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Why Student Portfolios Matter for Jobs

Why Student Portfolios Matter for Jobs


It’s the end of November and you’re ramping up your search for internships and part-time job opportunities. You come across an interesting posting and decide to click on it. You read through the general information, expectations, and qualifications and everything sounds perfect. You scroll to the bottom to attach your resume and cover letter, and wait…it’s asking you for a personalized portfolio! But what even is a portfolio? 

What’s a portfolio?

A portfolio is a collection of your work, samples, and examples of your work and other career-related documents. A typical portfolio will include a resume, samples, skills, or awards. Building and/or having portfolios is very common today because it reflects an individual’s qualifications, experiences, and skills in the field they are trying to get into. 

For example, if you are a writer, you could include samples of papers, blogs, articles, or books you’ve written. If you’re a programmer, you might include any apps, programs, software, or websites that you’ve worked on. If you’re an artist, you might include paintings, sketches, and other designs you’ve done in the past. 

Portfolio vs. Resume

Portfolios and resumes are similar in many ways, but they are very different as well. Your resume mostly consists of information that summarizes who you are, your work experience, and your skills and accomplishments. A portfolio tends to expand on all of that information, usually by showcasing past work and samples. 

For example, if you are an editor, you might write in your resume that you have a particularly valuable skill: attention to detail. Then, in your portfolio, you might include examples of articles or written work that you’ve edited or rewritten. 

Do I need to make a portfolio?

It depends! Portfolios can be used to apply to almost any job, and it’s always great to have one. However, not all jobs will require you to submit a portfolio. There are some common careers out there that are known to ask for personal portfolios during the application process. Some of these jobs include:

  • Artist
  • Model
  • Makeup artist
  • Designer
  • Hairstylist
  • Photographer
  • Programmer
  • Architect
  • Writer
  • Software Developer  
  • Some freelance jobs 

What to put in my portfolio

Again, this depends on the industry you’re trying to get into. But most portfolios follow a similar pattern. 

  1. Personal information
    • Full name
    • Phone number
    • Email address
    • Links to your LinkedIn Profile and any websites or social media accounts that are relevant to your work
  1. A career summary and list of goals
    • Who are you as a professional?
    • What work have you done?
    • What is your career philosophy?
    • What makes you stand out as an opportunity for future employers?
  1. Resume (and cover letter)
    • Should be tailor-made to the job you are applying to
    • Should include up-to-date and relevant information about your experiences
  1. Skills and accomplishments
    • Awards
    • Certifications
    • Volunteer work
    • School work
    • Competitions
    • Workshops
    • Evaluations
    • Transcripts
  1. Samples of work
    • Quality over quantity!
    • Make sure to include work that represents you and your skills; it’s better to include five quality samples than ten mediocre samples

How should I format my portfolio?

There are many, many ways to build portfolios. A portfolio can take the form of a digital file or a set of files, a website, physical pages in a binder/expanding folder/box, or a personalized book of work that is professionally bound. However, it’s vital to be clever about which format to use. For example, if you’re a designer for websites and online platforms, it would be a good idea to build your portfolio via a website to showcase your web design skills. If you’re a writer, your portfolio could be built in the form of a professional file. 

Sources: The Least Talked About (and Most Important) Aspect of the Job Search, According to Recruiters, How to Build a Job Portfolio,
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