Branding matters for Suffolk students

Published 10:32 pm Friday, April 20, 2018

Lakeland High School students weighed the pros and cons of Puma clothing, Android devices and the New England Patriots on Thursday as they learned about the importance of branding, both for corporate entities and for themselves.

Thirty-four students were selected for the second annual Youth Leadership Conference held by the African-American Resource Group of Dominion Energy at the company’s Norfolk office. Employees gave presentations on how participants could tailor their personal brand to become better job candidates, an encore of the lessons in the first conference held last year in Richmond.

“We felt like it was still a relevant topic,” conference chair Tonya Byrd said. “Things like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram can impact your life later on.”

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They discussed the positives of Chick-fil-A, like its work culture, and other facets of its image, like crowded lunch lines. There were examples of bad publicity as well, such as the Deflategate scandal for the Patriots.

“This conference has helped me better understand ways to make sure that the image I present to others is positive,” said senior Kilah Manley, 17.

The most extreme example was the video taken inside a Philadelphia Starbucks last week that showed 23-year-old black men Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson being arrested for trespassing. Nelson had asked to use the restroom and was told it was for paying customers only, so the two men simply waited inside the café for their meeting with a real estate representative. A manager called police on them.

The incident ignited a week of protests, leading Starbucks to announce it would close more than 8,000 of its U.S. stores on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct “racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores,” according to a statement Tuesday.

“Starbucks has now tarnished its brand and reputation,” Byrd said.

Human Resources Strategic Advisor Drexel Harris explained how to foster core values that will make you an appealing job candidate. He demonstrated how appearance needs to evoke professionalism and resumes should tell a candidate’s story in a positive light.

“If your resume doesn’t tell the story that you want to tell, then you won’t get the job,” Harris said.

Senior Ciera Lee, 17, said she makes a deliberate effort to keep her social media free of anything that may compromise future job interviews. She’s a fan of fashion and just sticks to wardrobe photos.

Harris reiterated that your clothes need to be workplace appropriate and should represent the job you want, not the job you have.

“You’ve got to wear less distracting clothes so that the interviewer can focus on what you’re saying and what you’re about to do,” said sophomore Keon Wiggins-Saunders, 15.