Professional conference prepares students for jobs

Courtesy Photo / GVSU News & Information Services

Dominos Brandon Solano speaks at the Student to Professional Conference

Courtesy Photo / GVSU News & Information Services Domino’s Brandon Solano speaks at the Student to Professional Conference

Ellie Phillips

Brandon Solano, head chef and vice president of Development for Domino’s Pizza, told students Friday at Grand Valley State University’s 2013 Student to Professional Conference that, “what someone does builds upon what they’ve already done.”

Though many people may not recognize him by name, they’re likely to recognize him by his face — he’s in all of the restaurant’s commercials.

Solano is a GVSU alum, which is why he came to the conference sponsored by the Herman Miller Company. He worked for Proctor and Gamble, Hershey’s, Kellogg and Coca-Cola before he began at Domino’s. Solano spearheaded the effort to take Domino’s pizza from being, according to taste tests, on par with pizza from Chuck-E-Cheese’s to the pizza that it is today.

“I wanted to see a commercial made,” he said. “Never thought I’d be in one.”

Solano shared his journey from the child of a single mother living in Flint to being the vice president of a major company. Using his own experiences as examples, Solano impressed upon the listening attendees that the rest of their lives are built upon the foundations they’ve created in college. He emphasized this point by talking about how he almost lost his full scholarship due to having a 1.3 GPA his first semester at GVSU. The next semester, he brought that number up to 4.0.

He also made a point to tie in his faith with his story.

“There’s no way this happens without God,” he said.

Though Solano was the keynote speaker of the day, many other individuals were present from various companies and corporations. These individuals directed groups of about 15 students each and taught them strategies involved in leaving the student world behind and becoming a young professional.

In these smaller workshops, students learned how to give a proper handshake, write a good resume, use LinkedIn to network and find jobs, give a ‘30 second commercial’ of themselves when meeting someone and other career-related skills.

Sean Huddleston of GVSU’s Intercultural Training department gave advice on interviewing to students during an opening large-group presentation.

“You need to make sure that you under-sell and over-deliver (yourself),” Huddleston said.

He learned this lesson when he was hired for his first professional job after lying in the interview. The time to prove his skills came the first day, and since he’d had no time to learn the program that he said he could teach to other employees, he left the job at lunchtime without telling anyone.

His mistake, Huddleston said, is one students should learn from and not make themselves.

Jennifer Maxson of Varnum Consulting outlined rules for shaking hands, and another workshop leader, Sandy Swanson, gave resume advice.

Alexis Howard, a recruiter for St. Mary’s Health Care and one of the workshop leaders, advised students to identify their goals before going into an interview.

“If you don’t know what you’re looking for you probably won’t find it,” Howard said.

Graduate student Molly Thompson said she benefited from the conference.

“The event had many great presenters who gave helpful advice that can be applied in preparation for graduation,” she said.

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