How to Make a Portfolio for Mechanical Engineering
Successful College Graduation - Now What?
Congratulations to everyone that has graduated from their academic courses of study!
This may include high school, vocational or technical school, community college, 4-year college, university, or professional school. It may also include an apprenticeship program in the Trades or some manner of Design field.
Anyone in any type of secondary school (high school level, some schools of which even provide college credit or professional credentials in Information Technology [IT], Cosmetology, and other lines of work) or post-secondary institution (place higher learning) can create a unique Academic Portfolio that will become part of one's Career Portfolio.
Did your parents keep your childhood drawings on the refrigerator door or a box in the attic? An Academic Portfolio is a similar collection of work, at a higher level.
Below, I outline the elements of an effective Academic Portfolio and then focus on the additional pieces that comprise a portfolio targeted toward Mechanical Engineering.
The Backbone of an Academic Portfolio
An initial standard Academic Portfolio will include a resume containing details of the last (or for a younger person, the first) 10 years employment history. Subsequent updated portfolios will include a longer or combination resume that summarizes your work history more succinctly.
Your Academic Portfolio should remain a part of your larger Career Portfolio that is built on top of your academic history.
Never discard the Academic Portfolio, because an employer may look at it and decide to help you develop an idea you thought of back in your college years,
Items to Include in a Career Portfolio
This statement is typed on a page by itself and may include:
- Personal Mission Statement,
- Personal Goals, and
- Timeline(s) for Achieving Goals.
The time line should be initially divided into a) 5-year goals and b) 10-year goals, because this is what potential employers will ask from you and 2) comprises time periods that are manageable for good business results.
Teaching Experience/Your Resume
Since an Academic Portfolio often includes teaching experience, on a separate sheet of paper, describe your 1) teaching experience if you have it or 2) the specific teaching experience you are seeking and a timeline along which you will pursue and achieve it.
If teaching is not a part of your life, then skip this and include your full resume. The portfolio will become a graduate's or professional portfolio. There are five types of these portfolios:
- Learning Portfolio, for students
- Graduate Portfolio, for those considering grad school or work.
- Course Portfolio and Teaching Portfolio for instructors
- Academic Portfolio for faculty
- Professional Portfolio for us in the job market
You will not likely carry your actual diploma in your portfolio, because it is both valuable and bulky if in a thick folder. However, make several photocopies of it and keep those in the portfolio. Many employers may request to see your diploma.
Keep several copies of any relevant licenses you possess for your academic training. Protect them inside your Academic Portfolio from theft and remember not to leave them out on any desk unattended -- They may be stolen for identity fraud.
Join professional associations relevant to your academic major and place your membership acceptance letters, with copies, into your Academic Portfolio.
Place copies of award certificates you have achieved, especially if done so in your major subject area. For Mechanical Engineering, this may be a design contest award, an academic challenge award, or other achievement.
Official Transcript of Classes
The transcript of your post-secondary experience is a formal listing of all of the classes you entered and completed the dates of these classes, and the grade (mark) you earned in each of these classes, along with a point-hour mark for each course and a composite point-hour ratio or GPA for total classes attended (ex. 3.8 out of 4.0). Classes from which you dropped out mid-term may also be included and classes for which you earned examination or proficiency credit will be included.
Some, if not most, institutions of higher learning charge a fee for a transcript of the classes you took in college or university. Moreover, many potential employers will request this original document. Therefore, make an investment and purchase at least three (3) copies of the original transcript.
Exceptional Class Papers and Other Documents
If you composed superior documents during any of your classes, but especially within your academic major, then keep them and include them in your Academic Portfolio. For a Mechanical Engineer, these might also include engineering drawings and schematics. For an Artist, these would include sketches, drawings, or photos of larger works.
Teaching Experience? -- Use an Outline
Fleshing Out the Portfolio for a Career
Ask any of your professors for a positive recommendation letter to include in your Academic Portfolio. These letters normally include letters from professors in your major subject area, but can include those from professors in your minor subject areas as well.
Did you participate in 1) Individual Studies Courses, 2) Special Projects, or 3) Controlled Research Projects in your major area during your academic career? If so, then it is important to obtain letters of recommendation from professors or instructors that oversaw these projects. Also include in your portfolio the summation reports of these projects and the results, with implications and any plans for the future.
If you worked in a paid or in a non-paid internship for your academics, then you should have been presented with regular Performance Reviews. Keep them and place them in the Academic Portfolio. If you did not receive any, then call and ask for one that will sum up your progress in the internship.
Part-time Work During Academic Career
Did you work a paying job during your post-secondary studies? If so, ask for Recommendation Letters and Performance Reviews from these employers. Positive reviews and letters will show that you were able to both work and attend classes, while achieving good results in both. Place them into your Academic Portfolio.
Documentation of Volunteer Work
Document any volunteer hours you have accumulated, for that is also work. All other qualifications being equal, an American employer may hire the candidate with volunteer experience over one that does not, because it shows a willingness to give and contribute to a larger goal. It shows that you are not someone that will come to work at the last minute and leave at the first opportunity.
If you have no volunteer experience, then contact the local social services board or houses of worship or community center in your area and ask what is available. One hour a week for a month is better than nothing.
Volunteering also indicates 1) community mindedness and 2) the desire for ongoing learning in a more global setting.
Associations for Mechanical Engineers
There are many associations and societies of engineers around the world. The following are a few of them in different fields.
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) - A leading US organization.
- British Metals Federation - Represents Britain's metal recycling industry. Address: 16 High St, Brampton, Huntingdon, Cambs PE28 4TU, United Kingdom
- Engineering Council - In the UK.
- IASME Association Mechanical Engineering - Since 1996.
- Institution of Engineering Designers - In UK since 1945.
- Institution of Incorporated Engineers (IIE) - In the UK. Mechanical and electronic, electrical engineering.
- Institution of Mechanical Engineers - In the UK.
- Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) - In the UK.
- Society of Automotive Engineers - Also provides stings of SAE technical publications including Ground Vehicle Standards
- Society of Manufacturing Engineers - International.
- Aerospace Education Foundation (AEF) - America and the USAF.
- American Astronautical Society (AAS) - USA
- Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) - Hot organization for the 21st century of privatized and government spaceflight.
- Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) - Think about Chuck Yeager.
Automotive Engineering Industry
- Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE)
- International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA)
- Electric Auto Association (EAA)
- Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)
- American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
- Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA) - since 1910.
- Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
- Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)
- National Association of Power Engineers (NAPE)
- American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE)
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2008 Patty Inglish MS