Local Columnists

May 20, 2014

Prep-KC has new way to show students interview etiquette

Swapped roles in mock interviews gives Schlagle High School students and volunteer professionals a fresh look at what college and career readiness should look like.

Hey world, look at me.

Here I am with F.L. Schlagle High School students in Kansas City, Kan., swapping roles.

Now I am the student selling myself, rolling my life’s education experience to this new, big moment.

I belong here. I’ve got to believe I belong — face-to-face with that college admissions counselor, or that prized internship director, or that boss who decides who gets hired.

This exercise — like all of the real-world lessons spreading throughout area school districts — is about giving students claws.

It’s about injecting their schooling with usable grit.

A couple dozen of us professionals volunteered to help show the Schlagle teens what confident interviewing looks like — assuming we reverse role players were up to it.

Prep-KC, the nonprofit education support agency that coordinated this recent exercise, even tossed in some rogue actors so the students could also see what Epic Interview Fail looks like:

Phone surfers. Wandering gazers. My-last-boss-was-a-jerk complainers.

Today’s teens, throughout their work in high school and as they show their faces in the world, have got to “connect what they’re learning to their earning potential,” Schlagle Principal Maritza Paul said.

Especially for so many students who don’t have connected parents or family college history.

I’ve got to feel I belong right here.

And persist.

Not just for my own good as the teen who has to compete tomorrow, but for all of us. The health of our information- and technology-based economy depends on it.

Some 170 Kansas City area businesses and 22 post-secondary school institutions have participated in some of Prep-KC’s career-focused work in area districts this school year.

The community effort is mounting a growing push to take this kind of work to scale. They’re seeking to give all students a look at college campuses, experience at work sites and practice in interviewing.

Schlagle senior Lashiya Smith was one of several students who collectively critiqued our performance.

She saw the meaningful eye contact, the greetings, the handshakes, the focused attention.

“And I learned,” she added, “that business professionals are not snobbish.”

Glad they noticed. After all, we’re all in this together.

To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to jrobertson@kcstar.com.

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