UMass alumna and Seventeen.com web editor Noelle Devoe gives TechTalk

By Colby Sears

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

University of Massachusetts alumna Noelle Devoe, a web editor at Seventeen.com, talked to students about how they can successfully build a professional online portfolio in today’s digital information age at a TechTalk Friday afternoon.

The 2013 graduate discussed virtual techniques students can use to stand out to potential employers, as well as the techniques she used to get a job at Seventeen.com. About 30 people attended the talk in the Campus Center, which was presented by UMass Information Technology.

“In many fields, there are just so many applicants and it feels intimidating, like you can never make yourself stand out … but you can,” she said. “You’ve got to find what makes you stand out, because we all have something.”

Devoe said the first step in doing this is knowing yourself and the skills students possess. She encouraged attendees to embrace and explore whatever it is they are passionate about, utilize it and present it professionally online.

Though Devoe said she didn’t know what she wanted to do when she grew up, she did know that she loved technology, HTML coding and pop culture. She cited the television show “Lizzie McGuire” and pop boy band One Direction as some of her original inspirations for creating podcasts and fan videos that allowed her to gain experience with different technologies.

She eventually created the fan site One Direction Connection when she was a sophomore studying at UMass. She said “hundreds of thousands” of One Direction fans visited the site, which is included on her resume because it shows she is passionate about pop culture, web design and writing.

Devoe also stressed the second step in building an online presence: creating a professional website. A personal site, which she said is essential to have, should include a biography section, a resume, a portfolio of work and a contact page. She said a blog feature is optional, but encouraged, and that the site should also integrate access to social media pages.

“The key is to not be a template applicant,” Devoe said, claiming the best way to get noticed by hiring managers is to avoid default website themes from resources like Tumblr and WordPress, and instead make them personal by customizing them and utilizing HTML code.  Though free themes from Tumblr and WordPress can be used, Devoe said customization is crucial.

“You want someone to look at your website and think ‘this person is different, this person has something new to offer me,” she said. “If they go to your website and they see the same template they saw on six other people’s websites, that’s not the message they’re going to get.”

She also suggested students purchase their own domain name and avoid having a subdomain, such as yourname.wordpress.com. Devoe said making sure the site is functional and is always up and running is also a necessity.

Devoe said the next step is for students to take their skills beyond a blog or a website by adding personality wherever possible, such as a resume. Devoe believes that different jobs call for different types of resumes, saying that though someone applying for an accounting or engineering position may use a basic Microsoft Word template, people applying to jobs in graphic design or something web-related, for example, should make their resume stand out.

Devoe recommended Scribus, an Adobe InDesign alternative, GIMP, an Adobe Photoshop alternative, and resume templates that can be purchased off e-commerce site Etsy as methods of achieving this. She also suggested using a nameplate or personal logo.

The fourth step Devoe discussed was using social media to your advantage rather than letting it work against you.

“Be your number one fan. That’s the best part about social media…you can really show people what you’re doing and what you’re up to. The internet is literally your portfolio,” she said.

Lastly, Devoe talked about step five, which is for students to show employers what truly makes them unique.

She said that in the information age today, job applicants don’t necessarily need traditional experience to show they have what it takes to be hired for a certain position. Though she said she had no traditional journalism experience, she did have the skills she gained from One Direction Connection and other online work she had done by herself.

Devoe graduated from UMass with a bachelor’s degree in communication before earning a master’s degree in newspaper, magazine, and online journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2014.

Her position at Seventeen.com requires her to search for viral news regarding celebrities and female-focused topics, among other subjects.

UMass TechTalks is a series of events put on for the UMass community about a variety of technology topics, including how to creatively use technology and how it is shaping the future.

Colby Sears can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colbysears.