Friday, August 26, 2011

Cohort Four's Cara Eichorn's graduation speech

Cara Eichorn, a member of LA Fellows Cohort Four was chosen by her fellow participants to give a "class perspective" about her experience in the LA Fellows Program in a speech at graduation and Cara has generously allowed us to post a copy of her speech here on the blog: 

Good Morning – Los Angeles Valley College Job Training team, our esteemed instructors, members of participating non-profits, distinguished guests, friends and families of the LA Fellows and to LA Fellows Cohort #4.

Before I get into the heart of what I'd like to share, a heartfelt thank you is extended to the Job Training staff, faculty and administration of LAVC and program partners for conceiving, creating, and implementing the LA Fellows program.

My name is Cara Eichorn and I am proud to be an LA Fellow. I am immensely grateful to be here and to represent Cohort #4.

To start, I'd like to read a quote that resonates deeply within me from Moliere. (Mole E Air) "It is not what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable." This ties in directly with my belief about responsibility for all of my actions. Moreover, the role of accountability helps me stay in integrity with my good intentions.

Establishing an open support system, communicating openly, being vulnerable, showing empathy, and establishing trust happened quickly and seamlessly for our group. Let me share a story that is very powerful that illustrates these ideals.

On Day 2 of our program, we were asked to stand up and tell the class who we are, what field we were in and what we were looking to do next. Everyone with some level of nervous anticipation, including yours truly, stood up, shared and sat down. Then, it was Matt's turn. He started, was on a roll and then it got unquestionably quiet in the room. He was at a roadblock and was doing his best to filter and process what he planned on saying. As one could imagine, if a pin were dropped, it would have sounded like a blaring horn. In the next moment, Matt was getting emotional and the room was absolutely silent, doing our best to give him the space he needed. We knew as a group--that this was a pivotal moment for Matt and ultimately for the entire class. After a period of silence, Victor showed empathy by sharing some things he had learned about Matt. This gave Matt an opportunity to regain his composure and for him to realize he was in a supportive environment. Then, Matt finished what he had to say in an eloquent style. This one example set a precedent and a foundation which opened the group up to being vulnerable, including Alicia who made a point when she shared to personally thank Matt, as this allowed her to share opening and freely. The tone was set--LA Fellows Cohort #4 was off and the fast lane.

Throughout our entire job search journey, we have shared many personal and professional stories through our course materials. We have learned about a multitude of different topics, including, advanced job search techniques, career growth, and volunteerism. All of us worked and have re-worked our resumes and cover letters, ad nausea, so that these documents would stand out favorably and get us the interview. And ultimately, the goal was and is to differentiate ourselves from our competition. Before the interview, we practiced answering interview questions as a class and even had a few mock interviews. These prepared the "lucky" ones who chose to participate in the mock interviews and hopefully gave them another dose of confidence. It was suggested to have 30 stories ready to tell, as these stories would most likely answer many interview questions that we could be asked during an interview.

The program was designed to thoroughly cover these topics and many others to give us a plethora of resources to use in order to have a potential advantage in this job market. As each classroom module was learned, we each gained more confidence and the knowledge that we could do “it”, whatever the "it" was. Through hands-on collaborative exercises to working independently, we each had a chance to test drive our new knowledge base.

In short, our class had a fun time learning new material. Often times, we were motivated or inspired to change our behavior or “conventional” way of thinking. In fact, come to think of it, we were often challenged to think and do things differently which was a breath of fresh air for many of us. We definitely had quite a few laughs and sometimes a few tears. Interestingly enough, the laughter would happen spontaneously when one least expected laughter to erupt. One hysterical example comes to mind is when we were asked to select a theme song that keeps our attitude upbeat and positive when we’re headed off to an interview. Rosie enthusiastically announced “Brick House.” The entire group was caught off guard and burst out in roars of laughter. Once again, our expectations, or at least mine were put in check---quite quickly.

Through applying skills that were reinforced through the LA Fellows program, it helped me land a consulting role with VCA Animal Hospital. Incidentally, VCA is one of my target companies. I am proud to say that I am passionate about my new role in training customer service to their IT department, so I am very eager to make a contribution that will impact their morale and their bottom line.

Concurrently, I will be doing my internship with the Los Angeles Valley Foundation, located right here on campus. My main focus will be to raise funds for the President's Circle initiative which provides funds for academic scholarships and other Foundation events. Who knows....some of you who are present today, may receive a phone call from me, so kindly, please take my call. It is for a great cause.

For all of us, we know this is the beginning and not the end. We have heard this all before, although now this statement probably resonates more loudly and with greater sincerity. I am elated we all have been on the same bus for our journey. The “bus” analogy does come into play once again. There have been many stops along the way and rest assured, there will be many more. Now, each of us is faced with knowing that the LA Fellows bus is heading to the main station for re-fueling, in anticipation that there will be a Cohort #5. Although I am very loyal to Cohort #4, we are breaking barriers, being fearless, rebuilding our confidence levels, and most of all, we are being vulnerable and willing to go the extra mile -- to land our next job. I sincerely wish everyone the best on your journey. I am rooting for you and I know you are rooting for me.

It is now time to board another bus, as the job search journey continues for many of us. Remember to take proactive action steps, to stay on course, and to remain positive with a stellar attitude. Now, we each must ask ourselves, “What is next?” For some, this answer will be simple and intuitive; for others, time is of the essence and Cohort #4 as well as the rest of the LA Fellows extended family is here to help.

I would like to leave you with the following quote by Gilda Radner. She said: “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I have learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

It has been an honor to be one of the speakers for Cohort #4. Thank you and I will see some of you on the next bus.

Cara Eichorn

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