The show must go on—and it still is. After preparing an elaborate theme for the Department of Advertising and Public Relations' 2020 Senior Showcase, the team turned on a dime to adapt the format and theme to a virtual setting in the form of a website that will stay up all year. Now that the website has been published, graduates are able to keep their portfolio of work available to the public indefinitely, in contrast to the usual single-day annual event. With a lot of hard work, talent and perseverance, this new website format has brought a whole new dimension to the senior job search, and to the students' own brands.
During the first half of the spring 2020 semester, Assistant Professor of Advertising Kathy Mueller and her student team consisting of art directors Morganne Hodgson '20, Malia Hee '20 and Charlie Dawes '20, along with copywriters Jessica Heydlauf '20 and Dan Wallace '20, spent their time vigorously preparing for an in-person showcase with a drive-in movie theme. Under normal circumstances, the event would have been set up as a "reverse career fair," where students set up table displays of their print and digital work and potential employers peruse to find a student whose work resonates with them. Under current circumstances, this event model clearly wouldn't be possible.
When the showcase moved into the hands of Assistant Professor Sheryl Kantrowitz two days before all classes and events were moved online, she and the quick-thinking team pivoted immediately. Cancellation was not an option; the showcase had to go on. But instead of limiting the event to a single day and time, the team felt that the showcase site should be an ongoing place where students can continuously put their best foot forward and employers can frequent the site to find the talent they need.
"When life goes back to normal, we want [employers] to be familiar with the work of our students and the showcase, and then be able to peruse their profiles and links when [they] find [themselves] looking for fresh talent," Kantrowitz says.
The original drive-in theme, which required complex logistics and visuals, was exchanged for a new, simpler idea: Sharpie doodles. Under this new theme, participating seniors were differentiated from one another on the site's homepage by a doodle of their own creation, along with links to various places such as students' websites, LinkedIn accounts and/or a calendar feature, so interested employers can set up meetings with the students directly. Visitors to the site can also sort students' work by their academic track, allowing them to isolate art directors, account managers, copywriters, strategists, researchers, media planners or public relations practitioners.
"Our website is set up to maximize simplicity and to get right to the good stuff," says Hodgson. "We wanted students to be the star of the show, so we put them right at the forefront of the website."
So far, the doodles have proven to be just as fun to create as they are pleasing to view, as well as endlessly creative. "Their doodles kind of allowed them to express their creativity in their own ways, whether they're a media planner or a PR student; no matter what, they had a way of showing their individuality," says Hee.
One of the major benefits of moving the showcase to its own website is its longevity. Instead of an afternoon-long event—during which time an employer could see work from dozens of students—there is now a singular site that houses all of the seniors' portfolios as they continue their job hunts into the coming months.
Because the website format is so different from the in-person showcase and taking current economic conditions into account, the rate at which employers have responded to students has taken on a slower yet steadier timeline than a one-off event. Kantrowitz found that the majority of the site's visitors have been finding them through social media, particularly LinkedIn. The showcase has seen approximately 80 visitors per day, but the students have found that traffic to their personal websites has spiked like never before. They hope this trend continues through the summer and into busier hiring seasons, which usually falls in the autumn for the advertising and public relations industries. Until then, the team is continuing to make updates to the site to increase ease of use, such as refining the search feature.
Both as a lasting resource and as an event, this year's changes to the senior showcase have made a significant impact on the participants, and how they see the showcase functioning going forward. Not only did Kantrowitz's team gain crucial experience shifting gears on a large project, but they created a tool for themselves and their peers to use to promote themselves and their work.
"We think this was a really valuable resource for the students especially during this time, and we hope that the next showcase teams will continue to develop a website alongside the in-person event." Dawes says.
See the website at www.templeseniorshowcase.com.