Potential jobs at Industry Events

By Heather Scroering

Industry Night was born four years ago on the evening before Manifest, Columbia’s major urban arts festival. The event was a night that encouraged graduating students to meet and showcase their work to creative industry professionals invited to the college. Since then, the concept has grown into something much larger.

Now with 13 networking opportunities on six dates from April 10–May 4, the newly renamed Industry Events 2012 will host more than 1,000 local, regional and national creative industry professionals seeking to make connections with talented graduating students, according to Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs.

“Like all things, [Industry Events] has been a work in progress,” Kelly said. “It’s gotten too big. Now departments have really signed on as partners with the Portfolio Center, inviting industry professionals and getting the word out.”

To separate the events from the festive party environment of Manifest and to foster a more professional atmosphere, the Industry Events series was renamed and organized by industry sectors rather than academic sectors, according to Robert Funderburk, a creative industry liaison in the Portfolio Center in the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave. He has been planning the events with two other liaisons since last September.

Funderburk stressed that the events are in no way job fairs but are a more personal yet professional opportunity for networking. Students will be able to present their portfolios and are encouraged to come equipped with resumes and business cards.

“A lot of opportunities are going to arise, not from formal job interviews or formal job fair-type things, but rather by meeting friends of friends or having real meaningful conversations with somebody,” he said. “We’re trying to get over the stigma of being some kind of awkward job fair thing and be much more of a real-world, get-to-know-your-peers kind of thing.”

With multiple events across several dates, students now have the chance to go to several Industry Events, Funderburk said. For instance, a graphic designer interested in concert design could benefit from attending both the design and music industry events to make connections with potential employers and clients, he added.

Funderburk said many of the professionals who come to the events are already supporters of Columbia, and faculty is a major driver as members often bring their professional networks. The liaisons have also been working to build new relationships, he said.

Digitas, one of the country’s largest digital advertising agencies, sends its entire creative staff to the events and often hires several students, Kelly said.

According to Tim Long, director of the Portfolio Center, the attendance level has grown from the first Industry Night, which attracted only approximately 300 professionals and an estimated 300–400 students.

He said during the years, more professionals than students seem to turn up.

“[In regard to] professionals, sometimes one person registers but five show up,” Long said. “With students, I’m not quite sure what goes on. They register, and perhaps they change their minds or couldn’t get their materials prepared. But the vast majority of them do show up.”

Graduating students and professionals must register for events online. Students register through Talent Pool, a Columbia site for students to create a profile and file their work.

Funderburk encourages students to update their profiles because they can be shared with potential employers.

To alleviate the anxiety and intimidation of meeting with professionals, the Portfolio Center offers sessions to prepare students on how to network and behave in networking situations and workshops to prepare business cards and resumes, Funderburk said.

He added that the Portfolio Center operates on regular business hours and is always taking questions.

“It’s only natural to be apprehensive about meeting strangers,” Funderburk said. “The best way to find out is to thrust oneself in there and do it. This is a great opportunity to do that because it’s a supportive community showing up for these things, [which] makes it a whole lot more inclusive, much more friendly.”

To register for Industry Events, visit Colum.edu/IndustryEvents.