On November 14th, students and alumni gathered for the Student-Alumni of Color Career Panel and Networking event hosted by the Center for Career Education and the Black Alumni Council. The panelists, who represented a variety of industries, including law, architecture, tech, finance, arts and health/fitness, shared insights on navigating their career journey as people of color. 

Students and Alumni of Color.

Use Your Time at Columbia Wisely

Panelists discussed the strategies they used to break into their chosen industry while at Columbia. These included: 

  • taking on unpaid internships
  • applying for funding programs
  • choosing a major that allowed for interdisciplinary coursework
  • learning skills outside of the classroom
  • utilizing on-campus resources
  • becoming involved in student organizations

Panelists also highlighted some of the ways they took initiative on campus, such as creating and re-structuring student groups. They explained how these leadership experiences helped shape their ability to think big but act small.

Student and alumni shaking hands.

Networking was emphasized as an essential asset in the job search. Attendees were encouraged to reflect on “how to package your authentic self” and the importance of practicing the way in which you articulate your skills and interests in a professional setting. Keyword: Practice!

It’s never too late to make a change

A few panelists discussed their decision to follow their passion and change careers. They highlighted how their skills and resources transferred from their first profession and helped them to launch their second career.

“Your resourcefulness is more important than your resources.”

Alumni on the panel.

Your perspective and voice is needed

Panelists described their first-hand experiences in using their voices to stand up to microaggressions, imposter syndrome and multi-generational differences in the workplace. “When you enter a new environment that challenges you, you might think assimilation is what is necessary, but you should be unique.” They encouraged attendees to craft their voice within the workplace.

“Trust your brilliance.”

Rejection hurts, but it doesn’t have to hold you back

An overarching theme amongst the panelists was the importance to recognize our worth and believe in ourselves. In life, we will come across rejection, but it’s crucial not to allow the “no’s” defeat us. Their words of advice included turning rejection into an opportunity for self-growth and treating ourselves with compassion. 

“Mistakes are embedded in the success framework.”

Audience at the Alumni of Color event.

Panelists also shared the importance of acknowledging your emotions and wellbeing. “Your mental health sets the standard for how to live your life. Make sure you are aware of how you are feeling and where to seek help.”

It’s always a good time to make connections

After the panel, attendees actively engaged in conversation with panelists and other alumni networkers well into the evening!

What’s next?

Want to learn about other resources for students of color? Check out the CCE Info for Students of Color page. 

Make a career counseling appointment to discuss strategies in navigating your job or internship search!