Polly Sheppard has been on a mission since surviving the 2015 Emmanuel AME church massacre in South Carolina. If the killer spared the retired prison nurse in the hope that she would spread his message of gun-toting white supremacy, though, he must be grievously disappointed.In fact, the indefatigable septuagenarian has been delivering her own messages – and like many nurses, she is a very good communicator.
In the years following the notorious shooting, Sheppard crisscrossed the country to speak against gun violence. Then, once she accumulated enough speaker fees she poured her earnings into another passion and established her own Scholarship Foundation to support nursing students in Charleston. Now, as the seventh anniversary of the chilling church murders approaches, Sheppard is focusing on another initiative to reduce future bloodshed: this week she sent an eloquent appeal to South Carolina’s senate urging them to finally pass a hate crimes law.
“Being there, laying under the table with this gun to my head couldn’t be anything but hate.”
Like most hate crime laws, the proposed SC bill would add up to five years to prison sentences for any homicide or assault motivated by hatred of the victim’s race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or disability. Aside from Wyoming, South Carolina is the only state that has failed to pass some form of law against hate crimes, but the current bill has faced a steep uphill battle. At present eight SC senators are determined to see it expire… which is a painful irony as Emmanuel pastor Clementa Pinckney, a victim of the massacre, had been a senator himself. If the bill ends up on the table as a code blue, though, it won’t be due to inactivity on Sheppard’s part.
In a powerful two-minute video viewed by the senate on April 27, Sheppard addressed the recalcitrant senators. She mused on other ironies, asking some acute questions: “I really can’t understand them standing against a [hate] law, but they can pass a law to kill somebody a firing squad. They can take that to the floor, but they can’t bring the hate crime law to the floor… What’s the problem?” Sheppard also wondered “why South Carolina has to be the last, almost the last to get a hate crime law? Because we didn’t have it. We had to go to the federal government for (the AME killer) to be charged with a hate crime. It makes no sense.”
Sheppard reminded her audience: “Eight members of the South Carolina Senate are giving a safe haven to hate. Every time you look at senator Pinckney’s photograph, you should be reminded that hate killed him.”
The Advantages of Attending a “Virtual” Career Fair
A recent Forbes magazine article by Georgene Huang suggests that a virtual career fair (VCF) is as suitable for veterans as for novices. VCFs also allow great flexibility for nurses with family commitments, as you can work your way through the fair while the kids are asleep.
Also important, your physical appearance can’t affect first impressions one way or another (it’s up to you whether you choose to have face-to-face chats), so there can be a far more level playing field. And finally—very apropos for us—companies who are seeking to hire under-represented groups tend to be drawn to VCFs. “You may even be able to turn a virtual chat into an email conversation or phone screen interview if you handle the situation well,” Huang adds.
Rasmussen College suggests you prepare yourself before the fair, not AT the fair. Do research on the employers attending the VCF and compose some intelligent questions for them about their companies and open positions. Also, tune up your resume early; make sure it’s in the best possible shape for what you want to get from this particular virtual career fair.
And be sure to practice your “elevator speech” (a short and sweet account of who you are, where you’re from, the type of position you are seeking, and what you can bring to a company—all in the time span it takes to reach your floor in an elevator). Think about these points in advance of the fair so it is clear to employers that you’re well prepared and organized.
Make Your Best Impression on Employers
Just because it’s a virtual career fair don’t assume it’s okay to wear an old Tee-Shirt with uncombed hair and have your music blasting. And if you plan to engage in face-to-face chats with some employers, make sure the room you are working from is clean, quiet, and well-lit and that you are wearing professional attire (at least from the waist up!).
Also, choose your VCF device with care! A shaky hand-held phone (if your employer wants a face-to-face chat) is annoying and looks amateurish. If you can, use a laptop or a propped-up tablet instead.
At the Virtual Career Fair
Be calm and confident in yourself. Reach out to employers instead of hovering in the background. Offer your resume to employers, and make sure you receive contact information from them and ask about next steps—such as applications and interviews—before you leave.
When asking your carefully prepared questions or answering employers’ questions, stay on your toes and use standard professional grammar and spelling. Yes, you may be communicating via text chat, but careless typing, slang, and emoticons just aren’t suitable in this environment (another reason for wearing professional attire: with a businesslike blazer on your body instead of your favorite old PJs, it’s easier to operate in Professional Mode). When you engage in video chats, again keep in mind the importance of making a good impression: sit up straight and look your interlocutor in the eye as you speak.
After the Virtual Career Fair
Reach out to the contacts you made the next day after the fair. Thank them for their time, remind them that you are interested in working for them, send the link to your LinkedIn page, and remind them of what you can bring to their team.