By Brian McCallen, LightHouse guest blogger
On Friday, April 8 and Saturday, April 9, I attended a cool event: the Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD) FULL ACCESS Student Summit at the Wyndham Hotel and Cisco Systems in San Jose, California.
Brought together were college students, recent alumni and job recruiters for an enriching networking experience. One objective was for students to become more comfortable talking with employers, and in return, for recruiters to better understand students with disabilities.
My goal was to improve my networking skills and learn how to be more competitive in the job market. It was a great experience meeting recruiters and fellow jobseekers. Because my career endeavor is in broadcasting, a top highlight was meeting with employers from NBC Universal and learning more about their positions in the media business.
The first event held at Cisco was a resume critique with a career services expert from Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. She read my resume and suggested using bullets instead of narratives to describe my work experiences, so that employers can scan the document more easily. Another suggestion was to list full contact information at the top of the second page, as done on the first page, so employers know that both pages are indeed my resume.
The resume critique was followed by a luncheon at Cisco Systems, featuring a one-woman show titled “Funny, You Don’t Look Crazy.” Mental health educator and actor Victoria Maxwell told the story of her struggles with bipolar disorder. She started her career acting with John Travolta, but the hectic acting life was too much. Maxwell then worked as a cashier at Safeway to pay the bills. She moved on to vocational rehabilitation and became an aspiring performer. Victoria’s show was not only humorous but inspirational in revealing the experiences that any disabled person faces when transitioning to the working world, whether it’s improving job skills or maintaining one’s health.
The afternoon continued with several presentations on intriguing tips and stats about current workforce trends, general career advice and disability disclosure. Martha Artiles, Chief Diversity Officer of ManpowerGroup in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, shared results of the recent Employment Outlook Survey. Results showed that only a meager 12% of companies surveyed plan to hire more employees.
Another afternoon presentation was from Myranda Bertrand, COSD and University of Tennessee graduate assistant. Her golden rule of career development is “Network, Network, Network.” Job shadowing, attending career fairs and meeting industry professionals are just a few ways to strengthen a job search.
The final presentation was from Crystal Gilreath, COSD Director of Operations, who talked about the myths of disability disclosure. Gilreath said that it’s okay for one to disclose his or her disability in either the resume or job interview, but that one’s skills and abilities for a position should always have the most emphasis. The more emphasis one places on his or her skills, the more emphasis it has in the mind of an employer.
The nighttime events began with students, employers and staff at the Wyndham’s California Ballroom for a formal dinner. Mary Jean Billingsley, a Certified Etiquette and International Protocol Consultant trained at the Protocol School of Washington, gave some important dining lessons. She taught us the rules of tearing off and buttering tiny pieces of one loaf of bread and conversing about sports, movies and pets instead of politics. I thought that the rules were simple and easy to follow, and I’ve already started to practice my etiquette craft at home and when dining out.
After dinner and a quick change to casual attire, there was a trip to the Wii Game Room for a little competition with employers and newly made friends. It was a great way to end a busy day with a relaxing and fun social event.
The next morning we boarded a shuttle back to Cisco Systems for the Summit’s final events. We were served a quiche-filled breakfast buffet, giving my body the vital energy needed to network with recruiters after the meal.
During the networking sessions, four other students and I met with NBC Universal and AT&T. Recruiters gave their companies’ facts and figures and talked about internship, volunteer and entry-level job opportunities.
One opportunity related to broadcasting is the Page Program at NBC Universal. The Page Program has been the training ground for famous celebs including Regis Philbin and Ted Koppel. The website to apply is www.nbcunicareers.com. This might be the option I need to advance my broadcasting skills.
After the networking event came the final wrap-up. The FULL ACCESS staff gave us some parting thoughts, including the suggestion to send follow-up emails to our recruiters and continue to network with future employers.
We were then transported back to the Wyndham Hotel, where I picked up my bags and headed home. I was glad I attended the event, and I am now more motivated than ever to network or reach even further to achieve my career goals. If I continue to attend networking events, learn some new skills and set up informational interviews, I may just receive the one-way ticket to a new full-time job in broadcasting.
I would enthusiastically recommend attending the next COSD student summit this November in New Jersey. For information on COSD and the FULL ACCESS Student Summit, check out www.cosdonline.org.
Get out there, network and be inspired to shoot for the stars in your job search and career dreams.