A reflection on the ever-changing purpose of online dossiers in the quest for the next career opportunity.

Since 1999, Interfolio has helped hundreds of thousands of scholars:

Our team has hosted and fine-tuned these interactions and processes not only so we stay zeroed in on alleviating stress and facilitating preparation for the scholar, but also so our users can succeed and focus on the outcome of their efforts—getting to their next career milestone.

Indeed, for twelve or thirteen years, Interfolio’s primary focus was making things easier for extremely busy academic applicants and recommendation letter writers. And as we’ve peeled back our take on the preparation story more recently, our Dossier has really expanded to encompass the whole scholar’s lifecycle.

The real crux of managing your academic career online, or even a piece of it, bears some explanation (partnered with trust). So here, we break down what we think are the five central benefits of an online scholar-focused dossier, and speculate about what a global network of digital academic portfolios could mean for networking and the sharing of knowledge.

Benefits of an online dossier:

  1. It makes it possible to manage multiple confidential letters of recommendation for multiple applications. Surely this is the best-known purpose of an online academic dossier—and it’s a game-changer. Instead of asking my letter writers over and over to submit letters to dozens of destinations, I can just ask each of them to submit one unaddressed letter (or several variants) to my dossier service. By making it easier for my letter writers, I maintain a stronger relationship with them—and I don’t have to constantly check in on whether they are playing their role in a particular opportunity.
  2. It facilitates the sharing of materials for feedback in a relatively seamless way. The ability to send a digital copy of your CV or a collection of materials at the push of a button to anyone, anywhere, is a fairly new capability of online dossiers. I can simply upload and then send my mentor, advisor, even a peer, a copy of my application packet and receive their thoughts and feedback in almost real-time on how to put my best foot forward. And all the feedback is captured and held in a place I can easily accept and translate it, or pass on certain thoughts and ideas.
  3. It enables a scholar to apply to a large number of opportunities, and to apply on short notice. For a scholar who maintains an academic dossier online, the actual sending of application materials is simpler and quicker. I can send off an application packet with a few clicks from anywhere. If I don’t have this option, it’s true: it is like the old days. The time available to me to invest in the most substantive, meaningful aspects of my career management—to revise my statements, research opportunities, learn about peers’ work, and attend events—is severely constrained by the labor it takes to get all my applications out the door.
  4. It gives scholars a natural place to store the most up-to-date versions of their own materials. If I use an online dossier service, I have a dedicated space for my career materials that is accessible from anywhere and that translates immediately into an application I can send off. Is an academic dossier service the only way to store my documents online? Of course not. Am I capable of making a folder on my own computer? I sure hope so. But if I am storing documents in my online dossier for a more functional reason (see above), then clearly I gain the added benefit of a dedicated venue in which to organize my work. I’ll know where to go to find what I need.
  5. It gives scholars a ready-made, consolidated historical record of their career steps. A dossier service makes for a more informed applicant. When I organize my job search, my grant applications, or even my medical school portfolio online in this way, I can rely on a single place to reference my past attempts. It’ll help me remember which opportunities I applied for at which times, which materials I sent to which destinations, to whom I addressed a packet at a particular institution (and at what address), and similar details. The service stores this information for me.

To be sure, there’s something to be said for elbow grease. It’s not about rewarding laziness. We’re talking about a group of highly qualified applicants who are applying for dozens and dozens of opportunities in a very tight market, with limited time at their fingertips.

Nor, on the other hand, would it be a service to the academic community to build a machine that reduces professors to some robotic formula of quantitative data points or a cycle of churning out generic letters. Rather, by shortening the path from point A to point B, it affords individual scholars greater freedom to represent their contributions and character, and to make connections with the right collaborators—rather than further limiting the doors behind which a stable position can be found.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.