The Senior Portfolio: Looking Back to Look Forward

Guest Blogger Jordan Stanley ’17

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 11.32.19 AMThere are two hallmarks that many if not most Professional Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) majors can agree come with being an upperclassmen in this major: 1) you are beginning your senior portfolio, and 2) this reminds you that you will soon be graduating and entering the real world. Although the second can be both fear- and anxiety-inducing, with the help of CUPID studio, the first can ease some of that apprehension.

The idea of finding a career after college is both daunting and exciting, and as someone who absolutely wants to make sure she has a job upon graduation, I will do anything in my power to hedge my bets. Part of this is making an online portfolio. Elon, along with most authorities on job search advantages, recognize that it is crucial for students and young professionals alike to have portfolios for a variety of reasons, including evidence of talent and having credibly work readily available to potential employers. In our digital age, this makes complete sense, but still—imagine how overwhelming the task can seem. As a student, I have been working toward very tangible goals since the first grade, those goals being the next level of scholarship: high school, college. Now I’m supposed to sum up those 15 years of effort and the past four years of work toward my English degree with a few select documents? Questions begin flying through my mind: Which documents? Have I done enough? How can I make sure the employer understands what I am capable of? CUPID studio has begun to help me answer these questions.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 11.32.29 AMAs I began the process of developing my portfolio, I realized I felt so overwhelmed because I was asking the wrong questions. We have been working on portfolios for a few weeks now in the class, but still have not officially selected which documents will be included. This is because the process begins before a website is made or writing assignments are compiled. It begins with you. One of the first assignments we were given in CUPID studio was to write a personal identity statement and answer a few questions about ourselves. These questions spoke to personality, professional skills, strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Our identity statements should encompass who we are as academics and professionals, both in our own minds and perhaps even how others perceive us. We also had to describe our target audience for the portfolio, which ended up—for me—being one of the most important areas of preparation. How could you build a portfolio if you don’t know who is going to read it or whom you are trying to show them? It turned out I still wasn’t sure.

Although I am still trying to figure out exactly who my audience is for my portfolio—meaning who I could imagine myself working for—I have really gotten to know myself better throughout this process. Through listing my hard skills, soft skills, and other professional tendencies and prowess, I feel that I am far better equipped to testify as to why I can be an asset to an employer. Currently, we are working on revamping our resumes (samples shown below), which will be included in the senior portfolios, and beyond visual changes, I have been able to articulate my job experience and skills in a much more specific and impressive way. Knowing what I have to offer has also helped the process of choosing what should go in my portfolio. Because each document will be accompanied by a contextual narrative, I will be given the opportunity to explain my rhetorical decisions throughout the process. Now, with the thought processes prompted by questions we had to ask ourselves in CUPID studio, I can better look at a document and think which skill it accentuates.

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While I still have a long way to go as far as designing an online PWR portfolio, I certainly don’t have quite as long. I feel that the CUPID class has helped me to shape a mindset that has both enriched my own personal understanding and made the impending idea of a post-graduate job attainable.

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