By Michelle Winters/reporter
NW students and faculty joined Stepping Stone, a community service project, to help job seekers develop the communication skills and confidence to impress potential employers.
“An interviewer knows whether or not they’re going to hire you within the first few minutes of the interview,” Stepping Stone founder and TCC student Colin Petty said.
That’s why Petty believes first impressions are so critical, so Stepping Stone helps prepare job candidates for a successful interview with future employers.
“We want to give a hand up, not a handout,” he said.
The goal of Saturday’s fashion show was to provide an up-to-date version of the age-old advice “dress as though you have the job.”
“Avoid jeans if possible,” Petty said.
Though times have changed, some places of business have become more relaxed, Petty said.
“Do your research,” he said. “Look the company up. Find out what is acceptable to wear for that company.”
Prior to the event, NW Cornerstone honors student Eliza Calvo put out fliers and placed boxes on campus requesting businesswear donations. This allowed Stepping Stone to provide not only advice for what to wear but also a fairly wide selection of business attire, shoes and accessories for attendees to choose from at no cost.
“We’re [Cornerstone] here to help Stepping Stone as well as reach out to anyone interested in returning to school,” Calvo said. “We want them to know that there is an honors program available to them at TCC.”
Petty, who always wanted to own a business, said he wanted to help people. With today’s homeless population and unemployment rate, he saw a need that he felt compelled to address.
“Some of the people looking for employment may have both job and good communication skills but don’t have the clothing,” he said.
The volunteer staff, who are all currently TCC students, helped build resumes, share confidence-building techniques and conduct mock interviews. While some attendees came seeking a good business outfit for future interviews, others came for help updating their resumes.
Mark Parker, 50, came for confidence-building and networking. After graduating from college in 2003, he spent the next 12 years acting as caretaker for his medically fragile parents until their deaths. Though caring for his parents was “the best use of my time,” being unemployed and “out of the flow” for more than 12 years makes it difficult to get back into the workforce, Parker said.
“It’s a different world than when I was born in the ‘60s,” he said. “Technology has changed so much. It’s frightening to try to get up to speed on all these new forms of communication. But having basic computer skills is essential to getting a job in today’s market.”
Parker wanted to know some important body language tips. He learned that while eye contact shows confidence, making sure one’s nonverbal communication matches the words one says are just as crucial.
“If you’re telling the interviewer you’re excited about this new opportunity, but your body language says you’re not, you will appear untrustworthy,” Petty said. “A person who seems disingenuous is not likely to get the job.”
Amy Franks of Lake Worth sat in the audience taking notes as Petty gave tips for giving a successful interview. She later sat with him to review and edit her resume. The full-time mom to two middle school-aged sons takes temporary administrative assistant job assignments when available but is currently unemployed.
“I’ve been thinking about going back to school, but I’m not sure in which direction to go,” she said. “I really like being an administrative assistant, but it can be very discouraging when you know you’re a great candidate, but you never get the call back for the job.”
She learned about the event from a flier while at the food pantry.
“This event is being held by college students,” she said. “I thought what better way to get a fresh perspective of the current job market?”
As the fashion show ended, Franks quickly scanned the display of business attire that had been donated. Currently, her husband is the sole provider for their household, so she was excited and appreciative of the clothing availability.
“You have to look the part to get the job,” she said. “And once you get the job, you need to continue to dress professionally to keep it. Clothes can be expensive.”
Before walking out the door in the navy blue blazer she picked up at the event, Franks thanked the staff for their help.
“I’m looking forward to new opportunities!” she said, smiling.