By Alyssa Holcomb
There is no shortage of networking events that Northwestern offers its students, but it is rare when the professionals are the ones approaching you – literally.
MSLCE students and others from the School of Communications were invited to an EPICS Industry Connect session with leading figures in the local theatre and arts scene. Organizations including Steppenwolf Theatre, The Second City, Writers Theatre, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and About Face Theatre were all present for the hour-long session (with extra time for mingling before and after). Roles ranging from managing and artistic directors to marketing assistants and board relations managers were represented in the hour-long rotation.
The group of student attendees was sizable enough to fill the room in Scott Hall, but intimate in its focus on the individuals making connections with the industry guests. The structured networking format allowed for the industry leaders to make the rounds. Students were stationed at cocktail tables while the guests rotated every ten minutes to meet with each group and field questions about their positions in the industry. I enjoyed the openness of this format – it lessened the anxiety of approaching individuals during “cold networking” and instead allowed me to focus on establishing a more connective rapport with each person.
The event wasn’t just about speaking with those already in the industry – I found it just as important to connect with my fellow students and learn more about their backgrounds and strengths. My table included a student whose background was in theatre stage management and dance performance/production – something very different from my own background. We were both able to listen to each other and feed off of one another when it came to making conversation and asking questions that involved not only the industry speaker, but also our fellow attendees.
I am looking forward to participating in more Industry Connect events. They provide an inclusive and intimate experience that will likely serve as a springboard for future relationships (and hopefully positions!) in the arts industry.