Departments merge to offer one-stop shop for career needs

By DerekKucynda

In order to better serve college students affected by the economic downturn, Columbia has combined its career resources on campus with one goal in mind-to prepare college graduates for the workplace.

By bringing together different departments such as the Portfolio Center and the Office of Student Employment, students now have a unified career resource organization called Career Initiatives, said Tim Long, director of the Portfolio Center. The organization will also feature Columbia Works-a service geared toward helping students find work opportunities-and will utilize a Career Development specialist for students’ vocational needs.

“The reason we brought them together so that we present a more coherent set of career services to students,” Long said. “Students get a fuller picture of what they need to accomplish in order to be more prepared to go out and [find] work.”

Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs, said collecting feedback from various focus groups and employers proved to be beneficial.

After collecting information from students and employers, the college decided to bring these separate resources together in order to improve communication between departments and integrate their services more smoothly.

“We’re in this brutal economic marketplace and every profession you look at, there’s just all these rapid changes,” Kelly said. “Students come to Columbia because they believe we give them a fighting chance to be able to compete in these industries when they graduate, so we got to get better working internally, so that it’s not just this, this and that, but it’s all under one umbrella, helping students in their career development and ultimately with a career outcome.”

Career Initiatives will still have events such as Show Off, in which a number of professionals from different media disciplines meet with students one-on-one and review their portfolios, Long said. Besides having individual sessions, there will be group-oriented sessions and field trips for larger groups of like-minded students.

“We bring two or three professionals and put them together with a class, plus any other students interested to sit in and they talk about career issues of all sorts in their specific media,” Long said.

Field Trips, which take students out to ad agencies, recording studios and design studios, is only the tip of the iceberg. Four different Portfolio Production Weeks, which pair students with a graphic designer or photographer to assist the student in creating a professional portfolio, will continue to be available to upperclassmen and graduate students during the fall semester. To participate, students must fill out an application and call Career Initiatives to schedule an appointment. Career Initiatives will begin scheduling appointments on Sept. 8.

Another program available to students is the Big Fish lecture series, which gives students the chance to speak with up-and-coming professionals from companies such as Pitchfork Media, as well as other creative industries in Chicago.

In addition, Christie Andersen, career development specialist at Career Initiatives, a position formerly affiliated with the Advising Center, will be available to assist students one-on-one with résumés and job searching techniques, as well as career planning and employer and industry research.

Andersen said her services can now be better utilized because it is much clearer how the departments are connected due to centralizing Columbia’s career resources on one floor. Her focus is on providing comprehensive career counseling to students.

“We are working together to provide workshops and individual assistance that [is] a lot more comprehensive and [more] coordinated,” Anderson said. “It’s more of a one-stop shop, so [students] are getting a lot more information when they come in [to Career Initiatives].”

Career Initiatives is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. A list of events can be found on Columbia’s Portfolio Center webpage,