Photo courtesy of Career Services
University of Akron students had the opportunity to gain helpful skills and engage with local businesses in a professional environment during Career Services’ Etiquette Dinner on April 13 in the Student Union Ballrooms.
The etiquette dinner was a sold-out event with more than 190 students attending. It has been going on for more than 10 years, and the event has grown and adapted over the years to accommodate more students and increase employer presence from four in 2013 to eight.
Students could sign up with a $5 purchase to reserve their seat and name tag. At the etiquette dinner, students learned skills to polish up their professional conduct. The event provided a photographer to capture professional headshots, a networking lounge to meet and greet, and a formal dinner with etiquette presentations.
From 5:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., students and employer sponsors enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and drinks while practicing networking skills. The fare wasn’t just for fun though — students practiced the delicate art of balancing food in one hand while shaking someone’s hand with the other.
The networking room also allowed students to practice what many described as their biggest obstacle: approaching a stranger.
Junior Zach Gollwitzer, a corporate finance major, said although he has experience talking to strangers on the golf course, an element of approach anxiety still exists. Gollwitzer attended the etiquette dinner to practice and gain experience, describing the best way to learn as “trial by fire.”
After the networking session, students sat at the gracious tables in the ballroom arranged to represent a high-class dining experience. While enjoying the three course meal prepared by dining services, students were taught proper table etiquette by members of Career Services. They explained the differences between a salad fork and a dinner fork and the proper way to pass dishes or excuse oneself. The rules of etiquette are numerous and mistakes can be made.
Laura Carey, director of Career Services, said that, often, the most polite thing to do when one is unsure is to ask.
The purpose of etiquette may seem fuzzy to those completely unfamiliar with the exercise, but the objective and outcome are wholly important to graduating students seeking employment. Proper etiquette actively demonstrates one’s ability to navigate diverse situations with unfamiliar people. Employers are quick to evaluate the professionalism of a potential employee. Proper etiquette can give a student the edge over an equally qualified competitor.
Further into the dinner, Mike Kulick and Emily Vees, associate directors of Career Services, elaborated on pitfalls common among younger professionals: phone, email, and social media etiquette. To a generation that has grown up with the technology, its use in the professional setting must be carefully checked.
Tips shared included removing drug and alcohol related images from social media, refraining from any cell phone use while interviewing or meeting with a superior, and keeping professional emails short and dense.
The presentation concluded with a demonstration of professional attire ranging from business casual to business professional. UA students took the stage to display items from their own wardrobe.
John Jones from GOJO Industries enjoyed the event, which he saw as a way to “connect with students and give back.” Jones also suggested adding students’ majors to nametags to let employers more easily distinguish candidates.
The etiquette dinner was a way for many students to step out of their comfort zone and gain some real world skills in a low pressure environment. For many students, it was their first time attending.
Darnell Davis, a political science major and UA student trustee, said he was invited by Career Services. It was his first time attending, but Davis was well-equipped for the situation with a cool attitude and friendly demeanor. Davis described the event as a great way to develop “relationships [with people on campus].”
The event was sponsored by Aerotek, Cintas Corp, GOJO Industries, Hyland Software, Synchrony Financial, Target, Verizon Wireless, Windstream, and Westfield Insurance.