Peggy Klaus asks Grace Institute students to envision a positive exchange.
by Staci Jo-Bruce
At Catholic Charities’ affiliate Grace Institute’s annual “Brag Party,” internationally known speaker, author, and self-proclaimed “Brag-ologist” Peggy Klaus this week taught a mostly female job-seeking audience that the word “Brag” does not have to be the dreaded four-letter word people make it out to be.
Yet Ms. Klaus was asked to put a “warning label” on this workshop, Grace Institute’s biggest event of the year.
Why? Because at various times during the workshops, participants participated in role- play exercises that pushed them to brag and pulled them out of their comfort zones.
But that was exactly the goal for the day.
“It only takes 7 seconds for someone to make a judgment about you,” exclaimed the 5’2” Klaus. “Don’t expect anyone to advocate for you. If you have a story to tell, tell it with passion. Tell it with excitement.”
During the half-day workshop, more than 100 volunteers worked alongside Grace Institute students to master that all-important (and often elusive) skill – communicating with confidence.
This was a key skill the low-income unemployed women studying at Grace Institute needed to master, said Grace Institute Executive Director Shari Krull.
“Grace Institute teaches the hard skills, the essential skills and skills to nurture the soul,” Ms. Krull said. “We give women the opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise- if they can’t do what is needed, they won’t get the job.”
Grace Institute, an affiliate of Catholic Charities, has been providing tuition-free job-training skills for women in New York City for more than 100 years. The program includes intensive computer, business writing and career development classes. It prepares students for interviews and draws on its extensive lists of employer contacts to arrange meetings and help the students find work.
Peggy, whose affect is a far cry from her diminutive stature, guided guests with a fun, high-energy, and motivational presentation. Volunteers and students worked together in pairs and groups to address two of the most difficult “soft skills” for women to master: the impostor syndrome and self-promotion.
Shinnel Simmons, Senior General Manager at Gap Inc., attended as a volunteer along with five Gap employees.
“Although we were here as volunteers to bring our experiences to this workshop, we also gained experience that we can use in our own work environment with our associates,” said Simmons.
The day ended with the entire room in a standing, Jerry Springer-esq ovation, shouting “Peg-gy. Peg-gy.”
Said Klaus passionately, “’Brag’ is a four letter word. But ‘love’ is also and you have to love yourself enough to brag.”
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