Posted Tuesday, November 10, 2020 - 3:19 PM

Networking from Home: Pratt Students Lead Discussions with Industry Leaders

With an uncertain job market and the disruption of the workplace due to the pandemic, recent graduates have faced a formidable first year of their post-college careers. In supporting Pratt Institute’s 2020 graduates, the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) has involved students and alumni in a range of online programming to facilitate networking and professional development.


Screenshot from the Talk Now series which joined students with industry professionals (courtesy Talk Now speaker Tamar Kisilevitz)

With an uncertain job market and the disruption of the workplace due to the pandemic, recent graduates have faced a formidable first year of their post-college careers. In supporting Pratt Institute’s 2020 graduates, the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) has involved students and alumni in a range of online programming to facilitate networking and professional development. These initiatives have put the students at the center, empowering them to lead conversations about the interests, ideas, and questions that they want to pursue in their careers. 

One of these programs was Talk Now which CCPD ran over the summer and was aimed at graduating seniors. It was organized by and for these newest Pratt alumni to hear what was happening in their industries first-hand, with a goal of inspiring them to tackle the challenge of beginning a practice during a pandemic. “They were graduating and an issue was that they were not getting to meet professionals to talk,” said Deborah Yanagisawa, associate director of career development and engagement. “Online, they were getting to meet them in a way they never could before, where they’re in their homes working.” 

The series was eventually expanded to include all students beyond just the 2020 graduating class, with almost 300 students attending conversations with about 130 employers from a variety of disciplines. The students helped identify the professionals who were invited and led all of the discussions, which ranged from portfolio development to the future of work, taking advantage of the virtual platform to make the dialogues international. Each event was intimate, with small group sessions held over Zoom, and the students and professionals had the opportunity to stay connected afterward.  

“Given the uncertain market I graduated into, these talks helped me gain insight into what companies were thinking at the time,” said Neha Hegde, MS Arch ’20. “I continue to stay in touch with the people I was connected with through the series and am engaging professionally with some of them.” Hegde added that some of the participants who were in a Talk Now session with designer Thomas Balsley later had a distanced in-person meet-up with him at Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park in Queens, which his design firm SWA/Balsley recently worked on, to continue their conversations which started virtually.

“The transition for the Class of 2020 was incredibly challenging, given the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sidhant Seth, BArch ’20. “I joined almost all of the architecture-related Talk Now sessions and as much as they helped me transition through these difficult times, they also helped me make connections with professionals as well as fellow graduates from different majors.” Seth noted that with the variety of professionals from across the many areas of architecture, engineering, and construction involved in the series, “Talk Now became a way for me to think about my field creatively due to the ongoing pandemic: architecture is more than a building.”

The success of Talk Now has informed the structure of CCPD’s first Virtual Career Day for students and alumni which will be held on November 13. As with Talk Now, students will moderate the panel discussions that will concentrate on timely topics like presenting yourself in a virtual environment, excelling in a virtual internship, and advocating for diversity and equity. Students will have opportunities to discuss their portfolios and resumes individually with employers as well as join small groups in virtual recruiting and mentoring sessions.

While much has shifted throughout the creative industries in 2020, the need to make connections and present oneself as a professional endures, even now in a virtual space. CCPD is continuing its engagement with these needs by offering all of its services online, from weekly drop-in resume/cover letter sessions with the Career Advocates student leaders to Instagram Live events where CCPD staff and student workers host industry professionals to discuss topics like internships, entrepreneurship, and perspectives on business. Whether virtual office hours, career development, interview preparation, or life coaching, all of CCPD’s services are adapting to support Pratt students and alumni in a constantly changing world.