Program teaches students skills to succeed in business settings

By Jackson Stephens, Staff Writer

Imparting professional wisdom to students ready for the workplace was the purpose of last Wednesday’s personal and professional etiquette event from 2-4 p.m. in Fireside Hall.

Hosted by the college’s Career Services in conjunction with EOPS, CARE and CalWORKs this is part of a planned series of monthly workshops designed to educate students on what is expected of them in the professional world.

The presentation drew an audience of around 25 students from a variety of majors, as well as some faculty and staff.

Guest speaker and facilitator Ockemia Bean is a psychology major at Contra Costa College who has an extensive background in management. She has experience in multiple fields including human resources, coaching/training and finance.

Her goal was to impart key information that will help students thrive in both professional and social environments after the transition out of an academic one.

“There is a gap of knowledge missing in the education system about what to expect from employers, interviews and proper conduct in the workplace,” Bean said.

Those deficiencies are something Bean wants to help remedy.

A mixture of prepared PowerPoint notes, printed handouts, scenarios of workplace interactions and audience discussion were used to demonstrate how to be successful.

The event covered everything from the initial interview to getting a promotion.

The definition of etiquette in this context was explained as a set of manners appropriate to a certain place or situation.

One example Bean discussed, from “Modern Etiquette: The 10 Commandments of Business Behavior” by Mary Mitchell of Reuters, was not using inappropriate language, such as using profanity, with a supervisor.

Being aware of how to best communicate and foster relationships with co-workers and customers was a consistent theme throughout the discussion.

General rules of the workplace, such as the do’s and don’ts of what constitutes appropriate dress, from casual office wear to formal business attire, were shown and explained using visual comparisons.

While looking at examples of two applicants, audience members were asked which candidate they would hire if they had the power to do so.

Bean said a good rule is to avoid certain distractions such as wearing too much jewelry or wearing clashing colors. What an applicant wears should not only adhere to a company’s dress code, but it should also send a message to both bosses and customers of self-respect and confidence.

Bean has been in the position of hiring candidates and wants to ensure that students are aware of what interviewers and hiring committee members are looking for and what they discuss after meeting a candidate.

Good customer service is a part of good workplace etiquette. In a role-play between Bean and Career Services Coordinator Natasha DeAlmeida, the improper and then proper way of interacting with customers was demonstrated — namely paying attention, staying off the phone and addressing customers’ concerns politely, even when that customer is being rude.

Bean said how to best be considered for a promotion can first be determined by doing a self-evaluation. For example, just because someone has been in a position for a long time does not automatically qualify that person for a promotion. Part of that evaluation is tracking one’s accomplishments, re-examining one’s job description and getting feedback on where one can grow.

Bean said a number of ways to increase the chances of a promotion are being a team player, attributing credit to colleagues where it is due, finding a mentor/ coach, focusing on long-term goals and volunteering for additional tasks.

“Learning to get out of my comfort zone and how to not speak too strongly to bosses,” was the most important takeaway for student Briana Lopez. Attending the event for extra credit for Sociology 221, some new insights for her are how to dress formally and having a better understanding of professional etiquette.

The plan for this event and others like it, DeAlmeida said, is that the skills and etiquette lessons gained will help students’ chances of impressing potential employers during the 2019 West Contra Costa Career Fair held on campus in March. Approximately 40 employers will be in attendance.

Another resource she encourages students to explore, which is free and only requires a student I.D. to access, is, a platform that connects employers with potential candidates for jobs and internships.

DeAlmeida said that employers frequent the site and students are not taking full advantage of this opportunity.

Bean will be the speaker for next month’s Career Services event focusing on aligning a person’s passion for a career on Oct. 24 in Fireside Hall from 2-4 p.m.