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ISM Students Role Play Interviews to Prepare for Real World (September, 2005)

Assistant Superintendent Doug Zambiaisi assist FHS student Molly Kinson with mock telephone interview practice.Students from Frisco High School and Centennial High School spent Thursday, Sept. 8, at the Maple Street Complex practicing business skills to prepare them for their year long mentorship program – taking to heart such wise advice as “when in doubt, overdress,” and never wear flip-flops to a job interview.

Students enrolled in the Independent Study and Mentorship Program began their day with a “meet and greet” where they practiced the art of the firm handshake and introductions with a group of faculty, staff and community representatives.
ISM is a program designed to allow juniors and seniors who are accepted into the program pursue independent study in a specific field of interest and work with a mentor who is involved in that field. The year-long program allows motivated students to experience hands-on opportunities in the field they are considering pursuing and to develop business skills that can be applied in any real-world environment.

Laura Simpson, FHS, and Di Ann Hill, CHS, are the teachers overseeing the program. They have spent the first few weeks of school helping students polish resumes and research their fields of interest. Thursday’s symposium was designed to prepare students for the next phase of the project, which is interviewing with prospective mentors.

Frisco Independent School District Communications Director Shana McKay Wortham shared her views of the Do’s and Don’ts of the Interview Process with students. The topic covered everything from the handshake and greeting at the door to how to sit in the chair while talking to a prospective boss. “Do not slump in your chair or cross your arms – both of these signal that you aren’t interested,” McKay Wortham said. Wortham and others emphasized the significance of the first impression whether it be on paper (resume), in person or on the phone.

David Boles, former principal and current personnel coordinator for the Human Resources Department, discussed effective resumes with students, letting them know that one-page, concise resumes are the current standard. Students were also cautioned to obtain an e-mail address that uses their real name and not a nickname so that prospective employers and mentors will easily identify an e-mail and find it more professional.

Allison Miller, secretary and receptionist for the superintendent’s office, instructed students in the art of cold calls, good manners and how to deal effectively with busy receptionists and office managers.

“Remember that the office manager may be very busy. You need to quickly identify yourself, the purpose of your call, and stress that you understand the person is busy, leaving your information or asking to be directed to the department you need. But the most important thing you can do is be polite and connect with the receptionist or manager on a personal level,” Miller said.
Dr. Linda Goins, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, and Dr. Debra Nelson, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, discussed dressing for success with students. They were joined in a role-playing session by Principal Mike Waldrip, who showed up in jeans, t-shirt and a baseball cap to make a point of how not to dress to impress.

Frisco High's ISM Coordinator, Laura Simpson shared, "Through the ISM Program, students are offered a glimpse of the actual work environment as they expand their interpersonal skills and learn effective methods of interacting in the business world. The students gain insight as they observe duties and responsibilities in the specific area in which they have a career interest. They accrue valuable experiences and skills related to their chosen field. These things cannot be accomplished in the classroom. It requires mentors willing to commit an hour each week from October through May. In fact, as May rolls around, many times I will have mentors comment to me how much they have gained themselves and how refreshing it has been to them to be able to share their expertise and experiences with these willing students."

Following the presentations, students participated in mock job interviews, had their resumes reviewed, were counseled on dress and presentation, and role played phone calls with volunteers.

In addition to the faculty and staff mentioned, the symposium volunteers included, Dana Baird, Director of Communications for the City of Frisco; K Jonas, Director of the Frisco Education Foundation; Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services, Doug Zambiasi; Principal Mike Farish; and Jon Allen and Jane Whitledge, FISD communications staff.

The information shared was simple, but many of the volunteers commented that they could have benefited from practice and advice before their first foray into the business world.

“These students are awesome and very confident and focused on their futures,” Wortham said. “We are honored to have this opportunity to work with them and to perhaps give them some assistance in putting their best foot forward.”