Industry Events out, Portfolio Day in: College redefines networking events

By Campus Editor

Industry Events, the college’s annual series of networking events geared toward introducing graduating seniors to industry professionals, has seen its last day.

In its place, Columbia is set to debut Portfolio Day, an event that will give students time to review portfolios with professionals, on April 30. Instead of several events occurring over the course of several weeks like Industry Events, Portfolio Day will only occur once per academic year.

“Portfolio Day is a way for us to better support students toward their goals of employability and career outcomes and also find a more efficient way to bring professionals on campus to have quality interactions with our students,” said Dirk Matthews, associate director of the Portfolio Center.

Industry Events were considered successful—last year’s series connected 700 professionals with 700 students—but feedback from professionals attending the events suggested students were not properly prepared for the opportunity. According to Matthews, many industry professionals wished students would have come better prepared with completed portfolios and resumes.

“Professionals were frequently frustrated because they wanted to see more student work and there wasn’t really a way to actually look at students’ work,” Matthews said.

To ensure students are more prepared prior to interacting with professionals, it is mandatory for students to attend a Portfolio Day Information Session—running from now through March 11—and follow an application and review process that includes developing a portfolio and resume in order to attend, according to Christie Andersen Asif, executive director of Career Initiatives at the Portfolio Center.

“Some events were more like cocktail parties, but in the end, both students and employers found them not terribly productive,” said Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Success. “Now it’s going to be very much centered on students’ work. Students have to be ready, and we can in turn raise expectations for our employers’ creative industries.”

Industry Events were organized by major, and each event was restricted to students within that department, but feedback from industry professionals suggested they did not want to attend multiple events at the college to meet with students, according to Matthews.

“Industry Events were very inefficient for creative industry professionals because the creative industries work from a much more interdisciplinary perspective than a lot of the academic departments do,” Matthews said.

Professionals would attend Industry Night for the department that most closely corresponded to their industry, and they would have to additionally attend multiple events to reach out to students with all types of skill sets they were seeking, Matthews said.

Andersen Asif said combining Industry Events into a single event will benefit students because many have interests and experience beyond their majors but were limited to attending major-specific events. By bringing all the departments and industries together for a single event, students can meet with more professionals, and in turn, those professionals will not have to attend multiple events to meet students.

“Professionals kept asking to see everyone together, and the students kept saying they wanted to go to multiple events,” Andersen Asif said. “So then we wondered why we were doing multiple events that everyone wants to go to instead of just doing one big bang event.” 

Pantelis Vassilakis, chair of the Audio Arts & Acoustics Department, said the switch from Industry Events to Portfolio Day will be helpful because it signifies that the event is not a job fair and shifts the focus off of the industry, putting emphasis on the students’ work.

The change to Portfolio Day should also limit the level of stress that once surrounded Industry Events, where industry professionals would feel pressured to hire students and students would feel pressure by treating their interactions like job interviews, Vassilakis said.

The shift to Portfolio Day is also beneficial because it will encourage students to create a portfolio prior to graduation—something every graduate should have, Andersen Asif said.

“Not as many students are leaving Columbia with a portfolio as we would like, and this gives students a really concrete reason to get their portfolio created,” Andersen Asif said. “We hope it can push more students to complete a portfolio [throughout college].”

Natalie Jordan, a junior advertising major, said she knew about previous Industry Events and was looking forward to attending one designed specifically for her major, so she was disappointed that they had been condensed into a single event.

“This is the moment I’m working for at Columbia, and to hear that it’s now being phased out into one event is really scary for me as an artist because there are so many different types of artists out there [that I’m now competing with],” Jordan said.

Jordan said she hopes that combining the Industry Nights series into Portfolio Day will make it easier for students and professionals to interact in a one-stop-shop setting, but she said she is worried that the increased competition among students and overwhelmed professionals might make it stressful.

“It’s all about making the most of professionals’ time and making the most of students’ time and having something that’s more accessible,” Andersen Asif said.