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Creating the Digital Portfolio

Creating the Digital Portfolio


What you include in your Digital Portfolio is driven by your audience research and your individual skill set. Making a list of skills that you want to demonstrate is a good way to start. Course assignments and projects, volunteer work, employment experience, and extracurricular activities can provide great examples of your skill development. Think about what you did and how you did it.

Use the following example to get you started in examining experiences for relevant skills:

A student volunteered with a professor conducting literature reviews and determining the specific method to be used in a research study. In reflecting on this role, the student should think about how they approached these tasks: did they read through large amounts of information and synthesize ideas? Were they resourceful in finding appropriate peer-reviewed methods? Did they critically analyze multiple methods and select the best process?

Following such reflection, the student may be able to extract these skills from the experience:

  • Working independently under timelines
  • Critical reflection and analysis
  • Understanding of the research process
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem solving
  • Resourcefulness
  • Clearly communicating complex information

The skills you choose to demonstrate should reflect the purpose of your Digital Portfolio. Is there a learning objective you need to prove from a course syllabus or assignment, or are you looking to demonstrate a specific quality that a graduate program is looking for?

You can learn about skills and how to find evidence for them within your degree program in My Degree & Skills. You may also wish to book a Manage Your Online Presence Appointment at the Centre for Career Development to focus on identifying appropriate content, including relevant skills, articulation of these skills, and skills to develop.

At this point in your Digital Portfolio development, you have discovered that there are two angles to its usefulness: your Digital Portfolio prompts reflection, which generates new learning or solidifies what you know, and it serves as evidence of your abilities to a wider audience. There is a lot to take into account in addressing these two components.

Effectively structuring content for your selected audience requires that you research your selected industry, understand its needs and demands, and know how your skills fit into your desired work.

In addition to the industry-specific component, there is also the challenge of how best to structure your reflections in order to communicate your achievements to your target audience.

The STAR method, used to effectively structure interview responses, can also be a helpful tool for structuring your Digital Portfolio reflections. STAR is an acronym that stands for four components of a robust reflection: Situation, Task, Action, and Result.


  • Sets the stage for your reflection.
  • Provides background and context.
  • Is brief — perhaps only a couple of sentences in length
  • Describes who, what, when, where, and possibly why.


  • Explains what you needed to accomplish.
  • Includes any challenges or issues you faced.
  • Is likely only a couple of sentences long.


  • Describes what you actually did.
  • Could incorporate the tools you used.
  • Is the majority of your content — several sentences or a couple of paragraphs.


  • Explains why your work was important.
  • Could include what you accomplished or learned.
  • Could also include recognition or feedback about your work.

Incorporating these components into your reflection ensures that you set the stage, communicate what you needed to accomplish, focus on your actions, and explain why your work was important. In the end, you will have a robust story that serves as evidence of your ability.

To capture your reflections and STAR responses, you could use a worksheet like this one, a journal, or unpublished pages of your Digital Portfolio.

For an idea of how the STAR method might shape your Digital Portfolio reflections, take a look at Danielle Juneau’s portfolio. Although the components of the STAR response aren’t labelled, she has included the situation, tasks, actions, and results in her project descriptions.

After you have determined the purpose, audience, and skills that you wish to demonstrate, you are ready to design and create your Digital Portfolio. You will combine visual and written components with reflections to prove your competencies. The Writing and Communications Centre recommends that you consider taking the following steps in your design.

  1. Choose a platform:
  2. Some common examples include Wix, Pathbrite, PebblePad, LEARN, and Wordpress. Be sure to evaluate the cost and features of your platform. Some platforms are public, meaning anyone can search and see what you post in your Digital Portfolio. Others have the option of paying for a password—protected version of the platform. Consider how you wish to share your work and over what period of time.

  3. Choose a template, if available:
  4. Many Digital Portfolio platforms have templates available that offer pre-populated visual options. You can still choose the colour, font, icons, background images, etc. to ensure that they match the tone, message, audience, and purpose of your Digital Portfolio. Consider choosing a platform that gives you the option to change these features.

    NOTE: Visit The Writing and Communications Centre for an appointment or drop-in to speak with a Writing and Multimodal Communication Specialist about design, layout, structure, platform choice, and writing skills (organizing thoughts and ideas, communicating ideas with clarity, persuading the audience etc.)

  5. Refer to Identifying skills for your Digital Portfolio to determine what kind(s) of evidence you want to collect to demonstrate technical and transferable skills:

    The artifacts (or evidence) you decide to upload will depend on the purpose of your Digital Portfolio. Some common examples include:

    1. Awards and Certificates (volunteer work, languages, academic work)
    2. Diplomas/transcripts
    3. Writing samples
    4. Video/audio clips
    5. PowerPoint slides
    6. Photos (of projects)
    7. Graphic data (charts, spreadsheets, timelines)
    8. Letters of recommendation
  6. Choose experience examples/artifacts for your Digital Portfolio wisely. If you have intellectual property concerns because you think you may want to commercialize your research or idea, it may not be wise to publicly disclose any information on this work in your Digital Portfolio. Consult with Velocity or the Waterloo Commercialization Office (WatCo) about next steps.

    The same caution needs to be taken if you are concerned about sharing research information and publishing information prematurely. Check with your research supervisor for clarity before proceeding. If you are concerned about confidential organization/employer information, then speak with your employer.

    For example, if you worked for an organization writing policies or procedures for an internal system, you may need to find another way to demonstrate your detail-oriented writing skills. This information will most likely be confidential and you would not be able to share a sample of that writing in your Digital Portfolio.

    Headings for your sections and artifacts should be clear, and as specific as possible to guide the reader through your Digital Portfolio.

  7. Draft reflections for specific projects and accomplishments for which you have gathered evidence:
  8. Use the STAR method to reflect on your experience. Draft a concise recollection of your development through the experience. Consider including a written statement of each project/example’s purpose and outcome, as well as the skills you have learned while completing it. If you find reflective writing difficult, take a look at The Writing and Communications Centre resource for reflective writing.

    You can use icons to highlight specific transferable skills and identify patterns in your work. Visit The Writing and Communications Centre for feedback, including on visual and textual elements.

  9. Take time to review, revise, and proofread your Digital Portfolio:
    1. Ensure that your visuals are organized, professional, and engaging
    2. Read your reflections to be sure that you highlight key competencies
    3. Proofread for sentence structure, word choice, and punctuation

If you would like feedback, share with fellow students including those senior to you or those with different experiences in volunteering, and working. Share with employers when you are networking, and interviewing — notice what aspects of the Digital Portfolio garner the most attention and also what questions they ask you upon seeing it — this may help you identify what could be improved further or added.

You can also access book a Manage Your Online Presence appointment in the Centre for Career Development for more input on your work from a Career Advisor.

University of Waterloo

Centre for Career Development