The Portfolio Center at Columbia College in Chicago is a collection of creative industry professionals, educators, and facilitators dedicated to assisting students create pathways to good work. We offer an evolving set of programs designed to help students make well-informed career choices, complete smart and relevant portfolios, and to be savvy about how they put themselves into play as they pursue professional lives. We work with students at all stages of their education and career readiness. We're ready to help you.



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32 Ways to Immediately Connect with Strangers at Live Events by Scott Dinsmore

This article was written by Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend and is spot on when it comes to networking and connecting with people in and out of your industry.  Meeting people can be intimidating, especially if you’re not sure what to say, how to engage, or know when it’s time to leave the conversation.  Scott provides some great tips below.  One thing to note:  you may not always know the names of who will be at a networking event, but knowing the types of connections you want to make is very important.  If you’re not sure who you can collaborate or work with in your industry, or where to go to Network - visit our Career Research page for more info.


From Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend:

I. Get Your Mind Right

None of this stuff works (or is any fun) if you aren’t coming from the right place…

1. See strangers as friends you haven’t met yet. Thinking about a room of strangers is often intimidating enough to keep you from ever showing up. It’s also usually not true. If you’ve picked an event that aligns with who you are, the people you’re about to meet are your people. Approach conversations knowing you have beliefs and ideas in common.

Reframing strangers as friends also makes it a lot easier to know what to do. With good friends, we listen, try to help, make introductions, remember names and talk about shared passions – all of which we’ll cover below. We do not try to dominate the conversation, shove our product or website down their throat or think about how we can use them to move up some ladder. Treat them as friends you’ve yet to meet and the rest of this stuff becomes pretty obvious.

2. Know that there’s possibility in every conversation. I’ve experienced enough serendipity to know that every new event or interaction has the potential to lead to a new friend, partner or idea. Approach new people that way and it starts to become self-fulfilling.

3. Realize everyone is as scared as you are. No matter how unknown or well known someone is, we all share fears of being in a room with no familiar faces, feeling lonely and not fitting in. That’s natural. Your situation is not special. It’s normal. As soon as you realize you’re in the same place as everyone around you, new faces start to feel a lot more welcoming.

4. Be there to help. Sure, you want to meet people to help build out whatever you’re working on, and that will come. But real connection is built from genuinely caring about serving the people around you. If that’s not your intention, then you’ve come to the wrong place and most of your efforts will backfire. Constantly come back to adding value. People will feel it and your conversations and results will be all the richer for it.

CONTINUE READING HERE FOR THE REMAINING TIPS, keeping in mind that Scott references some of these tips to his own personal networking sessions.  The same ideals apply to your scenarios as students and recent alums making new connections.   Good luck!

What I Wish I Knew About My Job Search: Insights from Five Recent Graduates


Later this afternoon, the Portfolio Center will be welcoming back five recent graduates: Michael Alexander - Film and Video (2013), Kendra DeKuiper - Fashion Design (2012), Gigg Hemwattakit - Graphic Design (2010), Mark Leja - Film and Video (2013) and Hannah Rebernick - Graphic Design (2013).

They will be speaking as a panel about things they’ve learned about the job search since being out in the world after graduation from 4-5 PM in 623 S. Wabash, Room 311.

However, we were able to get a few tips in writing from them which we have included below. Enjoy!

From Michael…

  1. Create a professional web presence and business cards.
  2. Check freelance sites and job postings daily.
  3. Attend industry night and other events with people who have what you want and put yourself out there despite being uncomfortable.

From Kendra…

  1. Don’t think too narrowly. There are a lot of great jobs out there. All the jobs I have worked since finishing school had been design related, just not always fashion.
  2. Make as many connections as you can with fellow artists, designers, or others in your concentration. Those connections could be so helpful after school or down the road.
  3. Don’t get discouraged on your search. It takes time to work up to your dream job and that’s okay. 

From Gigg…

  1. Do lots of research about companies that you want to work for.
  2. Participate to your design community.
  3. Be nice to everyone!

From Mark…

  1. Utilize the Internet to find job opportunities.
  2. No job is beneath you.
  3. Build a large group of Producer and Director contacts, and Production Manager and Coordinators. They are the ones who hire.

From Hannah…

  1. Treat (the job search) like a job, it takes lot of time to do a good job with applications and interviews, if you’re not treating it seriously and putting the time into writing a personalized cover letter, then what’s the point?
  2. Have realistic expectations. I got a little crushed when my first interview at an upscale studio didn’t turn into a full time offer before I even graduated, but that wasn’t realistic, you need a solid first job, you can always move up from there. 

Wise words from some folks out there doing it!

Turning Tacos into Networking


Hey Columbia, Dustin here at the front desk of the Portfolio Center with some quick thoughts before we all check out for Spring Break.

With Graduation looming, a lot of us are likely encountering this word ‘networking’ more and more and just as often being confounded by what exactly it means. It’s vague, important sounding, and we’ve been told it is absolutely necessary for success. But still, what is it? With this in mind, I thought I’d share my own recent experience with networking and tacos.

For my Writer’s Portfolio class, yes this came from a class, I was assigned to contact and interview someone who had a job that I wanted to have myself. Dream Job was the assignment name. After several weeks of talking with my co-workers, getting suggestions, and making email contact with my interviewee, Ben Tanzer btw, a great author and equally great person, I found myself (way under-dressed) at a party for his new book’s release.

Who else was at the party? A ton of people from the writing and publishing scene in Chicago and elsewhere and absolutely nobody that I knew. So, after listening to the readings and saying hi to Ben, I was ready to go home, content with the night. But instead, I decided to introduce myself to someone standing nearby. Turns out we had both done NaNoWriMo before and were both in the middle of writing some big projects. He then introduced me to someone else, then someone else. By the end of the night, it was just me, the author I was there to interview, and three or four of his fellow writers and editors, all of whom were more than willing to talk to me not just about writing and books, but as an equal, an experience I won’t forget.

This led to a long, hilarious, and eye-opening conversation between us all in the lobby of the hotel the party had been held in, before finally being capped off by myself, Ben the author, and his friend, a writer from Kentucky, all walking down the street for midnight tacos at Five Faces. It was the best networking experience I have had thus far, mainly because it showed me how simply the whole process can snowball. And just so it’s clear, I hadn’t even done the interview with Ben yet, this was all just an added event I decided to check out last minute.

So my point with all of this? As one of my new-found acquaintances put it, any opportunity, no matter how small, is better than no opportunity at all. This whole night came from a class assignment, and a random literary event on top of that. So if you’re in the position I have been, not feeling fully immersed in your industry or just wondering how to get your network going more, don’t fret. Search out any opportunity you can, treat class projects like this one as something more, a real chance for you to grow, and I think you’ll be surprised by what happens. Just don’t treat anyone like you want to get something out of them and odds are they’ll treat you well back.

And most importantly, when somebody new to your network asks if you want to go get tacos with them at midnight, Hell yes you do!

Posted 7 months ago | 1 note
Posted 7 months ago
The Fashion Studies Department is hosting a representative from LinkedIN to discuss how to effectively use the platform for networking.  Available to all students.

Wednesday, Feb 12th
600 S. Michigan Avenue, Room 101

The Fashion Studies Department is hosting a representative from LinkedIN to discuss how to effectively use the platform for networking.  Available to all students.

Wednesday, Feb 12th


600 S. Michigan Avenue, Room 101

Posted 8 months ago
Why Follow-Up is So Important to your Career


You worked so hard in preparation for Industry Night and Graduation, maybe even pulled an all-nighter or two?  You showed your work, the response and feedback were great, but did you follow-up with the people you met? 


Many professionals come to Industry Night in search of new talent, and while they may not have a job to offer you right on the spot, they took the time to look at your work & want to hear from you.  You may think they are too busy or don’t want your correspondence, but the truth is… they do. 


According to the latest statistics, 70% of all jobs are found through networking. If you work in a creative industry, that rate is even higher.  If you’re not following-up with the people you meet, your chances are slim to none that you will be further recruited.  You must take initiative. 


So why aren’t you following up?


Maybe you were afraid of seeming to aggressive, weren’t sure what to say, or were distracted by the beginning of summer. In any case, it doesn’t matter…it’s not too late to start writing those thank you cards!

Some general tips…

  • Follow-up in a timely fashion.
  • Create a contact log for your records.
  • Keep your follow-up brief, to the point, and professional.
  • Focus your follow-up around something you discussed that night. If you can’t remember anything specific, thank them for their time & feedback.
  • Continue following-up regularly, but don’t overdo it.

Types of follow-up…

Handwritten thank you….

This is everyone’s favorite :-)

  • Writing a thank you note gets you noticed, it demonstrates a show of gratitude. Professionals know that if you appreciate an opportunity, you will appreciate a potential job.
  • Thank you notes also give you a chance to reiterate your interest in what the person you met with does and how you might enjoy working with him/her in the future.
  • Send thank you notes to every person you met, even if he/she is currently working somewhere that you think may not be a good fit for you.  People change jobs often and that contact’s next position may be exactly where you’d like to be.  Include your business card so they can keep it & remember you.


By Phone:

  • If you are nervous, consider developing a short script about what you want to say.  Make the phone call from a place where you can talk calmly and not have distractions.
  • If you get voicemail, leave a short message & let the contact know you’ll also follow-up via email. 
  • If the person answers, be prepared to quickly say thank you & offer to stay in touch. 


By E-mail:

  • Keep your email short and to the point. A simple thank you with all of your contact information is all that’s needed.  Be sure you have a signature on every email so your information is at hand should someone want to reach out.
  • Be sure to spell-check and proofread your e-mail before sending it.
  • Remember to check your email regularly.


By Social Media:

  • LinkedIn is considered the “professionals choice” for connecting with potential employers. 
  • Consider adding links to your signature that connect directly to your Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Instagram accounts.  That way, if a professional is interested in knowing you outside of LinkedIN, they have the option.  Some professionals reserve Facebook & other social networking platforms for friends & family only.  


In any job market, the person who continues to show interest after that “initial first contact” is the one who grows his/her job opportunities.  So go follow-up, network, and seek opportunities that pay you to do what you love!

Posted 1 year ago | 1 note
Avoiding the Summer Snoozefest

Summer is a time for Instagram at the beach, music festivals, mimosas at brunch and short shorts abound.

OR it’s a time for Tumblr in your bed with the blinds closed and gummy worms for breakfast because your bank account is a little too low to actually do any of the aforementioned. Or maybe you simply just lack the willpower to get yourself out of the apartment.

We have three weeks left of the semester and a whole summer ahead of us. So how can you make sure that the thrill of endless time doesn’t die down two weeks in? Well, I’ve come with some ideas for you…

Read More

Network Your Heart Out

Hi all, Maddie here. I wanted to fill you in on last weeks Career Friday meeting here at the Portfolio Center. Our topic was networking, which can be thought of generally two ways. Either people brush off the idea of formal networking since communication comes easily to them, or even the thought of the word will make a person nauseous due to fear of saying good things about themselves to other professionals. I’ve personally been in both places.

No matter how you feel about the idea of networking, there are a few pieces to always remember while having a professional conversation. Here at the Portfolio Center, we’ve narrowed it down to three things.

  1. Prepare
  2. Make an Impression
  3. Follow Up

There, not so daunting now, is it?

Read More

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