June 12, 2019

5 Ways to Make Your Web Development Portfolio Stand Out

Your portfolio is a showcase of your most important web development work. Throughout your career as a developer, from your very first dev job onwards, you'll want to be able to make a strong impression on hiring managers, partners, and clients. A portfolio demonstrates the technologies you use, how you apply them, and the most impressive things you've built recently. But portfolios vary a lot in quality and they can make or break your job search. How do you make a powerful, compelling portfolio? We asked Thinkful's experts and here are the 5 key points they shared to make your web development portfolio stand out.

1. Make an attractive but simple design.

You want to hit the middle ground here. Kaleidoscopes are eye-catching and attractive, but they're anything but simple. A blank white page is simple, but not compelling. As a developer, you want to exercise some design skills and have a clear, functional portfolio with an inviting color scheme. Every design element should draw attention to who you are, what you're capable of, and what you've built. Together, it should leave the reader with the impression that you've built great things, are eager to build more, and are worth working with. Design can feel more subjective than other fields — bad designs don't throw syntax errors when you try to run them. Thinkful's Web Development Bootcamp students always have their portfolios reviewed by teams of UX experts and designers, who give feedback based on years of experience, contact with hiring managers, and proven results.

2. Put your best work forward.

Avoid basic 'learner' apps and clones of other websites. Few hiring managers will be impressed to see that you've created the seven-hundredth copy of AirBnB they've seen in their applicant pool, or the "hello, world!" alert you made as your first JavaScript exercise. Show them original apps that you've built from scratch. Thinkful requires students to create capstone projects, which you build alongside your personal mentor. Together, you two work 1-on-1 to come up with an idea for a production-grade app, decide on the scope of the project and the features it will require, and then you build it. In order to get approved, each app needs to work smoothly, have a clear and appealing user experience, and follow best practices. Capstone projects impress hiring managers every day. Whether you're Thinkful student building capstones or you're learning another way, make sure that you're sharing something great.

3. Explain what you're capable of.

"I'm a web developer" doesn't cut it. What stack do you work best with? Better yet, what sort of problems do you excel at solving and in which industries? Have a clear description of every project you've built and elaborating on which technologies you chose to build it. That gives a hiring manager a clear picture of what you can do. Sharing code you've written is also a key ingredient. Thinkful places heavy emphasis on graduates being able to articulate why their code does what it does — they think this is a driver of their 93% placement rate and $19,088 average salary increase.

4. Know your market.

Do thorough research of your local job boards and find out what sort of web developers are being sought out in your market. Then, position yourself accordingly. Like design, this is an area with a lot of subjectivity. How can you tell if you're positioned well to work at an agency, a startup, or an established corporation? In some cases, it comes down to copy, but there's more to it. It's usually useful to get feedback from someone with a lot of connections. Career Services handles this for Thinkful students. With extensive connections to employers around the world, they are able to get direct feedback on what employers are looking for, and they pass that information along to you.

5. Give them a way to contact you!

Imagine having a great portfolio, but you link to an email address that you never check, or forget to share your LinkedIn information, or don't link to your GitHub. People really do make this mistake. Always make sure your portfolio has up-to-date contact information!

Having a great portfolio is key. Not only is it important for getting a hiring manager's attention, it's also great to make sure you stand out from other applicants. That doesn't just mean being the best of the newly-minted developers: Thinkful has seen graduates with particularly strong portfolios compete with people who have multiple years of industry experience. No matter where you learn or what your experience is, use these 5 tips to having a great portfolio.

Want to learn more about Thinkful? Read what alumni have to say and learn more about Thinkful's courses here.

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