Willow Heatherly

The conference room of the Ewers Century Center was so packed Wednesday night that late-arrivers had to stand by the wall to watch Jonathan ‘JJ’ Jerrell’s presentation. Students and Human Resources directors of companies around Ocala gathered to listen to Jerrell and then network with each other.

Jerrell, the Corporate Director of Human Resources at Core Distributing, is a part-time police officer as well as a part-time keynote speaker. Someone with enough energy to be that productive, of course, will have no problem grabbing students’ attention and giving them lessons on being productive.

His keynote speech, ‘Get Hired: Success is Your Fault’ gave students direct instruction on how to behave during job interviews and how to keep their jobs once they have been hired. Jerrell shared true horror stories about employees who made careless mistakes as well as slipups that were not so obvious at first.

Jerrell asks a student to share what his three core values are.

Katie Helsley, a Business major at College of Central Florida, admired Jerrell’s presentation style and found his points to be quite useful.

“I liked the advice he gave on what you should and should not do in job interviews, such as making eye contact and how you shouldn’t say you want the interviewer’s job in 5 years.” Helsley said. “I also enjoyed his FAME acronym and how he managed to keep the whole thing funny.”

Like FAME, another mental shortcut that Jerrell invented was ‘E + R = O’, which was printed on red bracelets that visitors could pick up on their way into the conference room. The equation represents how the events in your life (‘E’), plus your response to them (‘R’), equal the outcome (‘O’).

The core message of ‘Success is Your Fault’ seemed to be that, at the end of the day, students have the last say in what happens in their lives. They carve the path to wherever they will find themselves in the future.

Jerrell does speeches that focus on leadership skills, emotional intelligence, teamwork, and student success for organizations once or twice a month. The motivation behind these speeches is Jerrell’s goal of improving the business structure by first strengthening its foundation: students of business.

“Business, for the most part, is broken.” Jerrell said. “But when you work in the right business and have the right business leaders, you have the opportunity to change the world.”

Jonathan “JJ” Jerrell speaks to a room full of students and Human Resources managers in the Ewers Century Center.

Bonnie Hays, Coordinator of the Business, Technology and Workforce Department at CF, was the brain behind Wednesday’s conference. She saw Jerrell give a speech at a monthly meeting of the Mid-Florida Regional Manufacturers Association, then saw him once more at the Ocala Human Resource Management Association before inviting him to speak at CF.

The Business and Technology department was awarded a grant by the CF Foundation to host a four-part speaker series for its students over the next few months. ‘Success is Your Fault’ was only the first of this series.

Nov 14 will bring a fresh speaker to the Ewers Century Center to engage students in a presentation about IT careers. A third event in February will likely focus on logistics, followed by the final speaker series in April which will emphasize business and financial services. Each speaker series event is free to attend, food and snacks are provided, and prize giveaways are held at the end.

“We want to get employers to interact with students,” Hays said. “the department’s mission is to get [employers’] input on our programs, and find out what kind of skills they want our students to have so we can design our classes accordingly.”

Hays works in the Talent Center, where her main job is to help students get internships in the career field they are interested in. Although she primarily works with Business and Technology majors, she also has access to internships for students who are looking for experience in Digital Media, Journalism, and other fields. Students wanting connections to internships may contact her through email to set up an appointment.

Photos and Story by: Willow Heatherly