By Colin Sisk
Over 100 Pitt student-athletes participated in the second of three Professional Etiquette Training Series events on Wednesday, November 19th at the Petersen Events Center. The Series, put together by Cathy and John Pelusi Family Life Skills Program, is designed to help prepare student-athletes for their entrances into careers, with Wednesday's event focusing on business communication and networking skills.
"This particular program has evolved several times since its inception, and we've done that because we wanted to keep up to date with where our student-athletes are," said Director of Life Skills Lisa Auld. "Tonight we wanted to take it back to basics in terms of how to network and what skills our student-athletes will need to be able to begin their professional success while still with us here at Pitt. Networking isn't always about a job, but 75% of jobs are found through networking or hidden networks, so it is a critical skill."
The evening was divided into two breakout sessions, both of which allowed the student-athletes in to hone their skills and learn new tricks. The student-athletes were given insights into impromptu networking and first impression management in one session, with the other session focused on the "elevator pitch" designed to spark interest and further networking opportunities in diverse settings.
The impromptu networking and first impression management session was focused on mastering the art of the handshake and handling chance conversation in social settings to advance their ambitions. Lisa Auld, Director of Life Skills and Vicki Vernet, Coordinator of Life Skills guided student-athletes through various social settings, emphasizing what were and were not appropriate topics of conversation, and how to make a quick but lasting first impression with an appropriate handshake and introduction. The session allowed for the student-athletes to work with their peers on developing those skills, and provided key information about how to effectively use online professional social networks such as LinkedIn to their benefit.
"Knowing how to use online professional social networks well is something that wasn't really on my radar, and that is really valuable," said Jenna Jacobson, junior member of the Volleyball team. "Plus, focusing on little things when you first meet someone and when you're trying to make that connection focuses your efforts, and that's big."
The elevator-pitch session was guided by Penny Semaia, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student Life and Abbey Beatson, Life Skills Intern, and helped student-athletes understand how to best craft an image of themselves for happenstance meetings that could lead to professional development or advancement. After learning about what some of the core elements of the elevator pitch should be, the student-athletes were able to try out their best ideas with each other, oftentimes learning something new about their peers that they hadn't known before.
"I had never really thought about how important something like an elevator pitch can be in terms of finding professional opportunities down the road," said Pat Quirin, junior member of the Football team. "Getting to test out different ideas with fellow-student athletes allowed me to both hone my skills and connect with some of my peers, which was a valuable part of the evening."
At the conclusion of the event, the student-athletes were given a business communication and networking resource guide, so that they could have both a ready reference guide for the evening's tips, and could read further about some of the topics that were covered briefly in the program. With topics including strategies to reduce nervousness, how to understand non-verbal body language cues, and what words can be used to emphasize confidence and other key personality traits, the guide was full of high-value information.
"Relationships become a part of your personal brand, and 80% of a person's opinion about you is made within the first thirty seconds of meeting you, so the skills developed through this event are critical," said Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student Life Penny Semaia. "The seeds that student-athletes plant through networking will serve them well throughout their careers."
The mission of the Cathy & John Pelusi Family Life Skills Program is to develop and prepare student-athletes for success while in college and for life after college, utilizing academic, athletic and community resources. The Cathy & John Pelusi Family Life Skills Program continues to expand its commitment to the offerings and opportunities in academic and athletic achievement, career development, community service, leadership development, and character and personal development.
To keep up-to-date with the work of Pitt student-athletes in the Life Skills program, follow the program on Twitter or Instagram at their handle @PittLifeSkills, or through their Pitt LifeSkills Facebook Account.
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