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December 2014
Issue: February 1, 2008

HIGHER LEARNING: BROOKS INSTITUTE

By: Randi Altman
SANTA BARBARA, CA — For students, training and talent are a huge part of the equation, but without the ability to market themselves, finding an in-field job could be difficult.

Brooks Institute (www.brooks.edu), with six campuses throughout Southern California, knows that competition is fierce, and before letting its students – working toward degrees in video production, graphic design, professional photography and visual journalism — graduate, they make sure they have all the tools they need to make themselves hirable.
Brooks does this in a number of different ways: offering required seminars and courses geared toward finding an internship and helping with a job search after graduation.

REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE

While internships themselves aren’t required at Brooks Institute, the faculty strongly encourages students in that direction, having career services advisors visit classrooms and talk to students who are eligible for full-time, for-credit internships about how the process works.

“Students are learning all the technical tools they need here, but internships coupled with our business curriculum teach students the real-world business aspects to this industry,” says Brooks’s director of career and student services, Maggie Tomas. “Internships are such a valuable opportunity for the students. They help the student begin networking in the industry and can sometimes lead to continuing positions.”

One way the school assists students in obtaining internships is through organized, on-campus interviews — held at least six times a year — that benefit the students as well as the companies involved because it allows them to meet a handful of students at one location in one day. With just a few companies participating, how are students chosen? According to Tomas, “Sometimes the employer wants to see all interested applicants, sometimes they request career services to screen the best candidates, sometimes they require a certain GPA, and sometimes they ask for faculty recommendations.”

A full-time internship has to be approved through the faculty and the academic affairs office. The student and the internship host company must create an eight-week agenda, including their learning objectives. “This ensures the internship is a learning experience for the student,” says Tomas.

Internships can be a pretty eye-opening experience for some artists who hope to be doing high-end work from the start.  “We prepare students and let them know that they will be assisting in entry level assignments while observing the photographer’s or filmmaker’s process.”

REQUIRED TO PREPARE

Before a student can graduate, they are required to complete a professional development seminar called Business Launch. “This seminar teaches professional behavior, cold calling techiques, resume and cover letter writing, and interview skills,” explains Tomas. “Students need to know this is a competitive industry that relies on networking, meeting people, and marketing your work.”

In addition to bringing in guest lecturers who are professionals or alumni in the industry, Brooks recently held a “Graduate Success” panel. “We brought in graduates from the past two years who have found success in varying ways and they spoke to the students about how to get started in the business,” explains Tomas, who says that the closeness in age of these panelists hits home with the students. “We invite experienced photographers, but that level of success may seem unobtainable to an undergraduate, whereas stories and advice from more recent graduates can be motivating and inspiring.”

Another requirement of the school is the Graduation Review, which prepares students for a professional interview. “Film students, for instance, submit their reel, resume, cover letter and contact list,” she explains. “Faculty and career services review the materials and the student must pass this process in order to graduate.”

AFTER GRADUATION

Brooks Institute’s careers service advisors work with all graduates, assisting in their job search. Each student has a career services advisor who will actually make cold calls all over the country on behalf of their graduates. Career services advisors search databases and start dialing, trying to find job leads and opportunities for the graduates. They also search the Internet and network with their alumni — to find specific opportunities for the graduate.
 
“So much of this business is self-promotion,” sums up Tomas, “who you know, who you meet and how you market yourself. Our office tries to teach students that they need to promote their work in order for others to see the value and talent behind it.”