Tasha Washington on Standing Out in a Crowd
At a recent staff gathering, when employees were coaxed into taking a multiple-choice pop quiz covering Stillman people, places and things, Tasha Washington was beyond prepared. While others were pleading for hints or, better yet, an answer key, Washington quickly aced the quiz and won an ipad.
A few of her miffed co-workers playfully grumbled that they too would have won a prize if only they had remembered the history of Birthright Alumni Hall, or known that Sama Mondeh was from Sierra Leone—not Nigeria! Although they eyed Washington’s ipad with envy, no one could deny that the zealous Director of Career Services/Orientation Teacher had earned her reward. After all, she even knew the species of grass covering the campus grounds.
In a modest manner that soothed the ruffled feathers of her crestfallen colleagues, Washington explained, “I learned the answers to most of the questions at the traditions ceremony.”
The 1998 Stillman graduate, who joined the staff in December, 2012, also admitted that she benefitted from a special “home court” advantage. During her student days, she was constantly reminded of the College’s rich history and traditions during convocation ceremonies and other programs and activities.
While having a pop quiz on her alma mater was certainly fortuitous, Washington doesn’t usually rely on luck to win. In fact, she has been known to enter competitions with such verve, determination and strategy that winning was often a foregone conclusion. In her college days, she was so competitive that she “stalked” her former employer until she secured a plum internship that eventually led to a job as Assistant Director of the West Alabama Community Traffic Safety.
This semester, Washington was one of 9 instructors selected to teach freshman orientation classes. In an effort to make classes both educational and fun, the instructors launched a competition to see who could best motivate his or her students to attend the Lady Tiger’s Volleyball Exhibition Match.
Fresh from her exhilarating ipad win, Washington promptly began strategizing for another victory. Using the method she teaches students to utilize when writing their resumes and preparing for job interviews, she thought instinctively of something that would make her freshmen stand out from the competition.
The day of the volleyball match, she and her students gathered secretly in the Batchelor Building. Tucked away in a room at the end of a long hall, several freshmen hovered over a conference table as they worked on a secret project. It was a covert but chipper gathering. The only thing brighter than their smiles was the collection of neon markers they sorted through as they worked.
“We’re making posters,” Washington whispered stealthily to a curious passerby who peeked into the room.
The freshmen look happy and relaxed, but it was already 4 p.m. Washington was a bit anxious. They needed to complete their posters in time for the volleyball match, which was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Knowing that her students needed to eat before the game, Washington looked relieved when they finished working and hurried to the cafeteria.
She took care of a few details in her office and headed to Birthright, where she and other orientation teachers sat on the bleachers waiting to see whose class would have the best turnout. Slowly, students began to drift in. Washington hoped her freshmen wouldn’t dally too long at dinner. Shortly after the game began and the Lady Tigers leapt into action, a smile spread across Washington’s face. Her students had arrived. The energetic crew entered the gym ready to win their own competition while also helping to spur the Lady Tigers on to victory.
To the surprise of other orientation classes, Washington’s freshmen began waving vivid posters decorated with the slogans “Go Tigers,” “Go Stillman Go,” and “Go. Fight. Win.” After a couple of orientation teachers playfully chided Washington for outdoing them with posters, everyone decided to get in on the fun. All of the classes gathered together to pose for photos as they cheered for the dynamic Lady Tigers, who won their match soundly and seemed to enjoy the extra encouragement from the stands. The instructors all had a great laugh about Washington’s head-turning maneuver as they conducted a casual headcount and agreed to call it a tie.
The teachers have scheduled numerous interclass competitions this semester, and Washington is working with her group to plot more surprises. Ironically, the “stand out” strategy she encouraged her freshmen to employ at the volleyball match is based on a philosophy Washington constantly teaches to students seeking career advice.
“What are you doing that makes you stand out? Everyone is from somewhere and everyone is majoring in something. What makes you unique? What will make employers remember you?” she asks often when helping students prepare for internships and job interviews.
Kayode Small, a sophomore Residence Hall Assistance, has found Washington’s advice on resume writing to be indispensible. “She has you write down things you do and the awards you’ve won. Then she goes through the list with you to pick out things that will help you to attract the eye of employers. There are some activities that almost everyone does. She helps to distinguish you from other applicants by picking out things that are unique about you,” he said.
Washington added that the way students dress, speak, and write also helps to distinguish them from others in a competitive job market. She offers workshops covering these and other topics related to careers, internships and employment.
On Thursday, September 12, Washington will host Building Your Professional Brands Workshop in the Stinson Auditorium at 6 p.m. Although she won’t be able to give away a free ipad, she promises to have a fun, informative and, of course, unique presentation.
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