Guest blogger Paul Saltz shares his Competitive Edge experience. Saltz is an alumnus of the Alpha Rho Epsilon Chapter at Columbus State Community College in Ohio. He served three terms as a chapter officer, including chapter president, and two terms as an Ohio regional officer, and he was an International Officer candidate in 2012.
Since being the first in the Ohio Region to complete the Five Star Competitive Edge program, I have been an advocate for the program and credit the skills I have learned for my current professional success.
My first job I landed as I was finishing my AA was because of my skills at running meetings. I was attending a Model UN event and ended up being asked to chair one of the high school level committees due to the hosts being short handed. My Phi Theta Kappa experience taught me how to run a proper meeting. The President of the United Nations Association was so impressed that he hired me on to run their office and Model UN program in their Columbus Chapter.
I landed my current position as Project Manager for Grants and Development for the Columbus International Program because our offices used to be right next door to each other, so they saw my work first hand. But I credit the soft skills in business etiquette, project planning, leading a team, and the technical writing practice in writing Hallmarks [Awards entries] that I have been able to excel in my work. As part of a small staff, we all manage the university interns who come to learn and gain experience.
Working with volunteers in Phi Theta Kappa taught me how to keep interns motivated and excited about even the smallest of tasks. My soft skills have taught me how to handle important development meetings for the purpose of gaining the trust of donors and building new working partnerships.
The practice in technical writing and project management I gained through the Honors in Action Program and writing Hallmark entries is what I credit for writing an approved U.S. State Department grant for over $93,000. It was the first independently awarded federal contract in my employer’s 42-year history.
I credit the skills I learned through Phi Theta Kappa and the Five Star Competitive Edge program for writing the winning proposal, negotiating the final contract with the Department of State, and managing the entire project from initial design to final reporting, including the fiscal management of the project. Project tasks included setting the two-week itinerary of meetings, all logistics including international travel between China and the U.S., lining up volunteer host families, and guiding the Chinese delegation through the two weeks of meetings, including members of Congress and federal agencies.
There are not many who can say they’ve managed a federal contract and was a key player in international citizen diplomacy, and I thank Phi Theta Kappa and the Five Star Competitive Edge program for ensuring I had the skills to make the society and our country proud.
Competitive Edge is Phi Theta Kappa’s online course for soft skills development and career planning. The self-paced and self-guided program is available year-round to all Phi Theta Kappa members, advisors and alumni.