4 Steps to Creating the Right Professional Portfolio
Ling Zhang, Class of 2016, works at an internship in Abu Dhabi. Silvia Razgova / Philip Cheung

Essential tips for all students, no matter what stage in your academic career. Because good grades, getting involved, and following your passion are important from freshmen year to graduation.

1. Grades Matter

While there are a growing number of organizations that look at candidates holistically — many organizations still use academic performance as a baseline measurement to shortlist candidates. Whether applying for a job at a multinational company, or for admission into a competitive scholarship or graduate school program, candidates will likely be required to submit their academic transcript. It is also worth emphasizing that students tend to do much better in courses they actually enjoy, so it is important to keep this in mind when choosing the right academic major.

2. Build Employability Through Activities

Students should get involved and stay involved throughout their academic careers. Leadership activities outside of the classroom allow students to develop many of the employability skills that organizations value, including communication, problem solving, and teamwork. In the first year or so of university, students should explore their interests and try new things such as sports, clubs, and drama. However, as time goes on, it's important that students hone their interests and develop a more active role in a limited number of activities or causes that they are passionate about. Recruitment committees want to hear evidence of a candidate's effectiveness, so a student who has made a substantial impact in a university activity is going to have a lot more to say than someone who has just attended the meetings. In short, more is not necessarily better.

RELATED: Internship dos and don'ts

Students talk with graduate school advisors at NYUAD's annual Graduate School Weekend recruitment event. Career Development Center

A student who has made a substantial impact in a university activity is going to have a lot more to say than someone who has just attended the meetings. In short, more is not necessarily better.

Hazel Raja, assistant dean of students

3. Leverage Work Experience

Students need to gain relevant work experience to ensure competitiveness. Work experience can be gained through volunteering, research, part-time jobs, and internships. Gaining experience in the workplace is especially important for students who are aiming to join the workforce immediately following university as employers value experienced candidates. Work experiences not only provide students with the training and knowledge they need to be successful, but also afford them access to potential mentors in their chosen field. Meeting and making a positive impression on industry professionals can be instrumental to a student's future job search. Furthermore, these experiences will clarify and/or solidify the student's interest in the field and industry. There really is no better way to figure out if a career path is the right one than to experience it.

4. Engage Career Services

Students should get to know their university's career center — starting from their very first year! Career centers are filled with resources and services to support a student's career journey. Students should start by making an appointment with a career advisor who can guide them as they develop their career goals and professional lives. Workshops and events can also be a positive way to increase knowledge and access to opportunities and professionals.


Assistant Dean of Students Hazel Raja founded and directs the Career Development Center.