NEW YORK -- On Wednesday, Major League Baseball’s Black Professionals Business Resource Group (BRG) welcomed a class of high school students from the Business of Sports School (BOSS) to the Office of the Commissioner for a day of career development.
The BRG, whose mission is to foster dialogue and action around cultural issues impacting the black community within MLB and beyond to create a culture of inclusivity, held a series of mock interviews for the seniors from BOSS, a specialized Manhattan school based on a Career & Technical Education (CTE) model, as part of their Virtual Enterprise (VE) program sequence.
Michael Valdes, one of the BRG’s co-presidents along with Sarah Barnes, said the partnership between the two groups came about naturally as the BRG’s community relations and career development committees sought out opportunities to make connections with young people from a minority background who were interested in working in the field.
“We were really looking for ways to get involved locally with organizations that would allow us to improve the quality of that external organization, but would also allow us to improve the skills of our own MLB employees here,” Valdes said. “Through local contacts, we were able to establish a relationship with the BOSS school, and we thought it made sense to create this event where we would be able to improve the skills and help educate some of the high school seniors on things that will serve them well in their future professional pursuits.”
The session began with the students and employees in separate rooms, attending half-hour presentations led by representatives from MLB’s Human Resources Department on how to be prepared for each side of the interview process. For the employees -- the interviewers -- that meant reviewing ways to warm up a candidate, determine their behavioral traits and set the agenda. For the students -- the interviewees -- it meant learning appropriate attire, proper etiquette and resume building.
When the two groups came together, Tony Reagins, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball and softball development, had the honor of introducing the BOSS students to the company’s headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. He took the opportunity to share wisdom from his nearly three-decade-long career in the sports industry, most notably that first impressions are everything, and what you say first and last in an interview could make a difference when it comes to getting a desirable job.
“It is extremely important for us as the BRG to give back,” Reagins said. “This is a piece of us doing that -- paying it forward. [We’re] giving you guys an opportunity to learn what we do in this short window, but also learning a lot about you as individuals. … You never know who’s watching you, so take this opportunity to learn, get feedback and grow, because this could be the beginning of something very special.”
Each of the 25 students were paired with an MLB employee who volunteered to conduct a 15-minute mock interview with them, based on a job description from a variety of career pathways, such as sales, accounting, social media and executive leadership. The employee then spent another 10 minutes providing direct feedback about the student’s performance, and later filling out a graded rubric that evaluated first impressions, strength of resume/cover letter, professional dress, general attitude, content of answers and speaking ability.
The students then rotated and went through the process again with a new employee, allowing them to make a second impression and hear a second opinion. While the feedback they received was for personal purposes, there was also a competitive angle, as the two students who scored the highest on the rubric won a collection of prizes.
Clarence Tennell, the school’s CTE Business Chair, said the event, now in its second year, has become a valuable tool for the students to gain experience presenting themselves in a professional environment.
“It’s taken on a life of its own,” Tennell said. “It’s a wonderful event for our kids, not only to prepare for job interviews but a lot of them are going through the college process and will have to do interviews with admissions counselors, so it’s preparing them for that next step as well.
“It’s a great start to the school year. Kids come back in that summer mode and aren’t really focused, but to have something that’s so early in the school year gets them settled in: ‘OK, this is my senior year, these are the things that I need to accomplish, and this is the right way to get started.’”
After the mock interviews, the students and employees had lunch together and took advantage of the informal setting to ask questions and engage in more depth. During that time, Barnes announced the two winners of the competition, both of whom managed a perfect score in at least one of their interviews. Significantly, they were both young women.
“[Sports] always seems to be a male-dominated industry and we don’t have a large female student population,” Tennell said. “But for our young ladies to get out and see our industry partners and see how they still have those opportunities if they want to be involved in the sports industry and to see people of color and women in this industry really play an important part, it gives them that incentive, that motivation: ‘I can do that as well.’"
BOSS assistant principal Rosa Choi added that confidence is part of the organization's goal for all the students with this partnership with MLB and the Black Professionals BRG.
“For our students to know and see people that look like them and to understand, ‘Oh yes, I can have a seat at that table,’ that means a lot,” Choi said.