Local high school students learn what it takes to make a good impression

Published in the March 5- 18, 2014 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Marty Cheek

Photo by Marlene Guerrero Crystell Rodriguez, a 17-year-old Central High School junior, learns how to properly shake hands from Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce Chairman Rich Firato during the recent Rock the Mock .

Photo by Marlene Guerrero
Crystell Rodriguez, a 17-year-old Central High School junior, learns how to properly shake hands from Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce Chairman Rich Firato during the recent Rock the Mock .

After he graduates from Live Oak High School this spring, Dylan Kral wants to get into film school. In a career as a filmmaker, he’ll often sit down with movie studio executives and pitch story ideas in intense interview sessions. But, unlike many aspiring filmmakers, the senior has a head start in building his story-pitching confidence. He gained this opportunity to develop his interview skills March 11 when he and more than 120 other local students went through the Rock the Mock program to build career skills.

The innovative program, put on for the third year by the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce’s Education Committee, brought students from Live Oak, Central, and Sobrato high schools to a large hall at Specialized Bicycle Components headquarters where they received practical advice from experts on the basics of the interview process. Then the students put this information into practice by undergoing mock interviews with local leaders who volunteered to help these young people build their confidence.

“Coming in I was pretty nervous, but really I didn’t do as bad as I thought I would,” Kral said. “But I learned I need to focus on being myself. I don’t need to be what I think the employer wants me to be, I need to be myself. I just need to go in comfortable and prepare ahead of time. When I prepare ahead of time, I feel more comfortable because I kind of know what I’m going to say… I would totally recommend this (experience) to incoming juniors, seniors. It’s worth the time.”

Kasey Singleton, a senior at Central High School, agrees that it was a rewarding experience for students. “I actually learned a lot,” she said. “I learned how not to overwhelm myself and be nervous. I learned a lot of interviewing techniques and what to look forward to the next time I go in for an interview.”

One of the most memorable parts of the session for Singleton was learning how to properly shake a potential employer’s hand.
“It kind of says a lot about the person,” she said. “You need to have a firm handshake to let them know you’re serious.”

Photo by Marlene Guerrero A volunteer interviewer talks to students going through an interview process at the Rock the Mock.

Photo by Marlene Guerrero
Pater Hanlon, owner of Best Learning Solutions, talks to students going through an interview process at the Rock the Mock.

Chamber Education Committee member Brenda Glimpse led the organization of this year’s Rock the Mock. As a human resource professional, she understands the importance of teaching excellent interviewing tools and helping students get the edge over the competition for career growth opportunities.

Morgan Hill’s program for high school students might be an innovative one, she said. Although some colleges offer courses in job interviewing, Glimpse’s search on the Internet resulted in no comparable programs at the high school level.

Most of the students feel a bit nervous as they come into the hall. “They’re in anticipation, which is good,” Glimpse said. “They’re out of their comfort zone, which is what we really wanted to get here. We want them to practice confidence, carrying themselves. We really want them to practice having structured answers, real specific stuff, and not ramble with their answers.”

Other skills students learn include smiling, making good eye contact, wearing the right attire and basic etiquette tips.

The students went through a “dress to impress” workshop with Cherisse White, a Morgan Hill salon owner. She taught them to research the corporate culture of a company that they are interviewing for and dress and groom for that work environment to make a good initial impact.

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“You can’t change a first impression,” White said. “It takes 17 times of meeting again to change that first impression, so your first impression better be a good one.”

Morgan Hill Unified School District Superintendent Steve Betando said skills students learn at Rock the Mock are not just good for getting a job but for keeping one. “When you’re in a job, these human relations skills carry over into the work force,” he said. “So when you’re working with others, there’s the importance of that human connection with the people you work with. People lose their jobs not necessarily over deficiency in skills but the fact that they can’t get along with others.”

The annual Rock the Mock is the “cornerstone event” on which the Chamber builds its program of youth engagement, said John Horner, CEO/president of the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce.

“This cornerstone led directly to the implementation of Career Days at both middle schools, organization of the annual All Morgan Hill Science Fair, sustained direct coaching of students by several of our members and an ever expanding and deepening positive involvement of the business community in the education of our next generation,” he said. “We don’t sit around and complain. We get involved and make a tangible contribution.”

Marty Cheek

Marty Cheek

Publisher at Morgan Hill Life
Marty Cheek is the publisher of Morgan Hill Life and Gilroy Life. He is also the co-author with Congressman Jerry McNerney of the book Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America From the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels.
Email: marty@morganhilllife.com
Phone: (408) 782-7575
Marty Cheek