Saturday, August 8, 2009

In front of the room: teaching interviewing skills

Krystal Valentin '12 and Marion Smallwood (UPenn '12), alumni of SJP, conduct a mock interview for this summer's SJP students  (Photo credit: Brian Rokus '99).
By Marion Smallwood (Philadelphia, PA)        

Exactly two years ago, it was me sitting in the back of Friend 009, eating chips and talking about my feature story with anyone that would listen--it wasn’t Vanessa Flores-Maldonado from Los Angeles, California. It was me just beginning my Op-Ed piece the Friday before The Princeton Summer Journal was due to publish and not doubting in the least bit my ability to finish on time--now it’s Reem Abdou from Fort Lee, New Jersey. 

I see a little bit of myself in each of the students in SJP this summer. I see myself two years ago, wide-eyed yet scared, curious but at times afraid to ask, and wondering how on earth I was going to make it through what would turn out to be one of the best years of my life -- senior year of high school.  

I am walking back and forth from Friend and Scully, eating the same thing three times a day and jerking myself out of slumber in the midst of a guest speaker’s spiel on journalism. I am doing the same things I did during those ten amazing days during the summer of 2007, then a student in the program and now a counselor. 

Today my duties as a counselor were finally put into play. At 10:30 this morning, the students filed into Friend 109 for the How To Find A Journalism Internship workshop, including commentary from Natalie and Tasnim, Mike and Krystal, and myself. I led the discussion on college interviews, starting with a mock interview in which I did precisely the things one shouldn’t do while speaking with a potential employer. A lack of eye contact, interest, knowledge and manners were among the characteristics I very ungracefully acted out. 

The students, while clearly exhausted after returning from an SAT review session, were still very attentive. We held a discussion about the do’s and don’ts of interviewing and ended the workshop with a mock interview in which I acted as a good example of what should happen during the interview process, or so I thought. Apparently, I said ‘um’ too much and I didn’t answer a few of the questions thoroughly. I was at least happy to know that they learned something from me today, even if they made that clear by pointing out my mistakes. 

It was strange standing in front of the students leading part of a workshop and its even stranger sitting among them right now, surrounded by a bustling newsroom, writing a blog instead of an article and thinking of how exactly two years ago, it was me sitting in the back of Friend 009. 

--Smallwood is a counselor at the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program and rising sophomore at UPenn. 

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