29 Jun

The World Traders invited inner city schools to a conference on the world of work, to help, inform and hopefully inspire the next generation.

We started with an inspirational talk by Sonita Alleyne OBE, the first woman Master of Jesus College, Cambridge who described her career from Barbados which has included time in insurance, jazz, journalism and now as Master of a prestigious Cambridge college.  She urged young people to be curious, to seize opportunities, not to be put off by setbacks, but to use the experience to learn, to “be the best you can”. She gave an example of when she had a job cutting up vegetables but was determined to ensure that they were ‘the best vegetables’.  She stressed the importance of good organisation, of meeting deadlines, of enthusiasm – and of enjoying yourself.

Michael Shapiro and Elisabeth Mainelli took us through communication and presentation skills, ably assisted by Rob Keller who had put together the slides and was watching from across the Atlantic (having risen at a very early hour to support the conference!) Preparation is key! Presentations should be 10 slides, 20 minutes and use font 30. Tell stories, smile, make eye contact and research your audience. Answer with honesty, never bluff and use humour and passion.

Ben Papé talked about preparing a personal statement and interview skills.  He stressed “You never get a second chance for a first impression”. Your statement should say things about your skills and experience, the sort of person you are.  At an interview, shake hands, look the interviewer in the eye, be friendly, be curious, as Sonita had stressed.  Do your preparation about the organisation.

Tukeer Hussein brought in Oscar, Charlotte and Chad, three young people who could share their experiences and were closer in age to our school audience. They told of the need for resilience and for broad interests. Charlotte advised the audience to list everything on your CV and then pick out the relevant parts for any job application. Preparation is key, once again, and will help to overcome nerves. Work out what you could give to the job, and what the job could do for you.

The final presentation came from Danny Kalman who stressed that “Diversity is reality; inclusion is choice”. We are surrounded by diversity and need to learn how to embrace inclusion.  A successful organisation is one which values everyone for the different skills and experience they can bring.  He challenged us to face up to our own bias.

Finally, the Master asked us to address what sort of person we wanted to be, what sort of life we expected to live. We should take our jobs seriously but ourselves not at all. All the speakers urged the young to grab opportunities and never to be too proud to do humble jobs. We should be a person of integrity.

This was an exciting and insightful morning which left us all with food for thought, and hopefully has helped our school children with ideas for ambition, aspiration and practical ideas for facing their futures. Our thanks go to Danny Kalman, Ben Papé and Robert Keller for all the preparation they put into the morning, to Sonita Alleyne for taking time in her busy life to educate and enthuse us, to Michael, Elisabeth, Tukeer, Oscar, Charlotte and Chad for their presentations and to Charlotte Wood for all her technical and background support. Thank you all.

Sue Garden