Sophomore Taylor Durland checked into the Westin Hotel on Friday afternoon to take part in Q-Camp, a two-day business seminar held Jan. 28-29 for a select number of Robins School of Business students.
He obtained his room key from the front desk and headed for his room. But when he opened the door, the scene wasn't what he expected.
"I was assigned a roommate, but there was only one bed," Durland said. "There was already luggage in the room, and cardboard boxes filled with ribbons."
Minutes later, Durland received a call from the hotel asking if the room met his expectations. He described the situation and was asked to return to the front desk.
"The hotel explained to me that it was a test set up by Shelley Burns," he said. Burns, director of career programs in business for the Robins School, said in her introduction in one of the hotel's ballrooms that Durland treated the situation properly by keeping his cool.
"Almost all of my friends in the business world have encountered a similar situation," Burns said. "It's something you have to know how to handle."
Bloomburg Businessweek ranks the Robins School as the 15th best undergraduate program in the country, but Q-Camp sponsor Paul Queally, RC '86, said that it takes more than skills learned in the classroom to be successful in the business world.
"It takes emotional intelligence," Queally said. "You have to know how to dress, how to work a room and how to make an elevator pitch."
Four years ago when Queally started Q-Camp, 18 students took part in the event that he fully funds. Since then, demand has grown each year. This year, 83 students were selected out of a pool of 168 applications.
The event featured speakers who shared their views on how to land the right job. Patti Carey, founder and president of Workforce Strategies LLC, a Richmond-based company that focuses on communication skills and leadership, discussed the proper business handshake.
"You don't want to give people the wet fish, the vice grip, the fingertip grab, the pump handle or the bone crusher," Carey told the giggling Q-Campers. "You should make eye contact and give a firm handshake. Identity becomes your destiny in the business world."
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She noted that 1.5 million students are projected to graduate in the class of 2013. Soft skills, things such as a handshake and attitude, can make the difference for students hoping to get good jobs, she said.
"A lot of times what people think are leadership problems are just communication problems," Carey said.
Jack Reagan, RC '89 and partner in the audit practice of KPMG LLP in Washington, D.C., talked about the recruiting process being a game that students need to know how to play.
Reagan said that he handed out 30 business cards to students at Friday night's etiquette dinner, but before he spoke on Saturday, he did not receive any follow-up emails from the students.
"How many of you sent texts or emails to your friends from you smartphones last night," he asked the room full of students. "It's amazing to me that people don't follow up. [Business companies] are handing out $60,000 a year jobs like PEZ candy."
On of the students in the crowd was Jessica Bailey, a senior from Sharps, Va., who attended Q-Camp in 2009. This year she was one of the six Q-Camp Peer Ambassadors that served as organizers for the event.
"I didn't get a lot of what Q-Camp has to offer through the business school," Bailey said. "There's so much that you can't get in a classroom that you can get in a business conference."
Bailey, who has accepted an offer to become a staff auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC after graduation, said she saw students using the networking skills they learned from Q-Camp immediately.
"There was a student that talked all weekend about how interested he was in the Martin Agency," she said. "After a vice president of the Martin Agency spoke, the student made a beeline through all the other students to talk to him. The student invited [the VP] to sit with him at dinner on Saturday night and handed him his business card. He had gained so much confidence."
Contact staff writer Zak Kozuchowski at email@example.com
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