Resumes are Analog. Create a Digital Portfolio Instead.

Aaron McHugh

I resign

In this digital age a black and white resume in Microsoft Word is an analog solution to explaining your career.

A digital portfolio is the modern solution for career professionals who desire to distinguish themselves from the herd.

With this approach I have been able to significantly improve my career options and increase my total compensation by 50%.

If you’re not in the middle of a career change, forward it to a friend who you know is.

Better yet, forward this to a friend that you know should be changing careers.

Raising money and your career change

You should approach your career change like you were raising money from investors.

If I was trying to raise money from investors what is their bottom line question?

“If I invest my money in you, will you give me a better return than if I invested in someone else?’

Let’s start with these questions

  • What have you done before?
  • Are you better than everyone else?
  • How do we know you can do it again?
  • What kinds of results can you provide?
  • What do other people have to say about you?

This is not a shortcut

This approach is guaranteed to be the long and narrow road.

Creating a career portfolio will take longer, more effort and more risk.

Most people will never put in the work to differentiate themselves from the herd.

I’ve never enjoyed the herd.

They seem to like words like predictable, normal, steady and reliable.

Their results usually seem to be congruent with those terms.

Making the decision to leave

Two years ago I realized I needed a career change.

After exhausting my wife from listening to my woes for years, I started putting plans into action to leave my job.

I was running a small software division for a product and team that I helped take from a whiteboard idea to a market ready product.

We were experiencing success and arguably things were about to get easier.

But I was loosing heart.

I really enjoyed the job and the challenges in the marketplace.  The environment was tough.

I started to dream of what “better” really would look like.

The shift begins to be unavoidable

I used to become very agitated with myself.

Why can’t I just settle in like everyone else?

Why can’t I be agreeable and compliant like those other people?

Why do I always have to make a ruckus?

Now, I have made friends with this recurring pattern in my life.

Every time I have changed jobs I get to where I can’t swallow the pill anymore.

What I used to be willing to accept or tolerate, I can’t anymore.

I don’t wake up on a particular Monday and say, “I’m not willing to do this”.

It is more of a gradual internal shift over many months or years.

My guess is that my story is a lot like yours.

  • Your daily passion gets easily deflated
  • You see warts where you previously pretended they were “beauty marks”
  • You heart is not in the mission anymore.

Each time I’ve arrived here, I realize that the best resolution was to remove myself from the story instead of continuing to try and change it.

I don’t like what resumes have become

I hadn’t created a resume in years.

It felt a bit overwhelming to get started.

By not having a current resume, I realized I was using it as an excuse for why I needed to stay compliant to the dysfunction.

“I need this job and I’m not prepared to make a move.  Suck it up.”

Over the years, I have read hundreds of resumes and most are predictably and painfully dull.

Most are full of alleged accomplishments, amazing feats and bulleted job duties.

I wanted to revolt.

Imagine that, me wanting to revolt.  I know it’s hard to believe.

So instead of adhering to the perceived standards, I was going to break the rules.

Anyone can create a one-page bullet list of job duties.

I wanted to create a portfolio instead 

Professional trades like Architects, Artists, Graphic Designers, Journalists and Software Developers all have professional portfolios.

A few years ago my brother the architect, started looking for a new job.

He spent weeks preparing an exquisite leather bound professional portfolio that looked ready for your living room coffee table. The contents documenting his accomplishments would have made Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright feel nervous to compete with these design chops.

It was so much more engaging than a black and white bulleted lists.

It told such a better story.

It was visual.

It offered concrete proof of what he had delivered, designed and created.

I was ruined.

Never again could I follow the norms of job hunting and schlep some drab 8 ½” x 11” text file.

Ideas are hard to put on display

My working career has been about the creation of ideas that translate into business value.

What the hell does that mean?

In Sales you don’t sell products (well some people do) you sell an idea of how a product can solve a business problem.

I offer ideas for a living.

As one of my favorite podcasters and authors, Todd Henry, calls it, Translating ideas into value at a moments notice.

Provide specific examples of accomplishments

Documentable accomplishments are obviously ideal proof of your career performance.

Point to a specific news article, press release or external reference source.

You offer your ideas in plain view.

Original thought is brilliant evidence of what business and organizational value you will actually bring.

I never intended to write publicly or keep up a blog.

Instead it was my version of a digital portfolio.

I believed it would provide a competitive differentiation between me and every other candidate in the CEO’s office.

Why a blog is a great start?

A blog (WordPress site) will enable you to provide a much more robust body of evidence of your career storyline.

In a traditional resume you are generally limited to a maximum of two pages in total.

With an electronic portfolio you have the luxury of progressively disclosing your career story through a series of small chunks of content with embedded links that are wired up to display your thoughts, ideas, pictures of projects, and documents.

The density of content that you can provide with an electronic portfolio would never create an effective stand-alone resume.

Don’t know how to get started?  Here is a link to Jeff Goins step-by-step setup guide.


LinkedIn has brilliantly capitalized on this premise of offering an aggregated collection of other people’s advocacy or endorsements of your work.

Other people's words about you hold more weight than your own.

Even better is what they are willing to write on your behalf.

If you have not pursued this age-old tactic, you better get started.

I utilized endorsements in my first sales job selling Radio advertising in the mid-90’s.  I was really young, and looked even younger.  My competitors had more experience than me, had better products to sell and were arguably better at sales than I was.

I needed help.

I started asking for endorsements from my customers.  In those days they actually pulled out a piece of company letterhead and typed a full letter.  I carried them around in a three-ring binder in clear covers.

When a prospective customer would ask “Why should I do business with you?”  I’d pull out the letters and flip through them and say, “Mr. Smith says you are in good hands with me”.

In essence the letters promised, Aaron does not lie, cheat or steal.  He is really smart and works hard.  Give him a shot.

Examples for you to steal

Now it is your turn to get started.

See my digital portfolio:

I am happy to provide you document templates to get you started.

If you need advice on how to ask for them, shoot me an email.

4 thoughts on “Resumes are Analog. Create a Digital Portfolio Instead.

      1. Glad you like it! I started the site after creating a hard copy bragbook for my sales interviews and got tired of running to Staples. Based on early feedback, users wanted more customization. This is an article during the early days by NJ Biz:

        As it evolved, the digital career portfolio became a personal branding website. Early feedback on the new site is good. I spoke to a man recently who uses it for his videography business. It looks like it gave him a easy and comprehensive way to showcase his work and book jobs.

        I created one for myself, which you can see at

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