Portfolio 101 for Fresh Grads

Most students prefer to concentrate on the all-important academic aspect and tend to overlook the fact that their portfolio is becoming increasingly important. When adequately prepared, the portfolio can be the key to setting you apart from the other university or job applicants, especially when attending a job fair like the JobsCentral Career and Education Fair 2014.

And as the student population becomes more competitive, academic grades are also no longer the only consideration for job and university applications. In fact, local universities are setting aside 10 per cent of their places for discretionary admissions - that is, admissions based on students’ extra-curricular achievements.

As such, for those who have not prepared your portfolio, it’s time to get started! Here are some tips on how you can go about it.

Starting from School
The first method to beef up your portfolio is simple: Get involved in various school activities! These can range from joining CCAs, interest groups and competitions to volunteering at school functions like sports day and carnivals. If nothing interests you, start a CCA with friends who share similar interests, or organise a community involvement project (CIP) for something you are passionate in.

Taking the initiative to start up something can help you develop your leadership and organisation skills. Spending more time in these activities doesn’t mean that you stop meeting up with your friends; on the contrary, doing CIP together allows you to spend more time with them in a meaningful manner.

Although only school-related activities will be listed in your CCA records, you may consider including independent activities into your portfolio. This ranges from voluntary work and part-time jobs outside of school to music lessons or skills workshops and courses that you are taking on your own. You could have represented your community centre in sports activities, or been a cell group leader in your church – anything that can display your special talent, personality and interest.

Using Your Personal Connections
Teacher referrals are often a part of an application for job interviews or when applying to universities, or can be used to a bonus to boost your application. You can also get someone - your supervisor at work, or volunteer leader – who oversees your outside school activities to write a recommendation letter.

Do note that there is a limit to the number of testimonials that you can include. When picking your referee, get someone who knows you very well - he or she should have ideally spent a lot of time around you and witnessed your contributions and developments when engaged in these activities, and is thus in a position to evaluate you well.

The Importance of Packaging
Finally, make sure the activities included in your portfolio clearly illustrate your strengths. For example, taking music lessons demonstrates your ability to commit to an activity for a sustained period of time (i.e. perseverance), and emphasise how it requires good time management skills to balance both your studies and your interests.

While non-academic achievements are assets to help you gain university and job opportunities, your academic grades are still one key factor which you are considered by, and should not be neglected. Ultimately, you should always strive for a balance between academics and non-academics.

What other portfolio tips can you think of? Share with us in the comment box below!

Featuring a wide range of employers and further education providers, the JobsCentral Career & Education Fair 2014 is a must-go event for jobseekers, professionals, and those who want to upgrade themselves through higher education or workshops. Register here for entry to the fair now! For more information on seminars and workshops, click here.

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