Today I had tea with two friends, and we were talking about our futures, and graduate school, and our plans for the upcoming year, and suddenly it hit me…I’m going into my junior of year college. The carefree mentality I’ve grown so fond of is slowly becoming less and less prominent, and my thoughts are now churning about what I need to do to prepare for law school apps, what programs I want to do, where I want to work, and most importantly, where I’d like to live in a couple years. Where you want to live is actually a HUGE factor when it comes to choosing schools. If you don’t love where you are, it’s hard to love what you’re doing.
Anyway, our conversation made me remember another conversation I had with my roommate from last year about portfolios. She works in the campus archives, and she said they had a client come in asking for some information, and the woman was explaining why it’s great my friend has a job, and that she’s adding things to her resume. Apparently she told my friend that the thing college students should really be doing, but that they often do not, is building a really stellar portfolio. Sure, college students make resumes, and we do things that will look great on graduate school or job applications, but we don’t always put together a really strong portfolio that offers proof of our skills and accomplishments. So, let’s talk portfolios.
Some people may feel a portfolio is unnecessary given that you submit a resume to jobs and graduate schools. While resumes are helpful, a portfolio will make you stand out because in addition to an awesome resume, you are providing some pretty incredible work for employers and admission committees to refer to when making decisions.
You may be wondering how you should even go about making a portfolio. Well, I’m here with a few helpful hints!
What is a portfolio? It is a binder that shows off your talents and abilities and is a tool to help market yourself.
What should be included in a portfolio? Your complete portfolio should include a Table of Contents, Career Summary and Goals, Resume, Skills, Abilities, and Marketable Qualities, Samples of Various Works, Awards or Honors, Transcripts, Test Results (ex: GRE, LSAT), any News Coverage you’ve received, References.
How should my portfolio look? Your portfolio should look clean, concise, and professional. Try not to get overly decorative, and keep it short and sweet. No portfolio should exceed 25 pages, as you should be mindful and realistic about how long a potential employer or admissions counselor will spent looking at your documents. Each page should have a title, snapshot caption, and artifact. When you have the portfolio put together, write a summary of its contents that highlights the major components as well as why you stand out.
Eight Things to Remember when Creating Your Portfolio:
1) Think about format. How do you want to format your portfolio? Will you make a digital version or paper or both?
2) Begin with a self evaluation of your skills. What have you done? What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?
3) Consider your work as a potential employer would consider the work. Does it stand out? Is it your best? Does it showcase the skills necessary to succeed at the job?
4) Only choose items that will showcase your best abilities. Make sure you look really strong on every page.
5) Make sure the pieces you include are relevant to the job or field.
6) Consider the lengths of pieces. Do not include a 15 page research paper and only one or two more pieces. Offer a strong sample of works.
7) Customize your portfolio each time you submit the portfolio. Do not leave a generic description or the same pieces in every portfolio unless two jobs allow. Make sure you are customizing your portfolio to appear perfect for the position for which you are applying.
8) Keep a digital and paper copy with you at all professional engagements. You never know when opportunity will knock, and you want to be prepared. You may want to create a condensed portfolio in your briefcase or backpack just in case!
Don’t wait until spring of senior year to make a portfolio. Start today, and be successful tomorrow. That was cheesy, sorry, but it is true. You want to be successful in everything you do, and preparing early on will help you achieve your goals!