Companies met students, young designers established new contacts and gained insights into the world of business. In mid-June 2017, KISD – Köln International School of Design launched “KISDconnect“. The event served as a platform for KISD alumni, KISD students, freelancers, agencies and companies to come closer together in order to find job opportunities before and after graduation. Companies like Deutsche Bahn, Volkswagen, or agencies like Yello Strom and Designit – partly represented by KISD alumni – presented their corporate culture, projects, and cooperations.

“From the very beginning, it was obvious to see that this event was really a great opportunity to connect. We as students were looking for direct contact with agencies and companies, and they were looking for us as future employees. I have attended a lot of those networking events yet, but so far KISDconnect is one of the best and one of the most authentic and open-minded,“ says Katharina Mayer, a student in KISD’s MA degree program Integrated Design. And Mayer adds: “For proceeding with my project which I intend to do for my later Master thesis, I could directly get into contact with that agency I was interested in for a potential later cooperation. I just submitted my resume at KISDconnect’s market place and directly got feedback.“ Thus, for Katharina Mayer, the slogan of “connect“ proved to be, in the truest sense of the term, true for immediate or future good connections to the business and design world.
The latter included domestic and international companies and agencies which gathered during the open forum of the event’s market place in room 12 on KISD’s ground floor where you could grasp the spirit of an open-minded, free and easy, lively atmosphere and dialog. To the left, Frogdesign from California, founded by Hartmut Esslinger in the German village of Herrenberg, with offices in Shanghai, New York, and Munich, was in dialog with students. Alongside there were tables set up for presentations of VW, GMX, or Deutsche Bahn or tables for starting a conversation with agencies like razorfish, Designit, or IXDS. “We seize the chance here at KISDconnect to present our company in a 10-minutes official presentation to the audience, but also in direct talks with people interested in us and our business. At the same time, an event like this helps us to find talented young people who are eager, curious, have good ideas, and help us to step forward,“ claims one business representative.

Open-Minded Atmosphere for Successful Networking

Recruiting fairs, if one is to generalize it, often come across as very formal and stiff events, a little conformist and unromantic. Some small talk, rigid hierarchies, and standardized procedures for submitting resumes and going through the equally standardized application process for being recruited. The fact that you had an interesting conversation in the evening with your business card finally on the decision-maker side – maybe forgotten the next day with the aspiring millennials disenchanted that all their efforts, all their stays abroad, all the (un-)paid internships had yet been fruitless.
However, that was not to be observed at KISDconnect. For example, KISD student Katja Trinkwalder, on behalf of maybe most of the student body, stresses: “Really big players are here. On the one hand, that fact alone is good for us as students and future graduates to benefit from. But on the other hand, you can really sense the difference here between a rigid, standard application process and a normal job interview. It is more open here, more direct. And as a student, you usually do not have that direct access to big players, companies, agencies, and future employers as it is here at KISDconnect.“

As an interdisciplinary and international institute of TH Köln, KISD has been for 20 years cooperating with renowned companies, institutions, municipalities, associations, and research groups. The range of joint research and business projects with partners from business, industry, and science hereby comprises all KISD areas of expertise. The event of KISDconnect now perpetuated this multi-faceted approach and offered the opportunity to get to know more than 20 agencies and companies from different business and design areas, whether it was from services, industry, commerce, or service and corporate design – or whether it was in the format of a workshop, presentation, or one-on-one meeting. “Your presentation was great. And especially that very project that you mentioned and you are currently involved. How do I find out more about it and what opportunities do you have for young designers?,“ were for example some statements and questions that could be heard during the two 90-minutes long open dialog formats between agencies and students. Interestingly, it were now former students of KISD that now presented their jobs and companies to current students at KISD and informed on projects, potential career paths, and opportunities for collaboration.

Positive Feedback for First KISDconnect

“It was really impressive to see how successfully and in a huge range of jobs, roles, and business and design areas our KISD alumni are working after graduation. And it is also highly gratifying that the alumni are reaching out to our current students at an early stage to promote and foster relations with them through internships or through bilateral cooperation via students’ BA or MA projects. In doing so, both students, companies, and agencies are in a win-win-situation,“ concludes KISD professor Birgit Mager as head of the KISDconnect organizational team.
It was also from companies and agencies that KISD gained very positive feedback for having this event launched: “KISDconnect made it possible to get directly in contact with students in a relaxed atmosphere. As a representative of my company, this enabled us to have a first, but also very authentic impression of students and maybe our future employees. Sometimes, this means much more to us than a resume sent by email. The event also served as a good occasion to get to know so many international students with so many international and interesting backgrounds and stories,“ stresses Kim C. Weber from Volkswagen Group.