Jay Corcoran, assistant director at Columbia Business School's Career Management Center, isn't your typical career counselor, dispensing advice and encouragement to ambitious, job-hungry MBA s from behind a desk. You can often find him performing his job in a far more unusual setting—from behind a camera.
Log on to YouTube and you'll see examples of his work: Career Chronicles, a reality-TV-style series of two-minute segments that follow individual Columbia MBA students through the often harrowing jobsearch process. The segments are produced and filmed by Corcoran, who has been making documentary films for 15 years.
Responsible for overseeing the job resource library, Corcoran is a big believer in new media as an effective way to reach out to today's students, who gravitate toward the convenience of online material. "Students like to learn from each other," he says.
Corcoran's filmmaking career began in the late '80s, when the AIDS epidemic ravaged the artistic community in New York. A playwright and actor at the time, Corcoran was devastated by the loss of several friends to the disease, and was moved to document the illness and death of one such friend on camera. Called Life and Death on the A-List, the film was submitted to a local festival and received a glowing review in the New York Times. Subsequent work has included a 9/11 short, aired on New York public television station WNET, and two feature-length documentaries: Undetectable, about the changing face of the AIDS epidemic broadcast on PBS, and Rock Bottom, a look at the impact of crystal meth use among gay men in New York City.
Corcoran's most recent filmmaking project started on campus. Last January, he followed a team of MBA students from the Entrepreneurship in Africa master class to Tanzania as they researched and provided business recommendations for a family-owned hotel seeking a five-star rating. While the film highlights the challenges of applying Western business models in a Third World context, it also sends a hopeful message. "I really do believe we are here to help each other," says Corcoran. "We can use video as a way to inspire others to think that we need to get involved."
In addition to his job and film projects, Corcoran is now pursuing a master's degree from the School of Journalism, specializing in new media. How does he balance the demands? "You just have to do the best you can and prioritize," he says. "It's a constant challenge."
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