Minority conference offers advice, networking

By Sandra Masibay

Buffet, banquet, raffle, keynote speaker, fashion show, businesses, colleges and universities—all were present at the fourth annual Ameritech Minority Conference Wednesday in Hoffman Estates.

About 40 students from NIU attended the conference with an additional bulk coming from 11 participating schools. The conference pooled together businesses and schools to benefit both company and students.

Don Ettinger, a representative from Argonne National Labs, said he came to the event to recruit students. “Students as a whole are having difficulty finding jobs. For minority groups, I suspect the situation is just as bad.”

Students benefit by networking and sharpening social skills. “I found it very worthwhile coming here. The representatives were very approachable and I put my networking skills to work,” said NIU student Dee Walker, a junior pre-business major.

The conference began with a registration process, the forms later used as raffle tickets for $100 certificates for school books. After dinner students handed out resumes and met other students from the diverse selection of schools.

Along with news on the outlook of certain job markets, practical interviewing techniques were shared. Answers to interview questions must be confident and concise, said Patrick Whelan, a representative from the Northern Trust Company.

After dinner, a fashion show displayed the appropriate attire in the workplace. The mood turned “talk-showish” as students were allowed to comment on the models’ attire.

IBM representative Shawn Galpore was among the three panelists chosen to elaborate on the “do’s and dont’s” of dress. “Earrings on men and nose-rings on women are totally unacceptable. Try to avoid the corn-rolls and weaves. Long nails are unacceptable,” Galpore said.

Every day at work is an interview process in which eyes are watching to consider or not consider everyone for management positions, Galpore said.

The night concluded with a speech from Robert Hurst, keynote speaker and president of the Ameritech corporation. “I don’t have a formula or convenient answers. What I do have, though, is five basic thoughts I would like to share with you,” he said. “There is no substitute for hard work. Distinguish yourself in the workplace by your accomplishment.

“There is an awful lot of unproductive, self-destructive behavior due to lack of confidence.”

Other advice included, “Learning is a lifelong experience. Be ‘coachable’ and give back to others. Right now you have something to offer, share it.”

Overall, much excitement generated from students, although the audience offered mixed reviews.

Jorge Lomeli, a senior information sytems major at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said, “I’m completely disappointed with what went on with this little fashion show. It’s supposed to be about career awareness. It turned into a free for all. I think I know how to dress! I could have stayed at home and did some homework.”

NIU conference coordinators included Collin Halliman, chair of the Student Association Minority Relations Committee, Frankie Benson, assistant director of admissions for the Educational Services and Programs, the Cooperative Education Program, the Organization of Black Business Students and the Organization of Latino American Students.