College graduation looms just a few weeks away and yet again, a class prepares to enter a less than welcoming work world. Those grads, whether young or old — well, especially if they’re young — need every possible edge they can get. That’s why Husson University hosted an event Monday night aimed at helping the school’s juniors and seniors polish up on the fine art of schmoozing.
The event featured Elizabeth Freedman, an executive coach who specializes in business communication skills, and who is a highly sought-after speaker on the college circuit. She’s written “Work 101 — Learning the Ropes of the Workplace Without Hanging Yourself.”
Some of her advice to recent grads included taking care to manage one’s online profile. One applicant couldn’t understand why he didn’t get interviews until someone pointed out his email address was “ firstname.lastname@example.org.” She also talked about interview skills, urging what she calls “180-degree” thinking for applicants in which they work to understand how their agendas were different from that of the interviewer. Interviewers are trying to ascertain what an applicant can do for the business, Ms. Freedman said, by inferring qualities from the tip of an iceberg. Applicants instead may be trying to show how the job would help them.
Monday night’s focus also was on networking with actual business managers and owners as a way to land a job.
Dr. Nancy Forster-Holt, a professor in Husson’s business college, said local business leaders were invited to the event and responded enthusiastically. She estimates about 50 attended, which gave the 150 or so students opportunities to meet and mingle with them.
Professors Marilyn Mann and Sharon Kobritz, along with James Weshoff, who heads Husson’s career services center, prepared students in some dry runs before the event. They talked about verbal presentation and body language. They encouraged students to create an “elevator pitch,” a way to express one’s aspirations should they encounter a CEO in a brief elevator ride. The students also were encouraged to get business cards and hand them out.
Students took the exercise seriously. Professor Forster-Holt said one young man told her, “I was home for Easter and I asked my Mom to pick out a tie” to wear to the event. Mom and professor both would be proud.
Husson officials were thrilled that business leaders took the time to attend. Though they work hard all day, it is indeed admirable that they invested themselves in helping the next generation of professionals join the work world. It’s partly self-serving, because they might land a great employee, but it’s also a way to help our state’s economy.
Professor Forster-Holt said Tuesday that business leaders were impressed with the students. “I can’t tell you how many complimentary emails we received,” she recounted. It wasn’t exactly new territory, she said, because Husson has students complete internships before graduating. Students shook hands, made eye contact and — drawing on the business etiquette championed by Ms. Freedman — were careful not to stuff too many appetizers in their mouths while mingling.
Students were pleased after the event, too. “They felt like they’d taken another important step toward their future,” Professor Forster-Holt said.
This sort of practical education is vital to helping grads succeed in taking that step from the classroom to the workplace. It may seem like common sense, but people don’t inherit these skills at age 22 any more than they do household budgeting, spousal relationship or parenting skills. Good for Husson for offering this boost to its students.