#1: Keep your work.
As a journalism student, I have been writing articles throughout my university career. Because I was new to it in first and even second year, I wasn’t as confident in the quality of my work. I covered diverse and remarkable subjects, and gave them my best efforts; I would get great marks on some articles and disappointing marks on others. I let the occasional “B” grade discourage me. Rather than taking it as motivation to improve, I took it to mean that my stories were inadequate.
In second year, my career in journalism was still a distant mirage, and I felt no pressure to build a portfolio. That summer, however, when postings for internships went up, I had nothing to show employers.
The pattern continued. It was third year and I was creating near professional-quality work, but my priorities had changed, and I was now focused on making sure I never saw that dreaded letter “B” again. While I was busy worrying about my grades, I forgot to worry about developing myself professionally.
This year I am producing fewer stories in school, with a focus on tackling more sophisticated subject matter. The articles I write now are for a specialized audience. They are more impressive than anything I’ve done to date, but documenting them will not show a future employer how versatile I am.
It wasn’t until I started my job search in January that I realized how challenging it would be to show employers all I’m capable of. I have managed to collect some work samples that I can post to a blog or website, but I still can’t provide the clear demonstration of consistency and versatility that employers desire.
Chances are good that no matter what program you’re in, you’re creating something pretty impressive in school. A visual artist may create a website showing off new work; a biology major may write blog posts discussing successes in the lab. In an interview, chances are you won’t have time to discuss every one of your projects and show off all of your strengths, but if an employer sees your best work, they will likely be far more confident in your level of skill and experience.
If you’re not archiving your work, all your years of staying up late to perfect assignments and stressing over your grades will result in nothing more than a thick piece of paper decorated with fancy calligraphy.
I wish I realized three years ago that my work was worth showcasing, but I know it’s not too late for me to start.