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Before I entered Polytechnic, I’ve been told to study hard and get a good Grade Point Average (GPA).

I realised later that GPA is only one component, that building a portfolio in school is equally important

A strong portfolio can make you stand out from the crowd by emphasising your strengths and experiences. It usually translates to a better resume. 

With a good portfolio, it’ll undoubtedly open new doors for you and provide you with options.

In the long term, you may be able to get that job you really love or enrol into a prestigious school.  

From joining Co-curricular activities (CCAs) to starting your own business, there are countless ways to build your portfolio.

Let’s explore the ways you can build a strong portfolio while in school, and why you should even do it. 

Why You Should Build a Portfolio

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Think of a portfolio as a booster.

It has the potential to propel you forward to greater heights. 

You’ll be easily employable if you accumulate useful skills and experiences, regardless of your academics.

Furthermore, you’ll have the option of furthering your studies or obtain scholarships and grants. 

Unless you have a really high GPA, everyone should work on something outside of the curriculum and not solely focus on studies.

In fact, even those with high GPAs tend to seek leadership positions and other experiences to complement their academics. 

Those with only high GPAs without other accolades could see themselves lose out to others in terms of opportunities.

It’s even better if you have an idea of what you want to do when you grow up. Your extracurriculars and portfolio can centre around your interests. 

Is a high GPA necessary in the first place?

You may want to check out our article discussing the importance of GPA.

7 Ways You Can Build Your Portfolio in School

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1. Involve Yourself In CCAs

There are 3 main ways you may involve yourself with CCAs/extracurricular activities. 

Of course, you may join multiple CCAs, but you’ll run the risk of burning out or neglecting your studies.

1. Take Up Leadership Responsibilities

Leadership responsibilities can be undertaken through positions such as President, Vice-President, Secretary, Group Leader, Executive Committee (exco), and more.

Through these roles, you may organise and execute events, liaise with sponsors, manage the club, advertise or design collaterals. 

Almost any CCA, including sports clubs, have these positions.

For example, you may be a Treasurer Exco in a Volleyball club. Then, you’ll mainly oversee the finances of the club.

2. Be a Member of Clubs That Teach Useful Skills

I never knew clubs such as ‘Toastmasters’, ‘Current Affairs’, ‘Computer’, ‘Designers’, or ‘Investment’ existed until I entered Polytechnic.

You can expect to take away useful skills such as public speaking, coding, or graphic design through these clubs. 

You may also obtain certain certifications by joining them. 

Skills like coding and graphic design are sought after by employers. You’ll gain an edge over your peers early if you learn relevant skills!

3. Join a CCA According to Interests

If you don’t like any of the above options, joining a club you’re passionate about may also yield positive results.

It shows employers or school admission panels that you made an effort to involve yourself in extracurricular activities.

Better yet, by excelling in your field, e.g. Ping Pong, you may also represent the school in various competitions or even your country. 

Depending on your hobbies, it may also be related to your future careers. An example would be joining a publicity club if you love writing.

2. Volunteer For Good

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You can do good while building your resume.

Isn’t this a win-win solution?

From what I observe, people do mention their volunteering or community service experience in their resume. 

There are two main ways to go about volunteering.

1. Join a Cause

This is the most common form of volunteering and it only requires your time and sincerity for the event duration. 

Examples include beach cleaning, helping the elderly, flag day, chaperoning a trip for pre-school students, tutoring, and more.

You name it – There’s probably an activity out there that you’ll enjoy volunteering for. 

2. Coordinate a Community Service Event

How about organising your own community service for a change?

You may coordinate one with a non-profit organisation and get your friends or CCA members to join in! 

Not only will you be doing good, but you can also add the activity to your leadership experience.

I once coordinated a community service project with MummyYummy, to deliver food to the needy as well as elderly residents.

Seeing the smiles of those we gave packet foods to gave us a wave of happiness. 

Alternatively, you may start a fundraiser, or sell products and donate all proceeds to charity. 

Through volunteering and community service, recruiters will know that you are ethical and helpful.

Most importantly, you’ll feel good doing it!

3. Learn Something New and Get Certified

I’m a firm believer in continuous learning. 

In your spare time, you can learn new skills and possibly obtain a certification (not necessary).

In-demand skills include coding, data analytics, graphic design, and marketing. 

Do not chase certifications. Knowledge retention and application is key to being successful. 

You don’t need to pay exorbitant amounts for courses or hire a teacher to learn something new.

In this digital and information age, everything you need is easily accessible. 

Platforms such as Google, YouTube, and LinkedIn Learning provides you with more than enough resources.

Furthermore, they’re free!

However, you must do your own diligence and don’t blindly follow any advice on the Internet.

It often takes trial and error to learn a new skill. Theory can only take you so far.

I picked up my investment knowledge from various sources such as Udemy, Google, YouTube. I then applied what I learnt through Paper Trading and moved on to the real thing. 

4. Find Learnable Jobs

Another way you can build your portfolio is through jobs that add value. 

Everyone wants a high paying job. It is common for students to work part-time in F&B or retail.

That’s great if you wish to work in those industries. Otherwise, it’ll be much more beneficial for your future if you prioritise learning instead of salary when you’re young. 

Skills or knowledge that you’ve acquired can translate to much higher pay in the future. 

Working in start-ups is a wonderful place to increase your exposure and enhance your work attitude. 

An easy way to find such opportunities is to join a Telegram Group named ‘Learnable Jobs – Career Growth & Success‘.

They state exactly what skills you’ll gain and you may choose to apply for jobs that resonate with you. 

Let’s say you want to work in the marketing sector in the future. Compare these two jobs.

Job #1: Pays you $8/hr as a cashier for a fast-food restaurant.

Job #2: Pays you $600/month (around $4/h) as a Digital Marketing Intern.

At first sight, you may choose Job #1 for the higher pay. Though you may earn more money in the short term, you’ll lack valuable skills to land you a job as a marketer in the future. 

The knowledge and experiences you gain while you’re young can be a game-changer if you do it right!

5. Join Competitions

Image: Teemu Paananen

There’re a plethora of competitions for you to join. 

Common ones are entrepreneurial-based, coding, writing, and case presentation. 

I shared my experiences and tips of how to win a writing competition. I managed to win a New York Times writing competition and was published in the papers. You may read about my experience here.

Join competitions in fields that you’re good in or interested in. It never hurts to gain some exposure.

You may even join a gaming competition!

If you manage to win first place or come close to winning, you may include it in your resume and it’ll boost your school portfolio tremendously.

6. Start Something 

Now’s the perfect time to work on your passions, hobbies, or even start-ups.

The experiences you gain will shape the person you are. 

Being afraid of taking risks is a no-no. You won’t go far if you’re scared of making mistakes.

Freelancing or starting your own business may be stressful, but you’ll learn a lot of things that the average person won’t. 

As Jack Ma once said, “Because you are young and can afford to fail.”

Failing when you’re older will place more stress on you due to added responsibilities. 

Hence, accumulate the knowledge you’ve gained from failures since young and you’ll know how to avoid them in the future.

7. Create a Stellar LinkedIn Profile

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The next way you can build your school portfolio is through LinkedIn.

Think of LinkedIn as a social media for professionals. 

LinkedIn allows you to connect with other like-minded people, professionals, or businesses.

You may display your resume, work experiences, and achievements. Recruiters will then look at your profile and assess your suitability for jobs. 

After you’ve accumulated several good experiences, learn to describe them professionally.

Instead of describing that you were ‘In-charge for the Social Media Team‘, consider ‘Led a team to market collaterals that increased our followers by 30%’.

By describing the impact you’ve made, you’ll leave a positive impression on recruiters. 


And that’s 7 ways you can build your school portfolio!

These tips serve as a reference for you to build your portfolio resume and enhance your employability.

Especially when you’re schooling, you have a lot of time to pursue your interests. Use your time wisely and try to implement any of the 7 ways in your daily life.

If you’re starting your own business, skills you’ve learnt since young will help you immensely.

Start now, don’t procrastinate and you’ll thank yourself in the future!

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About the Author

Jonas Ngoh loves to give advice based on his experiences. Feel free to talk to him!

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