The Portfolio and Why It Matters

The Portfolio and Why It Matters

During the first week, you will wonder how you will ever finish. By the second week, you will conveniently forget that you have to do it. This memory lapse will last until about week 9, which strangely enough, is about the same time it's due. And what am I referring to? Every Washington Center intern's worst nightmare--the portfolio. And yes, the theme song to Jaws is playing in the background as I write.


The truth about the portfolio:


Question 1: Is it really as bad as it seems in the syllabus?

Answer: 60 pages later, multiple printing errors, and that one strange kool-aid stain really makes me want to say that putting together the portfolio is truly terrible. But the truth is that it is extremely manageable, especially if you turn all of your assignments in on time and edit them before the deadline. Fortunately, I was able to finish my entire portfolio four days in advance (which is not too bad compared to the poor souls frantically still typing two minutes before it was due). The key is to ask for feedback, set aside time to work on it, and do not wait until the last minute. Contrary to popular belief, staying up all night with a coffee cup in your hand to finish an overdue project is not conducive to success.


Question 2: What  exactly is included in the portfolio?

Answer: The portfolio is made up of an individual development plan, a cover letter, resume, civic engagement reflection, internship defense letter, informational interview, and public policy dialogue summation. Also included are your class syllabus and some work samples.  The idea is to showcase your growth throughout the semester, so I also included pictures, my blog posts, thank you letters, social justice reflections and professional reflections. Think about things to include all throughout the semester!


Question3: What is the point of doing this?

Answer: Also contrary to popular belief, you do not come to Washington, D.C. to become a professional tourist. The portfolio represents all that you were able to experience and learn in such a short amount of time. Believe me, when you finish, the sense of accomplishment is great. Look at this as an incredible opportunity to display your academic and professional abilities to potential employers and graduate schools. Furthermore, this is the perfect opportunity to prove to your mom that you've been doing more than networking at happy hours.


Helpful Hints:

1. Sure, professional procrastinators are the cool guys in college, but your TWC experience is not the time to put things off until the last minute.

2. Don't under any circumstances use emoticons in your portfolio. ;)  Got it?

3. Proofread everything multiple times. And then have your friend proofread it. And then have her friend proofread it.

4. Take advantage of career service workshops. I went to workshops that helped with cover letters, resumes, law school resumes, networking, leadership development, and even social justice advocacy. The events are free, and they will definitely help you put together a portfolio worthy of an A+.


The Final Word: Touring was great. The ballgames were awesome. Making new friends was exciting. But ultimately, my work experiences and portfolio are what I am going to use the most in my future endeavors. If you want to actually develop academically and professionally, you should absolutely plan an internship with The Washington Center, and then devote time to creating an exceptional portfolio.


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