One glance at Milton Straham III’s resume is all it takes to see that he’s a go-getter.
Since graduating from Genesee Early College in 2014, he’s earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting as well as an MBA. For the last year or so, he’s been working for a major accounting firm, and on the entrepreneurial side, he has launched two businesses of his own. That includes Straham Consulting, which provides business management, nonprofit program management and college coaching services, and Millennial Tax, which specializes in tax returns for both corporate and individual clients.
From his perspective, a good grasp on soft skills has been key to his success – which he credits, in part, to the lessons he learned through TeenQuest.
“TeenQuest was a great starting point,” Straham says. “It helped me build a professional acumen that, as I progressed through high school, continued to improve. It’s good to have those kinds of skills in your pocket.”
Below, he talks more about the importance of soft skills and taking initiative.
You worked throughout college. Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had.
I was a peer academic advisor for UM-Flint’s School of Management. I was responsible for assisting business students with admissions while also providing course counseling. It was a big role that enhanced my communication skills which I use often in my consulting business.
Due to my flexible college schedule, I was able to work as a substitute teacher for the Flint Community Schools and Genesee County. During this time, there was a major teacher shortage, and many districts were looking for guest teachers. I highly encourage all college students to take the opportunity to be a guest teacher if their schedule permits.
Between school, work, extracurricular activities and community services, you had a packed schedule!
I’ve always had a strong work ethic thanks to my mother. She instilled so much in me at such a young age that I was able to hit the ground running in college.
Let’s go back to high school. What do remember about TeenQuest?
It was a great experience. We were able to meet employers and get actual experience interviewing for jobs. I remember being taught interview techniques and how proper attire was an essential part in making a great first impression to stand out from the crowd. There were small group exercises focusing on team building and leadership skills, which was a great help. What’s stuck with me most was the focus on soft skills, like problem solving and time management.
What soft skills have been most helpful to you?
As I mentioned before, teamwork is a big one. For most employers, you’re going to be working with a team. You want to develop a relationship with your coworkers where you’re able to help and lean on each other. And also, adaptability. For me, my whole career has been about adaptability. Whatever environment you’re in, you want to be able to pick it up quickly. You can’t let yourself be so uncomfortable that you’re not able to do what needs to be done.
Beyond participating in TeenQuest, what advice can you offer today’s high school students?
The best advice I would give high school students is to attain the highest GPA and ACT/SAT score possible and get involved in community service and student clubs. Prepare for college by visiting multiple universities and do a lot of career exploration so you can pick the appropriate major of study.
Look for opportunities to develop your leadership skills. For me, I did that by seeking leadership positions in clubs, honor organizations and student government. Be a part of whatever clubs that are available. See what you like and then when they have a leadership change, apply and market yourself to show you would be a great candidate.
TeenQuest and Summer Youth Initiative are made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
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