Keys to College Success: Build Your Portfolio ASAP

Here comes that journalism bias again but let it be known that “portfolio” in this post is a semi-loose term. Regardless of what you’re going to choose for a major I’m fairly certain that you’re going to need some body of work (either volunteer, extra-curricular, or samples) to show future employers. Even if you’re undecided, you can pursue experiences that are interesting for you and maybe that, in conjunction with the classes you’ll take, will help you decide what you’d like to get a degree (and later a job) in.

This post is coming at this time because, while I was aware that I needed a portfolio, I didn’t start compiling it until a few months ago. It is MUCH more difficult to do it this way because you have to go back through everything you’ve ever done in college and re-edit and make sure it’s up to hiring standards. So, if you’re a freshman in college or still in high school or about to graduate, take this advice: get started as early as possible. For journalists, if you’ve got a piece you’re really proud of, include that. If you’ve got a piece that’s been published, definitely include that. This will show employers that you’re not just waiting to get the experience after you graduate. (At least, that’s what I’ve heard and that’s what I’m hoping for.)

Now, what good does it do if you’ve got all of your materials and nowhere to show them? — I bet you know where this is going… — That’s right! You’re going to have to make a website. Almost everything is online nowadays, if you’re not on that bandwagon, well, you better get on it pretty fast. Actually, if you’re not on that bandwagon, how are you reading this? Never mind.

This is a snapshot of one of the gallery options Wix provides. Photo credit: Stephanie Kawula

This is a snapshot of one of the gallery options Wix provides. Photo credit: Stephanie Kawula

There are lots of websites you can use to get your work out there. At first, I used Wix. It’s free and it’s a pretty professional site where you can upload your work. If you’re just starting, like I was, this is a great option. There are many different templates to choose from and if you want to purchase Wix Premium you can remove the ads.

Another option I’ve heard of is called Square Space but I must be completely transparent and admit that I have not had any personal experience with this site. I went the much more difficult route.

This is a snapshot of my portfolio website that I coded from scratch. It took me a few months to do since I was working on it for a class but it's more professional than my first website. Photo credit: Stephanie Kawula

This is a snapshot of my portfolio website that I coded from scratch. It took me a few months to do since I was working on it for a class but it’s more professional than my first website. Photo credit: Stephanie Kawula

If you’re feeling really ambitious you can learn how to code your own website from scratch. (Yup, that’s the much more difficult route that I just mentioned.) It’s very time consuming and can be frustrating at times but at the end of it you have another skill that you can add to your resumé. I was fortunate enough to be able to take classes in college that taught me how to do this because it’s a tool that employers are looking for.

No matter how you do it or which site you use (I’m sure you could even create a portfolio site using WordPress or Blogger), the key is to get your “product” out there. Make sure you’re seen. The more work you have, the more legitimate you look and that’s never going to be a bad thing (at least in my experience).  Also, remember to have fun with it. When I design my portfolio sites I try to make them reflective of my personality but also professional.

 

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