This is a guest blog post by the CDO’s Ali Wruble.
Our annual Meet the Employers reception will be held this Thursday, April 5 at 5:30. This social event affords 1Ls an opportunity to meet and talk with representatives from many firms that will recruit students later in the summer and fall. If you hope to be considered for a position with any of the 35 employers on the list, you should definitely attend. If you want to learn more about the organizations participating before the craziness of OCI season begins, you should attend. And if you want to practice your networking skills but are not sure if firm life is for you, you should attend. Bottom line: you should attend. (Subtle, right?)
The reception is intended to facilitate introductions and dialogue. That is all.
No resumes. No swag. Just good old-fashioned conversation. Recruiting season is chaotic and very impersonal. This event helps you to make a personal connection before applications fly, and a positive first impression will help you overcome the anonymity of recruiting craziness.
Keep in mind that the individuals representing each employer want to attend. Most are ND alumni excited to be back on campus. The whole point of the evening is to talk with students so they will make it easy for you. Just smile, introduce yourself, shake hands, and you are off and running! Be sure to enunciate your name clearly during every introduction, especially if your name is often mispronounced.
Navigating the event:
You have arrived at the event in your suit, so now what? When you enter the space, check in at the registration table and pick up your name tag. Place it on the right side so it is easily visible when shaking hands. There will be two bars and two tables containing food. Remember to hold food and beverage in your left hand to keep your right free (and dry) for shaking hands. Stroll throughout the space to visit any and all employers that interest you.
Talk about school, sports, legal practice, anything else you might have in common, or just ask an open-ended question to get the ball rolling. Begin questions with “Could you tell me about” so that you require your conversational partner to reply with more than one word. Word your questions so they cannot be answered with “yes” or “no” and will extend the dialogue. Avoid controversial or polarizing topics like politics, religion, money, or dating/sex. Keep things professional but friendly.
Networking conversations should be inclusive, but it can be hard to break into a conversation that has already started. If you see a classmate approach, try to bring them in with a warm welcome like, “Hi Sarah, have you met Mark? We were just talking about his recent trip to Phoenix.” A quick introduction ensues and the conversation continues to flow.
Overall, try to listen more than you talk. Asking open-ended questions will yield narrative answers. Really listen to the answers instead of planning your next move or practicing your next question. As you move around the room, listen to the other conversations so you can continue gathering information about the visiting employers.
At the end of the day, networking is about connecting with other people. Just be yourself. Your best self. Resist the urge to put up a façade, artificially build yourself up, or act in a way that is inconsistent with your everyday personality. Simply smile, listen, and be true to who you are.
Check out our Cocktail Etiquette Cheat Sheet for more tips to navigate the night.