may randomly pick a story, and it may not be as strong as some of your other writing, for instance.
2. Conceptualize and design
Now you need to start brainstorming what features your site will have and where they will go. I’d start with a pen and paper and start sketching up. I’d also do a site map to figure out where the content should go. I recommend that your site has at least an about page, HTML version of your résumé, contact page and at least one page with your work on it.
You may want to go beyond that, but that’s a good starter site. If you don’t have a lot of design experience you can go one of a few ways.
You could look at sites on the Web and see what you like and try to emulate them. You could build your site with something like WordPress and use a theme created by someone else (many are quite beautiful). Or you could try to sketch up a completely original design.
You may want to make a rough mock up with pen and paper of your design and then start making a serious one with Photoshop. My only starting point for The Journalism Iconoclast was that I wanted it to be green and fresh looking.
3. Start building
You can approach this from several angles with varying degrees of difficultly. The method you choose should largely depend on how much Web skills you want to learn along the way, or how much you already know. I have a lot of friends who do Web work, but don’t have a personal site. Don’t be like that.
The cheapest and potentially easiest method is WordPress. You can sign up for a free account and go with the standard template or download and install (which is quite easy) one of many free designs. WordPress does give you a lot of power and flexibility. You can customize your design and really use WordPress as a content management system.
With WordPress you obviously will have a blog, which you can use in a myriad of ways. Maybe you don’t want a blog, however, and you still want an easy way to create an original site. I would strongly look into getting a What You See Is What You Get editor (WYSIWYG).
Dreamweaver is the best known of the bunch. It’s an Adobe product, so it plays well with Photoshop, Flash and others. But it’s expensive. If you have the money, or can build a site during the 30 day trial period (completely doable), then I would seriously consider Dreamweaver.
It’ll both allow you to easily make a site, but it will also allow you do powerful things on your site. Plus, a lot of employers like potential employees to know how to use Dreamweaver. A free alternative is Mozilla’s Seamonkey suite. It should give beginners similar results.
A program like iWeb, while not as powerful as some other WYSIWYG editors, is probably the easiest way to make a great looking Web site. It comes loaded with a bunch of easily editable templates. Because these templates are very professional looking out of the box, you can focus on putting your content up.
The last option is for those who really want to add serious Web skills to their portfolio. Learn (X)HTML, CSS and anything else you need and open your favorite text editor and start coding. My summer reading list is a great place to start if you want to learn some basic Web skills.
It links to the sites and books you’ll need to get up and running. My favorite text editor (it does a heck of a lot more than just code) is Coda. This way not only will you display your other works, but you will clearly demonstrate that you understand the Web and how to build a site. You can also build a site to look exactly how you want it to.
4. Server space
You’ll need a Web server to run your Web site with. WordPress.org runs blogs/sites for free. That’s always a good option.
.Mac is an easy way to link up with iWeb and get your site up and running in minutes. A Small Orange and other companies like them provide quality hosting for as little as $5 a month. It all comes down to how comfortable you are with FTP programs or how much you want to spend.
There is an option for everyone. Each option will depend on how comfortable you are with the Web and (X)HTML, your budget and what your goals are.
Having a digital résumé will allow you to stand out in ways that other candidates can’t. If you have design clips, photos, videos, Web projects, etc, you really need a Web site. Even if you just have written clips, it’s a better way to demonstrate your potential.
If you have any more specific questions feel free to contact me, and I can give you personalized advice. Good luck.