Esko students learn the art of getting a jobOn Tuesday and Wednesday, the culmination of the school’s annual Imagine It! Program saw most of the school’s 100 seniors in conservative dress clothes, ties, suits and on their best behavior. The program, in its 19th year, puts all seniors through the job search process.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
As she waited for her job interview outside an office at Esko High School last week, senior Annalia Hills looked every bit the psychologist she
aspired to be.
She wore a green ruffled blouse under a black suit, black heels and black horn-rimmed glasses, with her dark hair anchored neatly in a bun.
But as she sat there stiffly, hands folded in her lap, waiting to be called into the next room, her uneasiness showed.
“I am so nervous,” she confessed. “I have done interviews before, but this is more stressful because a grade and graduation are riding on it.”
She wasn’t alone.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the culmination of the school’s annual Imagine It! Program saw most of the school’s 100 seniors in conservative dress clothes, ties, suits and on their best behavior.
The program, in its 19th year, puts all seniors through the job search process. In their English classes, they had matched their skills and interests with occupations, prepared cover letters, resumes and a list of references. They had been prepped on proper attire, how to behave in job interviews and were given a list of common interview
questions to expect. They even practiced shaking hands.
It all led to interviews last week with two or more representatives from among 35 participating businesses who were matched with the students’
career choices. They’re graded on their prep work but not the actual interviews.
The jobs weren’t real, but the resumes were. The interviews were practice, but the interviewers were real professionals. And for the past nine years, all seniors are required to go through the program to graduate at Esko High School.
“We’ve had students ask, ‘Why do we have to do this?’ ” said Joyce Bergstedt, the school’s career center coordinator. “It’s an awesome experience for our students to go through this with professionals and to get feedback.”
As interviews got under way, senior Korbyn Danielson said: “A lot of the guys are exasperated by how important this is. They just want to get it done. The girls are nervous; they’re in the bathroom (primping).”
It may take a year, it may take longer, but some students return after graduation and thank Bergstedt and other school staff members for the experience.
“It’s a huge gift,” said Michele Johnson, who teaches senior English. “They’re leaving knowing what they should do in a real interview and leave knowing what they need to improve.”
Tyler Denzler walked out of his interview with military personnel, more aware of several areas he needs to work on.
“After this, the next one will be a piece of cake,” said Denzler, whose career choice was military nursing. “They told me about my weaknesses. I need to work on my overall confidence in the answers I gave them.”
He had gotten positive critiques on his resume, cover letter and his general appearance — he wore dress pants and a tie under a sweater and shorter-cropped hair.
For Denzler, the hardest question was, “Tell us about yourself.” Although it’s a common icebreaker question, it left him grappling for what to say.
It was on the list of 18 common interview questions students received to help prepare. Other common questions included: What are your strengths and weaknesses? How do you motivate yourself to get a job done? Provide an example of how you worked as part of a team. Why would you be good at this job? Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years?
After just a few interviews, John Cavanaugh of the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Jessica Ritchie of Amsoil already were impressed by the students aspiring to be engineers.
“We have had three so far, and all of them have been outstanding,” Cavanaugh said as noon approached on the first day of interviews. “A lot of people complain about young people, but if this is any example of what’s to come, our country will be in great shape.”
They had just interviewed Danielson, who wants to be an environmental engineer.
“I have always been real passionate about the environment, and that seems to be the best way to improve it,” she said as she waited for her critique.
As part of the Imagine It! Program, Danielson had researched the engineering field and found it had a higher rate of growth because of government environmental regulations that must be met.
Dressed in a white blouse, black skirt and low heels, her long hair in a single braid, she did well. She sat up straight, avoided crossing her legs and consciously tried not to hesitate or pepper her answers with “umms”and “likes.”
“You were very well-prepared and presented yourself well,” Ritchie told her.
Danielson had answers ready for the common questions. She had questions for her interviewers, asking them about Amsoil and the Department of Transportation. With permission to get more personal, she also asked them about the best and worst parts of their jobs.
Good questions, Ritchie told her. “Always ask questions at the end,” she said.