Online Career Portfolios: Reactions from users and employers

by Katie E. Meyer and Jill A. Lumsden

Online career portfolios, also referred to as “e-Portfolios,” are gaining popularity in higher education settings. Florida State University’s online Career Portfolio Program (CPP) was successfully launched in April 2002. At the end of 2004, the program had over 20,000 student users! Career Center staff designed and implemented several evaluation strategies over the past two years to gain insight into the effectiveness of the CPP as a career development and job search tool. Of particular interest were reactions of student users who built their Career Portfolios, and employers who recruit at our University.

What do students think?

The online Career Portfolio was launched university-wide nearly three years ago. Since that time, faculty and staff have become familiar with the system and its benefits. Some faculty members require students to begin building Career Portfolios. Career Center staff members often provide workshops to these classes on how to begin developing a Career Portfolio. At the end of each semester, an electronic evaluation survey is sent to students enrolled in these classes.

Surveys were emailed to 693 students in a variety of courses ranging from an undergraduate nursing class to a graduate level higher education class. Completed surveys were obtained from 96 students, a response rate of 14%. Students were asked to check off all the people who helped them develop their career portfolio. The most frequent individuals helping students build their career portfolios were:

  • Faculty (43%)
  • Career Advisors working in the Career Center (18%)

Twenty-one percent received help from no one. These individuals most likely were able to navigate the CPP on their own, following the online directions to build and manage their career portfolios.

Students were also asked to indicate how they intended to use their completed career portfolio. The most common use was to satisfy the course requirement (33%), which was not surprising because the evaluation was sent to students enrolled in a course requiring the career portfolio. After that, the top three ways students planned to use their career portfolio were:

  • Applying for a job (20%)
  • Identifying their skills (15%)
  • Applying for graduate or professional school (12%)

The two least frequent uses identified by students were:

  • Applying for an internship (11%)
  • Interview preparation (8%)

The survey included additional items related to the potential benefits of the Career Portfolio Program. Students had the option of strongly agreeing, agreeing, disagreeing, or strongly disagreeing to statements aimed at evaluating the CPP’s effectiveness. The majority of students had positive views of the CPP. Below are the percentages of students who strongly agreed or agreed that the Career Portfolio allowed them to:

  • Show evidence of skills developed in their academic program, through volunteer experiences, part-time employment, internships, and/or a cooperative education program (85%).
  • Communicate their skills to potential employers (85%).
  • Show evidence of skills necessary to obtain and maintain employment (83%).
  • Understand how their academic and professional skills related to personal career goals (83%).
  • Show evidence of skills that could apply to a variety of occupations (81%).
  • Prepare for job searching and interviewing (80%).
  • Show evidence of interpersonal skills needed to work with or for others (80%).
  • Find experiences at FSU that would lead to the development of transferable skills (70%).
  • Find community experiences that would lead to skill development (63%).

What do employers think?

A common question from practitioners and students alike is, “Will an employer actually look at an online portfolio?” To help answer this question, we obtained feedback from employers who recruit at our campus through four separate surveys:

Our first survey asked employers if they would be interested in the idea of an online career portfolio system. Results revealed that employers:

  • Indicated interest in an online portfolio system (88%).
  • Believed that access to employability skills would be useful (87%).

A second survey’s purpose was to determine employer reactions regarding the usability and effectiveness of the Career Portfolio. Overall, employers strongly agreed or agreed that the Career Portfolio is useful for:

  • Validating candidates’ skills (98%).
  • Assessing candidates’ qualifications (95%).

The third employer survey took place after the official CPP launch in April 2002. Questions regarding the CPP were added to employer evaluations for career expositions and on-campus recruiting. Those employers who had been given access rated the career portfolio as above average in terms of being beneficial in identifying students’ skills.

The final survey involved employers who served as judges in the Career Portfolio Contest. Five judges, who had thoroughly examined students’ career portfolios, completed a survey about the CPP and how they might use it during the selection process. The employer judges believed they would use a students’ career portfolio during:

  • The second interview process (43%).
  • The application process (29%).

Overall, 86% of employer judges believed they would use the CPP in assessing candidates for their organization.

These results support the use of a Career Portfolio in the career development and job search process. Detailed survey results can be found in our technical report, The FSU Online Career Portfolio Program: An Evaluation Report at www.career.fsu.edu/portfolio.

Katie Meyer, Ed.S., has a master’s and specialist in education degrees in Counseling and Human Systems, with a specialization in Career Counseling, from Florida State University. She is currently pursuing her PhD in the combined Counseling Psychology and School Psychology program at Florida State University. Katie is a Career Development Coordinator at the Florida State University Career Center, where she is primarily responsible for maintaining, marketing, and evaluating the Career Portfolio Program. She can be reached at kmeyer@admin.fsu.edu.

Jill Lumsden, Ed.S., has master’s and specialist in education degrees in Counseling and Human Systems, with a specialization in Career Counseling, from Florida State University. Jill works at the Florida State University Career Center, where she is co-inventor of the Career Portfolio Program and has been Project Coordinator since its inception. She can be reached at jlumsden@admin.fsu.edu.

The Florida State University Career Center website can be found at www.career.fsu.edu; the Career Portfolio can be found at www.portfolio.fsu.edu.

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