Etiquette dinner teaches students proper manners for business world

By Connor Josellis, Contributing writer

Students eating at the Ikenberry Commons on Sept. 27 will be surprised to see other students enjoying a four-course meal while networking and learning proper professional dining etiquette.

Dining etiquette expert, Patricia Simpson, will be providing training on which utensils to use, making small talk and other professional dinner procedures.

The Career Center is partnering with the Honors Living Learning Community in Nugent Hall to create this event. Companies such as CAT, Country Financial and even the FBI will be there to help train students, and also possibly recruit.

Students attending the dinner will first be taught skills by Simpson, like where to put the utensils when done eating so the waiter knows to pick them up, which fork is for salad and which glass to use, according to Eden Haycraft, assistant director for campus recruiting and job/internship preparation.

Beside learning skills to have at a professional meal, for attendees this is also a networking event.

Olivia Schifferer, senior in LAS, is going because she supports The Career Center, and also because of the networking opportunities.

“There are a couple driving factors behind that, one being that Caterpillar and Country Financial are attending,” Schifferer said. “They both have internships I am really interested in this summer.” 

Schifferer is graduating this fall and believes that in order to get internships and jobs after graduation, she has to network now.

“We live in a day and age where networking is everything; when it comes down to it almost every single person on this campus has the exact same resume layout — they need recognize your name from somewhere,” Schifferer said.

For employers, Haycraft said they are happy to help with training, but if the right candidate pops up, they are going to seize the opportunity.

“A lot of times they are more open to just assisting with that training and development and they enjoy doing that,” Haycraft said. “There might also be (a) candidate that comes and really stands out to them and they’re gonna take that opportunity to reach out and connect with that student.” 

The other main goal of the training is for students to gain confidence.

Shana Lebowitz wrote in a Business Insider article that while folding your napkin the right way at a professional dinner is important, “if you’re so nervous about looking unsophisticated, that may end up hurting your chances.”

Haycraft agreed and hopes that confidence is the biggest takeaway from the training. She said that confidence and communicating confidently is the key to an interview because it allows you to convey the skills you have.

For Schifferer, communications and other social skills are what she hopes the dinner will help with.

“The social skills that come with an etiquette dinner, rather than, you know, the way to hold a fork or the way to hold a knife, but the way to communicate over dinner,” Schifferer said.

Dinner etiquette can be in the back of some people’s minds, as a lot of the job process has been digitalized in recent years.  Most people submit a resume and cover letter online and have a phone interview first. 

However, Haycraft said many students need to remember that there are still settings where this is important.

“Some of them can definitely come with dinner or a lunch in the job interview process and it is just to give the interviewee more confidence in their ability to look and act professional through that setting,” she said. “But I think it comes in handy, not just for interning, but once you get a job.”

The dinner doesn’t have a target audience, but is open to all undergraduate students because the skills learned here can cross through all majors and career paths. 

Both Haycraft and Schifferer agree that these skills can be helpful in getting a job, and useful once students have already landed one.

“Whether we are (bringing on) a new hire or hosting a lunch, bringing out a bunch of the team to lunch or bringing them out to lunch on their first day,” Schifferer said. “You are there to represent the company then, and you want to make sure you are professional and represent the company well.”

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