Like so many other things in life, stepping into a new situation can make a person anxious.

Recently, students at two Portland high schools battled their nerves before mock interviews with a group of volunteer HR professionals who visited their campuses just before the Thanksgiving holiday. When it was over, many realized the fear of the unknown was greater than the actual experience.

“I didn’t think I was completely ready,” one student confided. “I had butterflies.”

“I was feeling anxious, nervous,” said another. “I thought I was going to die.”

Afterward, it was a different story.

“I feel so much (more) confident and I was able to gain new experiences with this interview,” said a student named Sunshine.

“This interview made me think more about myself and my future,” said Holly A. “It made me think about my goals and it also made me think about how I’m going to get there.”

mock-interview-girl-pwa-expo-2016Their written comments were typical of the approximately 90 students who participated in mock interviews at Roosevelt and Benson high schools on Nov. 21-22 in Portland Public Schools.

The sessions were organized by educators and staffed by volunteers recruited by board members of the nonprofit Portland Workforce Alliance, in partnership with the Portland Human Resource Management Association. The explicit purpose was to boost students’ college-and-career readiness by giving them a chance to practice interviewing in a setting that simulates real life.

That’s important because written and oral communication skills are essential to developing a set of “soft skills” that enable students to succeed at school and on the job.  Employers tell us they value job and internship candidates who can communicate clearly, demonstrate creativity, exhibit problem-solving skills and work collaboratively or independently.

Here at Portland Workforce Alliance, we work with employers and schools to set up career-related learning experiences that help students acquire those skills. Throughout the school year, we help arrange mock interviews, job shadows, career days and after-school mentoring programs. We also help facilitate summer camps, internships and paid apprenticeships that expose teenagers to potential careers in construction, healthcare and the skilled trades, among others.

If you are an employer in the Portland metro area and not yet involved with PWA, please contact us to learn how you can begin investing today in your future workforce.

Photo note: The photo in this blog post was taken at the 2016 NW Youth Careers Expo, where more than 1,750 students participated in mock job interviews. Learn more here.

Goodbye butterflies. Hello, confidence.