Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hanging Out with the Young Folk

Today I participated in an interview skills workshop for high-school students in the Philadelphia public school system. The program is a joint effort of the Philadelphia Society of People and Strategy (PSPS), of which I am a member, and a local non-profit that provides career-focused training for public school students. The workshop has been around for a while and is very well structured. Honestly, a facilitator couldn’t ask for better.

I like working with teenagers. Speaking with teens about jobs and careers is very satisfying, and I appreciate the chance to make a positive impact on a young person and in turn, be infected with her enthusiasm about what the future of work holds before she gets the stuffing kicked out of her by corporate America as she embarks on these important first steps toward her calling.

There were twenty-nine students and three facilitators, which was good because it’s a packed program with lots to cover. We discussed why hiring managers request interviews, how to prepare for interviews, how to dress for interviews, common interview questions (including the dreaded “Tell me about yourself”), and how to follow-up after an interview. I think I learned as much as the students, as the other facilitators are very knowledgeable. Other than the pleasure to be had from imparting my considerable wisdom (insert air quotes here) I had the best fun role playing the interviewee from hell, who chews gum, accepts a personal call during the interview, and talks more about her aspirations to be a rap star (all while wearing a baseball cap) than on staying focused about the position in question. Another facilitator acted as the interviewer, and I’m thinking that she and I might have a future as an improve duo. She caught all my curve balls, and I know she had no idea what I was going to say because I was making it up as I went along. The students laughed during parts of this interview, but they clapped after my “good interview,” which I choose to believe means they really wanted to see me succeed. How sweet!

Afterwards, the students broke into small groups, and each had a chance to role play as well. When we finished critiquing the “performances,” we chatted a bit about interviewing in general, and one of the students said she hates talking to most strangers and there must be something wrong with her. What?! Not so, I told her, you may be introverted, and then I gave a quick explanation of the difference between extroversion and introversion, and a couple of other students at the table said they might be introverted, too! Look, if I can save one young person the discomfort of feeling like a freak because she’d rather spend some time alone than party, I have no problem with that. Introverts unite!

After all that, I had a low moment as we were leaving and I addressed one of the students by the wrong name. I think I beat myself up about that for at least an hour, because that’s how neurotic I am. I’m sorry Edward! (Now, how could I forget that his name is Edward?)

Speaking of which, I’ve decided that I’m going to emulate my Edward, who is terrible at names and so calls every man “guy.” In the past, I’ve made fun of Ed for saying, just as friendly as you please, “Hey guy!” when I know he has no idea who this person is, but now I’m starting to see the benefit of this strategy. So if I’m not one-hundred percent sure I know your name, I’m not going to guess. You will be “guy” from here on out. And if you’re female … well, I haven’t figured that out yet.

All in all, I’m glad that I participated in this workshop, and I hope the students learned something valuable. It was a lot of fun, and I met some great people. And to quote one of my least favorite songs (oh yeah, I hate this song real bad), “The children are our future.” Seriously, when we help them, we help us all.

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