Set up your portfolio for high school internship applications

May 11, 2022

More career changes means more reasons to keep an updated portfolio

Millennials and Gen Z both get a lot of media attention for job-hopping and career changing. For Millennials, it’s largely a function of increasing their income. For Gen Z, it’s figuring out the type of work that’s both personally and financially rewarding. 

Gone are the days of “what do you want to be when you grow up.” Now young people are exploring answers to “what do I want to do next.” Gen Z makes up about 20% of the U.S. population, and the median time they want to stay in one job is 3.7 years! 

Whatever the reasons for shifting jobs and careers, job candidates still need to demonstrate that they’re the best person for a position. Having solid responses to “tell me about yourself” is even more important for job-hoppers and career-changers. Every new employer will want to get to know you first.

Differences between a resume and a student portfolio

A resume and portfolio are not the same thing. A resume is a boring piece of paper with a list of classes you’ve taken and some fast food places you’ve worked. A portfolio is a 360-degree view of you as a human being. It brings to life your personality and demonstrates (with evidence!) how you’ve grown over the years.

In a school context, a portfolio is a collection of class projects and other work that’s used as part of your assessment. That type of tracking is a great starting point for use outside the classroom. It gives more depth than “I worked at Burger-in-a-Box last summer.” 

A portfolio is the secret to jumping to the front of the line for high school internships, summer jobs, or full-time work. Hiring managers only spend a few seconds glancing at a resume, so why invest hours of your time on it? Even if you’re asked for a resume, include a prominent link to your student portfolio. 

Now with all that as a foundation, here are four pillars to a strong student portfolio. 

(1) Personal statement

There’s no way to fully capture your life, dreams, and career goals in a single essay, and that’s okay! Kelly Lamano at Going Merry has a great strategy. She suggests you come up with a few possible essay topics and then:

Start by writing a few sentences or paragraphs about any of your shortlisted topics, and let the words flow. Write for about 15 minutes, on each shortlisted topic.

No judgment on words or clarity. Just write to exercise the muscle and see what works.

(2) Identify significant milestones

Adults learn by experience that personal stories (i.e. talking about yourself) are wildly important for strong business relationships. Customers, clients, and partners want to know what kind of people they’re dealing with. Draw attention to key milestones in your portfolio. It could be for academic achievements, or just an aha moment of introspection. 

(3) Highlight a pattern or trend in your learning journey

The more information in your portfolio, the more important it is to highlight a pattern. You want the reviewer to get an immediate sense – at a glance – of where you’ve been and where you’re headed. Hiring managers aren’t just looking for accomplishments, they’re trying to understand what all your experiences and accomplishments mean to you. Make it easy for them. 

(4) Validate accomplishments with references from adults

Getting references and recommendations from adults is probably the most overlooked (and easy!) part of building a student portfolio. Teachers, mentors, and advisors want to brag about you! And trust us, they’ll point out character traits that you didn’t realize were so valuable. No student portfolio is complete without some references to validate the work you’re claiming.

It’s almost summer!

How’s your summer job search coming? Do you have your eyes on any interesting opportunities?