Posted on Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Virtual Opportunities Engage Students and Alumni in Forging Professional Connections Online

In finding new ways to support Pratt Institute students and alumni, the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) is leveraging the new possibilities of digital networking to expand the opportunities for connection. This has included both large events like the career fair which moved online in the fall and involved over 300 students, as well as smaller sessions that have facilitated conversations between students and professionals.

In finding new ways to support Pratt Institute students and alumni, the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) is leveraging the new possibilities of digital networking to expand the opportunities for connection. This has included both large events like the career fair which moved online in the fall and involved over 300 students, as well as smaller sessions that have facilitated conversations between students and professionals. Now CCPD’s new weekly Career Day Friday is inviting members of the Pratt community along with outside professionals to offer their expertise and open pathways to employment. 

“We can bring people from around the world to talk with our students,” said Deborah Yanagisawa, associate director of CCPD. “Students are thinking about internships for the summer, so this spring we are connecting them with companies. They can give advice and have students speak about their work.”

The spring Career Day Friday series kicks off on March 12 and continues each Friday through May 21, with a focus on supporting 2021 graduating seniors and 2020 alumni, although all students and alumni are welcome. The Friday format is flexible, allowing professionals to drop in for brief sessions to accommodate different time zones and schedules, during which participants can meet students, discuss career opportunities, and share their creative processes. “This experience can connect students into a working professional culture,” Yanagisawa said.

The transition of moving CCPD’s resources online opened up participation to professionals outside of New York as well as people from across campus who can stop by for an hour-long session. The companies launching the spring series include the New York Times, Factory 360, Purpose, 360i, minds+assembly, Gensler, Sonos, and Huge. A full list of upcoming participants is on the CCPD calendar, expanding each week with new companies and professionals. In interacting with representatives from these companies, students learn to present themselves in a virtual space and find strategies to communicate successfully.

“In working with students, we’re preparing them for the possible situation that remote work could very easily be continued post-pandemic,” said Hera Marashian, associate director of industry relations in CCPD. “They get to be face-to-face with an employer in a virtual setting and have to pay attention and respond to questions and stay level-headed with the technological challenges that can come up like your Zoom going down or your internet having issues.”

Career Day Friday builds on recent CCPD initiatives including Talk Now and the Virtual Career Fair which were organized during the summer of 2020 by and for graduating seniors, putting them in the lead for who they wanted to meet and what they wanted to discuss. “The students got a sense of what to expect at various companies and many of them sat in on majors that were not necessarily theirs,” Marashian said. 

She noted that at an in-person career fair, a graphic design student might not visit a booth for an architecture firm, for instance—even though there are likely positions that would fit their interests—but in a virtual environment, more students have been attending talks that are not directly in their field yet have rich opportunities. That same interaction is being fostered in the Career Day Friday series, with students invited to join any session regardless of their discipline and discover ideas for their future practices that they may not have considered.

CCPD is also looking ahead to launching a Virtual Experience Lab that would involve a small group of students with a project that they would work on regularly with one of Pratt’s alumni, culminating in a portfolio piece that they create as part of a team. Whether joining CCPD’s ongoing programs such as Ignition Lab that provides hands-on experience establishing startups or participating in these new career-oriented events, students and alumni are empowered to use this moment of enhanced virtual engagement to broaden their networks, expand their professional interests, and learn how to adapt to the opportunities of online collaboration.