Editor’s Note: Students’ careers start here

By Heather Scroering

More than two years ago, college adviser Bob Blinn visited my class to caution us young artists in a truthful yet slightly berating manner. He said that if we hadn’t already started working to jump-start our careers by reading industry journals and networking with other artists, we’d be done for. Before leaving, he asked us to fill out a checklist of specific steps he’d covered, and the survey proved to be very frightening. Most of the other students and I sat shaking in our chairs staring at all of the “NO’s” marked on the right side of the page.

Barely a sophomore, I spent the rest of the year feeling lost and hopeless because I didn’t believe I was up to speed, and I didn’t know where to start. But as I began to get involved on campus, like going to lectures and applying for The Chronicle, I found that getting to know more people led me to some really awesome opportunities.

We’ve all heard time and time again that student engagement at Columbia is difficult because most students are commuters or are busy with other responsibilities outside of Columbia. But establishing your own presence on campus is not as hard as you think.

Networking is one of the most important skills in an artist’s repertoire. Blinn said something that I often think about: Having more words on a resume, while it can be beneficial, won’t necessarily make you stand out in a 10-foot pile of applicants. But knowing the right people certainly could.

Meeting students and instructors outside of our departments could be gateways to collaborative projects and jobs. I’m sure we’ve all heard, “I know a guy who knows a guy who could probably help you out.” So the best thing to do to get yourself out there is to simply talk to as many people as possible, and Columbia, a diverse institution of artists, is the best place to start.

Columbia isn’t designed like other colleges where students can hang out for four years before real life starts. Students really do have to start working now. It’s not a secret that artistic industries are competitive.

Unlike some non-artistic fields, it isn’t enough to simply talk about how talented you are. You’ve gotta prove it, and not just through homework assignments. Improve your portfolio independently. The Portfolio Center is an excellent resource every student should use, and it can help students find outside projects.

Not knowing what comes after college is scary, but as many of us are only months away from graduation, I hope those who have work to show prospective employers feel a little more confident in their futures. Columbia offers a wealth of resources for students to start practicing in their chosen fields right now, so why not take advantage of them?