Working the room

20 Oct

Last year Copeland sponsored a table at University of Victoria’s Business Banquet for the 2008 grads. I took along 3 co-workers and our intention, as invited members of the business community, was to work the room, meet some impressive students and line up potential internships for the future. The pre-dinner cocktails room was packed and humming when we arrived.godfather

The BComm students were there to meet us, so I reckoned we would be eagerly constricted by the great coils of the crowd.

It didn’t happen. We got spat out one by one until we found ourselves regrouping at the sidelines and discreetly sniffing our armpits. Plenty of other business people joined us there to watch the student moshpit.

It occurred to us that the grads were happy enough talking to themselves. After all, they had just endured another grueling year of study and exams were over. Revelry, rather than networking, was in the air.

It also occurred to us that many of the students were a bit nervous about meeting us. In later conversations with some of the attendees, I learned that many were intimidated by the event and found the prospect of talking to a business rep to be akin to an audience with a mafia don.

This year I am speaking to the students a few weeks in advance of the evening to give them some tips on how to handle these scenarios to their advantage. Some people are naturally good at working a crowd and others, like me, need a strategy going in.

  • How do you break into a conversation in progess without being stared at like you just crawled out from under a corpse?
  • What 5 essential questions should you have memorized when first meeting a prospective employer?
  • What should you never say?
  • How do you ensure that you will have a chance to follow up the introduction here with further conversations later?

The students may not end up with a job out of the evening, but the ones who did engage us that night, people like Andrea Merson, Suzanne Hobden and Lindsey Maloney, are still in touch with me and know they can count on me to help them out in their careers. They all came with a plan. They asked questions, they listened. They didn’t text their BFFs or drink too much.

The Business Banquet should be a great evening. And really, no one should be worried about waking up the next morning beside a horse’s head.

Next blog: The obligation to mentor.


5 Responses to “Working the room”

  1. Felix October 20, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    As a person who attended the banquet last year, I feel that this mini-workshop would be highly beneficial to those that are choosing to attend. Many are nervous and for them it is their first taste of a formal networking event. Even now today after many conferences, networking events, I’m still somewhat hesitant about approaching total strangers. Glad you’re helping to fill in a much needed gap!

  2. dougbrowncreative October 20, 2009 at 8:28 pm #

    Don’t kiss their rings whatever you do! Hope we’ll see you there on November 5th Felix…thanks for the comment.

  3. Mike G. October 20, 2009 at 9:57 pm #

    Great blog post!

    I especially enjoyed the analogy of speaking with a company rep being akin to a mafia don. I can personally relate that speaking with reps can be rather un-nerving, but I suppose in my position I should really be used to it. I’ve always found the biggest issue I’ve had with speaking with managers and company reps is that with all their experience and workplace power, in my mind they become somehow inhuman or something above you in the social order, much like man meets god (as an extreme example). Slowly though I’m starting to realize that company reps usually aren’t as big and scary and deity like as I originally thought. Or at least my perception is shifting to the idea that reps are at least benevolent deities that will humor simple minded university students.

    Still, I would really enjoy a mini-seminar about networking with potential employers. I especially like the idea of learning what not to say, because (at least in my mind) that’s more of a killer than even saying the right thing.

    I’ve really appreciated the blog posts thus far, keep them coming, they provide some very useful information, especially for clueless university undergrads like myself.


  4. Connor October 21, 2009 at 1:27 am #

    I didn’t personally attend last year’s banquet, but I’ve heard the stories. The class of 2011–this year’s class–is a completely different animal. They’re unbelievably enthusiastic. It’s ridiculous! For example, we had 150 students come out for our CSS Info Night, whereas last year they had 50.

    The networking prep session sounds like a great idea- can’t wait!


    PS- writing this from my iPhone and noticed you’re using Duane Storey’s WPtouch plugin… looks great!

  5. dougbrowncreative October 21, 2009 at 7:04 am #

    Mike it may help to remember that these towering titans of industry are on the same parabola as you, only further along. They were also clueless, simple-minded university undergrads a few decades ago, only now they don’t look as good and they have to be in bed by 10. I should know.

    Hope to see you there.

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