Students Learn Why “It’s All About the Handshake”

A well-attended, interactive Career Services workshop made a big impression on students

On Tuesday, May 16, Career Services held a workshop entitled “It’s All About the Handshake.” The presenter, Bernadette Cipriani-Major, BBA, CMA, captivated the students, staff, and faculty with her interactive presentation.

Cipriani-Major is president and owner of ABC&D Consultants, which recruits personnel for medical offices and facilities in the Orlando area. She has trained and developed over 4,000 adult learners and managed instructors across seven programs, as a Medical Assistant Instructor, Program Director, and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. Cipriani-Major also founded a leadership program at a local college that won an honorable mention from President Obama for the past 4 years.

At Tuesday’s event, in addition to the 15 instructors and staff members in attendance, there were more than 55 students, representing the Medical Assisting program, the Cardiovascular Sonography program, the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program, Dental Assisting, and Medical Billing and Coding. “I could tell that everyone was extremely engaged,” says Kimberly Burns, MBA, Director of Career Services, “because every student stayed for the entirety of the program.”

Burns says that Cipriani-Major, whom she’s known both personally and professionally for close to two decades, spoke about the importance of teamwork and working on “soft skills,” such as demonstrating confidence and building relationships. Herself a certified medical assistant, Cipriani-Major shared how she “holds that skillset near and dear” to her heart, as well as her memories of starting out at the bottom of the ladder as a medical assistant and working her way up. She on what employers look for and emphasized to students the importance of externships, clinical experience, completing their program, and obtaining certification.

The presentation was highly interactive, and when it came time to talk about the importance of the handshake—and what it tells a prospective employer about you—she drew upon some examples she’d encountered in that room just that morning, when she’d greeted some students individually before her presentation. She talked about the perils of certain handshakes that make the wrong impression in a professional context, such as the quick “drive by” handshake, as well as the less than desirable “pumping gas” technique.

The workshop involved students in a number of role-playing activities, focused around networking skills, how to market yourself, and how to convey confidence. Burns described one particularly helpful exercise in which students practiced approaching a prospective employer at a networking event. Students learned from their mistakes, such as being too abrupt or interrupting the employer’s conversation. Others received direction on how to stand patiently to the side, make eye contact, and wait for an appropriate moment to approach and initiate a conversation. Cipriani-Major also discussed the importance of being clear, polite, direct, and to-the-point once students did have the opportunity to make that networking connection.

She also advised students on more practical matters of networking, such as always having either a business card or a pen and paper handy—even in the pocket of your scrubs, if necessary. At the end of the workshop, participants each took home a bag that Career Services had put together, which included—conveniently—a pocket-sized note pad, pen, and a mint. The bags were labeled “Future Graduate” and featured the ACMC logo.

Burns, who has only been at ACMC for five weeks, also took the opportunity at the workshop to introduce students to her Career Services staff. This includes new staff member Jessica Feliciano, a registered Medical Assistant who serves as ACMC’s Externship Coordinator, as well as Career Services Advisor America Schenker.

Staff, faculty, and students had a range of positive reactions to the event, including:

“I would love to work for Ms. C!”
“This was amazing, thank you!”
“This was inspiring and right on target.”
“The presentation was very informative—a breath of fresh air and very realistic.”

This article is part of the weekly blog of the American College for Medical Careers in Orlando, FL. For more about all of our various professional training programs, please visit us online.