Form a mental image where you are in a fancy restaurant and about to have a professional networking dinner with a potential employer. Would you feel nervous? Yes, I would be nervous. It is okay to be nervous as professional settings can be awkward and a little bit intimidating. It is different from the standard social settings that college students are used to. Here's a simple list to help you survive the event!
First Impression We frequently hear people says that "first impressions are the most lasting". Well, most of the time, that is true! Some of the questions that you could ask yourself is, how can I create the right first impression? The answer is to start first by dressing for success.
DO: Wear professional attire. Maintain a clean, well-groomed conservative attire. If you are unsure, opt for safe color choices such as grey, black, or dark blue. Bear in mind that it is safer to overdress than under dress.
DON'T: Do not show up for a professional networking dinner in a shirt, shorts or sandals! You want to avoid wearing overly flashy shoes that will make others stare at you shoes instead of talking to you.
DO: Now, you are dressed for success and appear to be confident. The next step is to translate your confidence in action. You want to impress future employers with a firm handshake. A firm handshake creates a sense of confidence and trustworthiness. Simple rule of thumb is to lock your thumb down and squeeze firmly. 2-3 firms pump up/down. You also want to introduce your name at the same time. This would eventually help to calm your nervousness as well. Practice! Practice! Practice!
DON'T: You would want to avoid the dead fish or the knuckle-cruncher handshake. As we notice that a knuckle-cruncher handshake hurts, at least you feel something while the dead fish is expressionless.
Before the meal
DO: Often time you will have a dinner in a professional setting with multiple people. It is a great chance for you to network with others. Always stand when you are being introduced to someone. Short introduction of your name will do here. Try to remember the name of the person you are being introduced to.
DON'T: Don't tip your chair back as it's considered inappropriate. When the waiter comes and asks for what want to have for dinner, let the host take the lead. If unsure, ask for the host's recommendation. Try to avoid ordering spaghetti if you know that you will look messy afterwards. You don’t want to order the most expensive and exotic food on the menu too!
During the Meal
DO: Dinner time. Well, most college students eat pizzas and instant food. As you are hungry waiting for the food, you just realize that the utensils are perfectly laid out on the table. First thing that you should remember is the business meal map! The outside inside table manners rule. You want to use the utensils on the outside first and working your way inward. Drink from your own water glass! Your beverage will always be on the right side. Salt and pepper are married. Always remember that you want to pass along both salt and pepper even if people request for salt only.
DON'T: What would happen if the fork falls on the floor? Just leave it there. You don't want to embarrass yourself twice. Simply ask for a new set of utensils from the waiter. You want to continue the dinner calmly and focus on the conversation. However, try to avoid talking about controversial topics such as religion and politics.
After reading these simple tips, I hope that the word "networking dinner' won't intimidate you anymore. They are easy and simple rules to follow. If you are enrolled in the Career Leadership Academy class, you will have a chance to practice professional networking dinner as well! Enjoy your dinner!
-Written by Nadzreen Nadzri, student blogger