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The Life of a STEP-UP Intern

I am Brian L. Townsend and I am a rising senior at the Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences. Currently, I am a STEP-UP intern at the Public Education Foundation. Now you probably have no idea what STEP-UP Chattanooga is, but luckily you have me to explain it to you.

Background: STEP-UP Chattanooga is a relatively new program added to the Public Education Foundation’s (PEF) initiative. It was formed about two years ago and I was a part of the first group to be enrolled. My classmates and I learned about it when Stacy Lightfoot- Vice President of College & Career Success-visited our school to inform us about the program. It sounded like a great opportunity so I wanted to learn more.

Goal: The goal of STEP-UP Chattanooga is to connect low-income teens to employers of local businesses. Hence the name STEP-UP, they give students a hand up, an opportunity, to work as an intern at some of the many public and priv

ate local businesses in and around the Chattanooga area.

When I first joined STEP-UP, I thought it would get be a good opportunity to get a summer job, but I soon came to learn that the program was about more than just getting a job. The concept behind STEP-UP is to train high school students on what to expect and how to conduct themselves in a job setting.

The STEP-UP Process:

Work-readiness Training: The first thing that is required in order to be a STEP-UP intern is to receive work-readiness training. I personally didn’t know what to expect because I already felt I was ready to enter the workforce, but after the training I learned that there are many layers involved in making sure a person is ready to enter the workforce. All of the training was helpful and educational but the one thing that I found most interesting was the body language session.

I learned that body language is a major key in making a good first impression. Knowing how to introduce yourself is an important skill that everyone needs to perfect before you enter the workforce. Of course, wearing the proper clothing is mandatory, but it’s not the only thing that employers are looking for. I was surprised to learn that your tone of voice, your posture, and even the volume of your voice is just as important as your appearance. Your body language actually speaks louder than you what you verbally say. If you have bad posture, fidget, or avoid eye contact, employers might feel that you are nervous or have something to hide, and that’s not the impression you want to give out. You want to make sure you speak slowly and clearly with honesty and self-confidence. This will ensure that you are making the right impression. It was also fascinating to see how our body language was evaluated from the employer’s perspective. I was surprised to learn that it was more often the single most important determining factor whether you get a call back or not.

Mock Interviews: Once we have received job-readiness training, we start the process of how to conduct ourselves during a job interview. STEP-UP is meticulous in training us through every aspect in order to be prepared for a successful interview. During the mock interview, our interviewer asked questions based off of our resume. The STEP-UP staff spends an enormous amount of time helping us to perfect our resume because it is the first step to building a good impression. Your resume is imperative to getting your foot in the door, so they give us valuable tips on how to write a resume from start to finish.

The Matching Process: After all students complete their mock interviews and receive feedback, the STEP-UP staff starts the tedious process of matching applicants up with employers for an interview. During this process, STEP-UP attempts to match each student with an employer that they feel the student will have the most success. Matching is not the easiest thing in the world because not everyone can get exactly want they want. Only 150 students will be placed into one of 75 companies participating in the program, so it is not guaranteed that you will get a job under STEP-UP.

STEP-UP Chattanooga is a phenomenal program that is helping Chattanooga become a greater city. It is a wonderful opportunity for students to gain valuable work experience and it is a great way for employers to find much needed qualified workers. I kept my faith in STEP-UP and they kept their faith in me. So join along on this life-changing experience and you will not regret it.

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