BBB: Ambitious job seekers offer valuable lessons

SUNDAY, FEB. 19, 2012

Email rescues me from multiple phone calls every day. Texting saves even more time: “I’m running late” or “Can you talk?” are quick updates that eliminate the need to go all the way to another office or pick up the phone. So, I seldom actually talk to my husband during the day.

But earlier this year I was on the phone with him finalizing some details when someone knocked on his office door at the Entrepreneur Center. He moved his cellphone away from his face to talk with her, but I could still hear. She was looking for an internship in public relations. He explained that as a one-man band, he did not have such a spot for her. I began yelling into my phone trying to get his attention and finally succeeded. I am good at that; sometimes it takes doing.

Back to his visitor, Olga. The BBB was looking for an intern in PR and marketing. We love interns; they stretch us, question us and give us a link to our future customers. So when Tobby finally realized what I wanted, he handed the phone to her and I expressed the BBB’s interest in finding the right intern. I told her one of my staff would be in touch, finished my call with Tobby and went back to work. But, wow, talk about her being in the right place at the right time.

The BBB interviewed several interns. But Olga did not wait for our call. She visited the BBB offices the following day and scheduled the interview. Olga stood out as exceptional and showed her deep motivation to find real-life experience in her field of choice. How many people actually go out in person to obtain their goals? A lot fewer than those who sit by their email boxes waiting for a reply or a new job posting.

Three things made Olga stand out, and anyone looking for a job or promotion could take lessons from her:

• She did extensive research on the web to see who we are and what we do. She knew about the leadership team, our strategic goals, our big service area, and the BBB’s 100-year history.

• Somewhere along the line she learned interview skills. The lack in other young interviewees was amazing. Olga was comfortable talking about herself, her skills and what she wanted from this internship.

• In the interview and during the calls to schedule it, she listened and asked intelligent questions. While that may seem very basic, other college students did not exhibit such abilities.

But frankly she started with a leg up just because of her tenacity and drive. It is a whole lot more fun to go into a project with someone who really wants to be part of it. Dragging some unfocused, uninterested applicant into a position is painful for everyone.

Olga is from Kazakhstan and so eager to learn. I do not want to stereotype, but in the last several years I have been working with Associated Industries as one of the screeners of scholarship applications. The generous Bright Promise Program focuses on nontraditional community college and Eastern Washington University students who are often not eligible for other awards. In my experience, non-American-born students have presented the best work in their application packages. New citizens like Olga make many of us look, well, lazy.

The original American Dream took focus, work and drive to achieve. Have we lost touch with that ethic? Are we getting too used to having things handed to us? Knowing how to work for a goal is essential to the success of today’s youth … and of our country.

Jan Quintrall is president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at

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