Career Networking, 101
Fifteen years ago, WKU Photojournalism program coordinator, James Kenney, was concerned that many of the students in the program had never applied for an internship or even interacted with a photojournalism professional. As a result, he invited a handful of photographers and editors from area publications to WKU’s campus so that students would have an opportunity to show their work and practice their interviewing skills. What started as a one-time event has evolved into an annual spring-semester program tradition.
Kenney said that he expected that this experience would be beneficial to the students, but he did not anticipate the value it would bring to the professionals.
“The opportunity to meet face to face during WKU’s PJ Career Day is extremely valuable to not only the student but also the professional,” said Mykal McEldowney, who is the Visuals Manager at the Indianapolis Star. “It’s exciting to see students’ current work but to also see their growth year-over-year. It’s not simply a career day, it’s a job/internship interview.”
The day of the event, McEldowney takes off from Indianapolis in the wee hours of the morning in order to make it to the 9 a.m. start time. He joins his colleagues – who number from eight to 17 in any given year – in Room 127 in the PJ lab to get ready for a line of well-dressed students waiting for an opportunity to meet with them. Students are encouraged to interact with as many of the professionals as they can to receive feedback about their portfolio and advice concerning their future. After lunch, there is a roundtable discussion with all of the professionals and students, where questions are answered and more general advice is given about what it takes to be a successful photojournalist. After the roundtable, one-on-one meetings continue until late in the afternoon.
Though the Career Day experience alone is a valuable step in the students’ future careers, the experience can also result in an actual job. This was the case for WKU senior, Ebony Cox, who has faithfully attended the event since she started in the program. “Career Day has been instrumental in my growth as a photojournalism student here at Western,” she said. “Being able to network with staff photographers and editors can open many doors to some amazing opportunities. I highly recommend going all four years too. You are able to create a bond with these professionals and they are able to watch you grow year after year in your shooting. I became the Indianapolis Star’s 2017 summer Pulliam Fellowship recipient thanks to Career Day!”