Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to host
a 3-hour business workshop for 30 young professionals from the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) Career program. SEO works to "[provide] superior educational and career programs to young people from underserved and underrepresented communities to maximize their opportunities for college and career success."
SEO's career program is highly selective, seeking students that have a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA and exhibit "a drive to succeed as evidenced by academic achievement, professional experiences, campus involvement, and a willingness to learn and take on new challenges" among other leadership traits. The students selected receive free career training and coaching to help them land and succeed in a paid summer internship. Prior to the start of their internships, they receive over a week of such training. I participated in that training, offered the young professionals a workshop entitled “Your Role As A Strategic Business Partner: Influencing The C-Suite."
My morning workshop included content around contributing to the business strategy of a company, identifying and showcasing your value, landing, gaining value, and following-up on informational interviews and balancing authenticity with being buttoned up. It was a content packed 3 hours, and I built in activities, personal stories, worksheets, and reflection time to keep my audience engaged for the entirety of the program.
This workshop included content that I love. I was amazed by the quality of questions and how seriously the young business leaders took the topic. In addition to offering them frameworks to help them understand and articulate how they contribute to the company's bottom line, I worked through the tactics of informational interviews as a tool for internal branding. Finally, I shared insights and research on authentic leadership.
When working with a small group of 30 or less, making the room feel comfortable and personal is a key to successful engagement of the audience. In such settings, I insist on visible name plates so I can call on participants by name and reference their comments and questions throughout the workshop. I also recommend making time for an icebreaker to reinforce that community feeling and get the audience engaged from the outset.
My engagement efforts proved useful. I collect data to continue to grow as a facilitator and the reviews were overwhelming positive. 100% said they strongly agreed statements which included "I learned what I hoped to learn; the facilitator explained concepts in a way I could understand; I was encouraged to participate; and this content will be useful to me in the future." Some students even wrote in "15's" on the numerical scale that only went up to 10!
SEO has a secret sauce that is clearly working. Not only are they landing students summer internships that pay up to $1,300 per week, in 2015, 85% of SEO Career interns were offered full-time jobs at the end of their internships–either at their host company or another SEO Career partner. I was proud to contribute to the success of these young professionals and partner with an organization whose mission I truly value.