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Part of what you’re doing in grad school is positioning yourself for a versatile LIS career – and hopefully a great job – once you graduate. Having a solid portfolio or “evidence of accomplishments” you can point to, either via your resume or an online e-portfolio, will greatly increase your odds of landing a job quickly. Well, okay, more quickly….

The question is – between classes, internships, possible family commitments, and other obligations, who’s got the time?!

Grab Every Opportunity to Build Your Portfolio
If possible, see if you can turn some of your course assignments or school activities into portfolio fodder. Some ideas:

• Volunteer to organization a campus-based or virtual career day. This offers you multiple benefits. First, it demonstrates those in-demand professional skills of leadership, project management, and personal initiative. Second, it gives you a terrific excuse to reach out to local LIS professionals who will then get to see you demonstrate those skills firsthand. You’ve just added great contacts to your budding professional network and contributed to your professional brand as a high-value contributor.

• Get active in the local (or student) chapter of one of the profession’s associations. ALA? SLA? ASIST? MLA? AALL? Contact the programming person and offer to give a presentation on the topic of your best student paper. Or revise it for a professional audience (rather than academic), and submit it for publication in a student newsletter or the association’s magazine as the voice of the new generation of students. From a portfolio-building perspective, this allows you to point to public speaking skills and/or professional-level writing and communication skills.

• Look for cool projects to work on. If one of your teachers talks about an innovative project he or she is working on, see if you can wrangle a spot on the team. Although you may not have a lot of spare time you can volunteer, offer to do some level of work that’s manageable for you. Or, look around your community to see what new initiatives might be going on that you could lend your skills to at a modest time-commitment level. Being able to point to participation in innovative projects in your portfolio documents your interest in and willingness to engage in new ideas and opportunities, while demonstrating that you can apply what you’re learning.

• Repurpose your assignments. Think up variations on your assignments that let you demonstrate a certain type of expertise, then sell the idea to your instructor (making sure that you’re staying faithful to what he or she is trying to make sure you learn!). Do you want your career direction to focus on research, or community outreach, or technology innovation, or new approaches to information literacy programs for immigrant communities? Then see if any of your assignments lend themselves to this type of work or engagement, so your portfolio will demonstrate that you’ve already been developing an expertise in this area.

These ideas are examples of how to think about creating a portfolio of accomplishment that will demonstrate to a prospective employer just how much of a contributor you can be, and have been. It’s the difference between saying “I learned how to do XYZ” in college and “let me show/tell you what I can do with XYZ.”