Brag Your Way with Grace to Success:

Posted on April 25, 2016 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

A Once Secret How-To

By Karen Daly

 Back-to-back bragging - a "Grace" ful secret to success.

Spirits inside the auditorium at Grace Institute’s gathering at the Houston Street Center on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, were bright with expectation and excitement. The occasion? The annual Brag Party at Grace Institute, a Catholic Charities affiliated agency, with executive coach, leadership expert and best-selling author Peggy Klaus.

Grace Institute helps struggling women train or retrain to enter the workplace through a free five-month program providing job-skills training, counseling and placement services.

  • Grace’s Brag Party was part of National Volunteer week – a week we like so much here at Catholic Charities that we extend it into the whole month.  Karen Daly, meanwhile, our writer here with a background in research, editing and writing, is embracing the volunteer experience by serving as a first-time reporter and volunteer for Catholic Charities. 

The Grace Experience

Grace’s Executive Director Brigid Lang noted that the 2016 spring program, with 120 students, is the largest class to date. The term began a few weeks ago, and the women seem unanimous in “loving the program.” Enrolled at Grace after staying home with her children, Ajalah Efem says she was apprehensive at first, but now feels like she’s “found 120 new sisters.”

Grace Institute empowers underserved women in the New York area achieve employment and economic self-sufficiency. Within a supportive and structured environment, Grace Institute provides job-skills training, counseling, placement services and continuous learning opportunities that lead to upwardly mobile employment.

More than 100 Volunteers

Ajalah and her “sisters” gathered for the Brag Party together with an equal number of volunteers. Jessica James, Director of Development and Morgan Blackburn, Development Coordinator, warmly greeted the group. Many volunteers were in teams from companies including Oppenheimer Funds, Adobe Systems, Gap, Thomson Reuters, Barclays, Bluewolf, Time Warner Cable, Marsh  & McLennan Companies, Colony Specialty and Lexis Nexis.

The purpose of the Brag Party is to help Grace women hone their communication skills, especially when they start interviewing for jobs and hear that challenging question “Tell me about yourself.” 

The Brag Party has become a favorite event on the Grace calendar.

World-Renowned Communications Coach

And it’s easy to see why – Peggy Klaus is a dynamic, funny and insightful speaker.  Peggy, who works with top executives all over the world, generously donates her time to the Grace women.

Her book title perfectly describes her program. BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It. She describes bragging not as boasting or selfishness but as a way to speak with pride about your accomplishments and a communication tool that reveals your best self. 

Peggy demonstrated how we only have a few seconds to make a first impression on a potential employer, customer or friend. Many participants stepped outside of their comfort zones with the day’s exercises.

Bragging Exercises

In the first exercise, students and volunteers formed pairs and introduced themselves in just a few seconds. Peggy’s most important advice is “Be Specific!” For example, don’t say “I’m organized,” tell a story illustrating that trait.

After considering the questions on a Brag worksheet that helps users identify their unique stories, the partners introduced themselves again with the new and improved stories. The teams gave each other feedback on content, body language, gestures and other elements of communication.

Peggy then demonstrated her warm-up technique for injecting high energy into every conversation. The participants found brand new partners and repeated the introductions with their newfound energy. This time the room roared with the sound of animated women and a few men laughing, smiling, gesturing and yes, bragging.

Volunteer Judith Chambers, who enjoyed the morning as much as the students did, said  “I’m learning as much as I’m giving.”

Life-changing Results

The Brag Party ended with Grace women giving heartfelt thanks to Peggy Klaus.

One happy student summed up how Grace taught her to brag her way to success: 

“Grace is changing my life as I stand here today.”

Contact Grace Institute for more tips on how to reenter the workforce and brag your way to success.

Find out more about Catholic Charities job readiness and placement programs.

View more photos on Catholic Charities Facebook Page.

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