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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High students learn career readiness skills, impress mock interviewers

Dec 13, 2021 02:11PM ● By Julie Slama

Corner Canyon High work-based coordinator Chris Morgan, left, and Canyons Board of Education member Mont Millerberg ask questions to Hillcrest High School students during mock interviews. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High School sophomore Natalie Stevenson was asked about her accomplishments and skills, but also to “tell me about yourself.”

It was part of a mock interview for her college and career readiness class. Canyons Board of Education member Mont Millerberg and high school work-based learning coordinators took the roles of those looking to hire these students for their dream jobs.

“I jumped right in highlighting my resume, that I worked with the state legislator Andrew Stoddard to help him write a bill about tax cuts for electric cars, and I started a nonprofit where we hold protests at the capitol to support work with climate change, equity, human rights, abortion and other issues,” Stevenson said. “This experience really helped me work on my opening statement. I had my first interview a couple months ago for an internship, but now I know I can do better for my next.”

She was interviewed by Corner Canyon High work-based coordinator Chris Morgan, who said that Stevenson impressed her.

“It’s rare that we have a student who stands out like her and is already knowing what she wants to do and is on that track,” she said. “She had an idea of what to say, so I told her to sit in front of a mirror and polish it.”

More often, Morgan said that students need reassurance, and start out by telling her about the classes they’re taking, not who they are and how school translates into life. She said after having a conversation with students, they learn to identify their strengths rather than just list their previous jobs or involvement in clubs.

“I spent a lot of time with students, helping them learn the value of interviewing. I told one student that he had great abilities, and to put a smile on his face and give what he does a positive twist. They need to learn to be a champion for themselves. Most just need to build self-confidence,” she said.

Previously, work-based learning coordinators brought in industry professionals to conduct interviews, but with COVID-19, they’ve limited interviewers to mostly those who work in schools. It also lends them to have more time talking to students individually. 

“Many of the students are very nervous heading into the interview,” Hillcrest High work-based coordinator Cher Burbank said. “Later that night, they go over the feedback and realize its value and it gives them a lot of confidence. We’re also teaching them networking skills by writing a thank-you to their interviewer and looking into the connections they’re making for their future.”

Teacher Lian Feng said that students are understanding more about their top careers as they research the responsibilities, a typical day, required education and salary, and present those to the class.  

“We’ve had students share about mechanical technology, shoe design, being a House (of Representatives) representative, a professional sports player, the Army,” she said. “It gets them thinking ‘do you know five, 10, 20 years what you’re going to do after graduation?’ Students begin thinking and planning and prepare themselves more and just don’t walk through school, but learn to take their education more seriously.”

The interviews are an important step in that planning.

“It’s essential they prepare more so when real-life opens a door, they won’t be scared,” Feng said.

Sophomore Alysa Evans “dressed for success” after researching about the firm she wanted to work for as a criminal justice lawyer before her mock interview.

“I tried to act natural, have positive body language and sell myself by answering all the questions clearly, but also I asked him questions,” she said. “He asked me if I saw myself as a leader or a follower, to tell him one word that describes myself, what qualities make me a good employee and about my career goals. Then, I asked him questions about the position and company.”

Evans interviewed with Millerberg.

“He told me about law and accounting, and suggested I study accounting, so I have an understanding about money; he had taken the LSAT and gave me advice. He was really helpful,” she said.

Millerberg said he interviewed six or seven students who were “some of the brightest and most intelligent kids with fun personalities and the brightest futures,” like Evans.

“I told her with white collar crime, following the money was imperative. She really asked some good questions,” he said. “She was just sharp.”

Overall, he was impressed with the students and their preparation.

“Most looked me in the eye, were articulate and confident; I would have hired them on the spot,” he said. “They told me their aspirations, their goals and were just passionate young adults who have their game plans for the future.”