Perspective from the Pros: Columbia College Chicago Career Center

Written by Hinda Akel, Marketing and Communications Assistant/Intern

As a student of Columbia College Chicago, being able to prepare myself for the real world is something we all plan to be ready for post-graduation. After COVID-19 a lot of what we learned has shifted within the past 3 months. The state of the economy along with job opportunities have changed. However, being able to understand the direction we are going and how to integrate that as students is valuable. I have taken the time to ask a series of questions to working professionals within Columbia College Chicago Career Center. This is to better understand how they have taken the initiative in helping students and handling the shift in their own industry. Each member of the Career Center stands in an interesting place because they aid students with career searching based on their studies, along with them being an industry of their own affected by this pandemic. I have gathered all responses from the staff and combined them below. I hope that you can gain insight from these responses to help you through your career search journey.

How did you sustain a connection with students to make sure they are receiving the tools and skills they need for their career search?

The most common response to this question has been via email and zoom calls. Students may have a one on one appointment via phone or zoom. Many advisors have also taken the time to open hours to their students for any questions and are helping to create strategies for each student’s career search. A great source that all students should be using is Handshake. It is a job site that connects with the most up to date resources across industries.

What is something new you learned from working at home?

Working from home has taught me to be more flexible. Scheduling time between work life and home life. Creating a daily routine has made it a lot easier. Compared to being in the office and working from home you are more purposeful with contacting all your team members.

How do you keep yourself focused working from home with the current state of the world?

Most employees have answers to keep yourself off of watching the news so much as well as being on social media. Take a breather. It is an emotional time, but instead try looking at the good news that is going on around the world. Keeping in touch with family and friends has helped. Keep yourself focused by having a productive set to-do list.

What advice would you give to students who may be struggling to find a job?

Use this time to grow. Do your research and take advantage to figure out ways to improve your skills during these times. Be thoughtful in your approach to applying for a position. Employers may ask what you have done during this crisis. If they see that you have taken time to develop more ways to better yourself in your field that shows you have used your time wisely. Look into webinars. Follow and engage with professionals on social media. Also, the Career Center is always available so you can speak with an advisor for further assistance.

How has the job market shifted in the industry that you advise in?

For most industries like Cinema and Television that contain live production have been hit immensely. The fashion industry has been hit hard since they can not be present together being forced to close retail stores. Most industries were able to go remote such as photography and graphic design. These industries have been hiring for remote jobs and internships. More e-commerce and online content is being needed now more than ever. Seek alternative work to build your resume. Remember that this is temporary so if your current job market may not have anything available take this time to do some personal creative work for now. 

Have any positive actions taken place within your company because of COVID-19?

The Career Center has been a workplace that was fortunate enough to have a smooth transition. A lot of work has already been online and Columbia has been taking this very seriously. We have been able to grow professionally working virtually and attending webinars we usually would not have time to attend. COVID-19 has had all of us think outside of the box and implement more creative ideas.

What is your industry doing to stay engaged throughout this crisis?

All events having to be placed online has built a better connection with our students and as a team. The Career Center has ongoing online group meetings and staff check ups. Supervisors have been checking on staff and strengthened the team mentality. There are many great webinars to check out for all industries during this crisis. Make sure to participate in a wide variety of events the Career Center is hosting over the summer.

As we all learn how to process these unprecedented times, these were all such amazing points presented by our very own set of employees from the Columbia College Career Center. Some key takeaways were to focus on what your industry is doing right now and learn from it. Figure out ways to take this time to grow your skills and focus on things that matter. Take advantage of online webinars and using the Career Center for further guidance. Building your creative work during this crisis will stand out in your portfolio and resume for future employers. I would like to thank all of the Columbia College Career Center members who have taken time out of their day to participate in answering these questions.