Getting a taste of business

Published 10:47 pm Thursday, April 29, 2010

Area high school students on Thursday ditched their blue jeans, put on their business best and prepared their resumes for a morning of interviews.

Students from Suffolk’s public high schools attended the 19th annual Career Expo, organized by the Career and Technical Education Advisory Council, where students met and interviewed with different business representatives for practice.

“The goal is to prepare these students for real-world job interviews,” Career and Technical Education Coordinator Gail Bess said. “It’s an opportunity for them to learn what they need to have, do and be prepared for so that they don’t have to learn the hard way. It will make Suffolk Public School students more competitive in the job market.”

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Participating in the event this year were 43 area businesses, ranging from the City of Suffolk to QVC to Manselle Media to Lockheed Martin. Whether the students wanted to go into modeling and simulation, child care, health and medical sciences or agriculture, there was a business there to suit their interviewing experience needs.

“We work on brining in new industries every single year,” Bess said. “We have industries here that have served as an economic foundation for the area — such as shipbuilding — as well as those that are up and coming — such modeling and simulation. We want our students — no matter what profession they choose — to be well rounded and prepared.”

During the event, students approached potential employers and presented them with resumes they had drafted. The interviewers asked questions about past experience and “if you were in this situation, what would you do?” and evaluated them on their answers and performance.

“We’re here to give the students immediate feedback,” QVC Human Resources Generalist Stephanie Unser said. “QVC has been participating with this for the past three to five years. I had a few students I had to tell to spit out their bubble gum. Hopefully, they’ll remember not to chew gum when they go in for a real interview. I know it took me several interviews, when I started my own job hunt, until I got the process down. Hopefully, this opportunity to get immediate feedback will give them a head start in the interview process.”

The process also allows the students to learn what potential employers are looking for in new employees.

“We’re here to also show them what we’re looking for when they get out of college,” Manselle Media owner and Director, Jai Manselle said. “As a design and marketing firm, our business is more non-traditional, and we want students to know what kind of a job opportunity they can have out of college and what we’re looking for. At the same time, we’re showing what works on a resume and what doesn’t.”

Students, many of whose interview experience was limited to fast food positions, walked away with tips on what to do and what not to do in their next interview.

“It’s good experience for us,” said Laquesha Sanford, a senior at King’s Fork High School. “I was told to work on maintaining eye contact and not to hesitate with my answers — to be confident. It’s a big difference than interviewing for a fast food job, which is what most of us have experience doing. They don’t ask for resumes. They just want to know when you can start.”