Ready to Work

UCAN seminar teaches resume, interview skills

By Don Wade

Could a framed photograph of the interviewer’s two children help you get the job? How about the Dallas Cowboys coffee mug on his desk? Or the diploma from the University of Memphis on her wall?

Leshundra Robinson, president and founder of UCAN (You Can Achieve Now), speaks to jobseekers during the organization’s recent Job Readiness Seminar at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

All three examples might provide an area of common ground between an interviewer and job candidate – “an icebreaker,” said James Wesby, one of the presenters at the recent UCAN (You Can Achieve Now) Job Readiness Seminar held at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.

While UCAN’s mission is to have a positive impact on young people through mentoring and personal development, the job seminar drew jobseekers of all ages – from teenagers to people such as Sue Durham, who is “50-something” and wanted to brush up her resume and interviewing skills.

Durham had worked about 15 years in a corporate job and then about 15 years in sales for a small pharmaceutical company. She has been going to school to learn about the insurance field.

“I know I’ve got to work on my resume,” she said. “And 15 years ago, I didn’t need a cover letter.”

Leshundra Robinson, president and co-founder of UCAN, said teenagers at the other end of the spectrum often don’t realize they already have experience that can be listed on a resume. While they may not have held a formal job, their experience babysitting or mowing lawns, or their participation in clubs or on sports teams at school all should be listed on a resume. The same goes for any community volunteer work.

“They sell themselves short,” Robinson said.

Robinson says employers ranging from fast-food restaurants to Fred’s and Shoe Carnival are looking for teens to hire. A manager with Fred’s, she said, told her that he wants teens that are dependable, accountable and personable.

“And a lot of times they lack the ability to be personable,” Robinson said. “And they don’t hold themselves accountable for that because they’re teenagers.”

At the seminar, Trey Carter, president of Olympic Career Training Institute, went over resume do’s and don’ts. One basic that is sometimes overlooked: having a professional email address.

“I understand you may like the Grizzlies,” Carter said, “but don’t make (your email address) GrizzliesGuy25.”

Robinson covered how job applicants should and should not dress. Lean toward dark or neutral colors such as deep blue, charcoal gray, black or khaki. She also advised going very light on perfume or cologne in case the interviewer has as an allergy. Women should not wear revealing blouses or overly short skirts. Men should not wear earrings, and neither males nor females should display any body piercings. Hair should be styled and cut.

In summary, Robinson subscribes to KISS: “Keep it simple and sophisticated.”

Wesby, who is co-founder of the mobile app Blocally, which helps direct people to black-owned businesses, has worked for and been downsized by more than one large corporation. He estimates he has been on more than 50 interviews.

He stressed that whenever and wherever you interview for a job, you must go in prepared and knowing everything you can about the company and the person with whom you are meeting.

“Know that company inside and out,” he said.

The seminar concluded with a mock interview, with Wesby acting as interviewer and Carter as job candidate. Carter noticed the imaginary Dallas Cowboys coffee mug, and that was the place to start a comfortable conversation.

“When you get to the point where they’re talking more about (common ground) than the job interview,” Wesby said, “you’re good.”