Navigating networking

Nearly 100 University of Utah students enjoyed a five-course meal in the Crimson View restaurant on the fourth floor of the Union Building while socializing with representatives from CHG Healthcare, Qualtrics, Target, the Summit Group, Mass Mutual, Mountain America, L-3, Fidelity and Macy’s.

Sound fun? Yes, but dining while networking can also be stressful, and that was the theme of the event.

The university’s first-ever etiquette dinner was held March 25, 2015, and was coordinated, implemented and overseen by eight student career ambassadors who work to connect students with the U’s Career Services office.

Suit Up 2015 with UWhile students dined and networked, professional etiquette speaker Anna King walked students through each course and spoke about the importance of etiquette and how to navigate different professional situations in which food might be involved.

Fifteen lucky students also walked away with a new suit, provided by Macy’s and paid for by a generous grant from the Parent Association.

When the Suit Up! program launched in 2013, students received suits and other professional clothes that had been donated by faculty, staff and community members after listening to a presentation about the importance of dressing professionally given my U alum and Chief Operating Officer of the Summit Group Sharon Roux. While 50 students walked away with something they could wear to an interview, only a few received full business suits.

“We could tell there was a need because so many students attended,” said Kelly Dries, associate director of counseling services and operations, career coach and career ambassador advisor with University Career Services. “Based on student feedback, we adjusted the program to provide brand-new suits from Macy’s to 15 students who demonstrated a strong commitment to career development.”

This year’s Suit Up! winners were nominated by faculty and staff and were treated to a day at Macy’s, where Chic on a Shoestring CEO Alicia Richmond helped them pick out professional attire.

“I could not afford to buy a suit, and borrowed one instead, when I interviewed for my first job out of college,” Dries said. “With 8,000 students at the U receiving financial aid, we recognize our students juggle many expenses. This program helps students with the exorbitant cost of buying a suit in an effort to prepare for their future careers.”

After the pilot year of the program, all of the students recommended that others participate in Suit Up!, said they would participate in Career Services resources and attend a future Career Fair, and 88 percent said they would make an appointment to meet with their career counselor.

This data made it clear that the program was impacting students’ futures—not only by providing business attire, but also by encouraging them to use Career Services’ resources to prepare for their post-graduation plans.

“You have helped me in ways you might never know,” said one of the 2015 Suit Up! winners. “I wore my dress to an event where I met the dean of admissions for a law school who told me I already looked the part and she would love to mentor me. I appreciate this wonderful gift, and I hope the program expands to reach even more students.”

To learn how you can nominate students to attend the etiquette dinner or receive a suit, visit careers.utah.edu/.

 

Annalisa Purser is a communications specialist at University Marketing and Communications. Email her at annalisa.purser@utah.edu.