Every semester I have my students create employment portfolios. The assignment serves two purposes: 1) to help students gather their employment documents and best work for discussion during an interview and 2) to provide students a self-check of what they have accomplished compared to what they think they have accomplished during their college careers thus far.
Creating the portfolio is easy. Here are the instructions I provide to my classes. The points assigned in any given semester depend on the other assignments in the class and the weight I wish to give the portfolio toward a student’s course grade.
- Hard cover three-ring binder in a professional color (e.g., black, burgundy, gray, navy)
- Sheet protectors
- Tab dividers that extend beyond the sheet protectors (look specifically for these; not all tab dividers will extend past your sheet protectors)
- Labels for your tab dividers (usually these come with the tab dividers). You must type the labels.
- A formatted resume
- A reference sheet with information on three references
- A letter of reference from a superior. Do not wait until the last week of class to ask for this.
- A description of your degree program listing all of the courses required for your major. This is not available on the Internet. You will find printouts of these outside departmental offices.
- An official transcript.
- Three writing samples; create descriptions for your samples telling what the sample is; where, when, and why you wrote it; and what skills/abilities the sample shows.
- Three samples of other work; create descriptions for your samples telling what the sample is; where, when, and why you wrote it; and what skills/abilities the sample shows.
- Any other awards or certifications (optional)
Assembly of Your Portfolio
- Create a title page with your name and a title indicating that this is a professional employment portfolio
- Create a table of contents
Note: Your title page and table of contents do not need tab dividers
- Put all documents in sheet protectors. You may place two sheets of paper in one protector. Documents longer than 10 pages may be placed in one sheet protector or stored in the back pocket of your binder.
- Put your documents in your binder in the following order: resume, references, letter of recommendation, transcript, degree program, three writing samples, three other examples, any other awards or certifications
- Create a title sheet for your writing and work samples describing what the sample is; where, when, and why you wrote it; and what skills/abilities the sample shows.
- Insert tab dividers between sections, making sure to type your tab labels. Use the labels that come with the dividers, and make sure the tabs extend past the sheet protectors. The labels must fit the tabs.
- Make sure your portfolio creates a positive, professional first impression.
- Turn your portfolio in sometime on or before class time on the due date provided in your course schedule.
- Required materials = 5 points for each item; points are deducted if any materials are of poor quality, contain typos, or are otherwise unprofessional.
- Assembly = 5 points for each step; points are deducted if the steps are not followed or if they are not followed well and result in an unprofessional appearance.
If students struggle with anything in this assignment, it is how they might use portfolios in an interview. I tell students that they will need to show the portfolio—that an employer is not likely to ask what they’re carrying around in that binder. To help students become comfortable talking about their work, on the day portfolios are due, we have a show-and-tell, where students present their portfolios to a small group. While they are presenting, I visit each group and ask the students questions about their work.
Feedback from alumni, employers, and students has been positive. Most students take pride in their work and turn in portfolios that far exceed my expectations.
I have not assigned electronic portfolios, though we have discussed the benefits of LinkedIn and VisualCV (which is no longer in business) for this purpose. The goal for this assignment is to provide students with something tangible to use in an interview.
If you have used a similar assignment or have experimented with electronic portfolios, please share your experience.