February 19, 2016

Food Makes Everything Casual

Let’s be honest: networking events are inherently awkward. American social etiquette teaches people to not make their intentions and goals apparent, but that is exactly what a networking event is about. And when placed in this position, most people falter without their social etiquette protocol to fall back on.
I will readily confess that I am part of the “most”. Despite the fact I’ve been to many professional development events during my time here at Pratt, I’m still caught off guard when someone asks me about my future plans and goals. So when I went to Lunch With A Professional on November 7th, I fell back into old habits.Get my name tag, pick the best sandwich, find the nearest corner and watch as everyone else trickles in. I assumed others would follow a similar plan of action, while the professionals would talk amongst themselves, waiting for students to come up and ask  them questions.  

As it turns out there is something humanizing about food. Alongside students, the professionals were eating too, and it broke the prescribed tension. As as an awkward college kid, there was something trustworthy about the fact these professionals struggled, just like me, to keep their sandwich together. And the other students felt it too. From the beginning, students and professionals mingled, conversations bubbling from between the CCPD’s trademark bookcases. The talking didn’t even stall when the CCPD staff directed the remaining students and I into the director’s cozy, colored office with an Interior Design Alumnus.

In the Director’s homey office, I witnessed the most casual professional conversation between students and alumni I’ve ever seen. Along with the topic of careers and career paths, we discussed travel experiences, the Mars colonization program, new vending machines and everything between. I appreciated that the alumnus took time to ask all the students their major and suggest career opportunities he knew existed.

Once everyone was fed,  we got to the main part of the event, the one-on-ones with a professional based on majors. The staff called to get together and put students with professionals. I was grouped together with two other writing majors and a professional who graduated from bachelor degree in writing from Pratt.    

The writing degree Pratt offers is flexible and can easily be adapted for other career paths. Take for instance the fact that our alumna currently runs her own political dance company. So as a result, it was hard to structure our discussion around any common workplace expectations. Instead she questioned all three of us on our current projects, future plans and how our schooling fit into that. It wasn’t one of those cases where someone gives you generic information that might possibly apply to your situation. She asked questions that gave her the necessary information to assess our individual situations and structured her advice based on our needs.

This is was the first installation of Lunch with a Professional, and I hope it continues. As someone who is an awkward soul in crowds, the small intimate setup really allowed me to ask what I wanted without feeling overwhelmed by a crowd.  

On Saturday, April 9th, the CCPD will be holding a Lunch with a Professional for international students. To find out more about Center for Career and Professional Development events  follow the Career Ambassadors on Twitter (@PrattSuccess) and find us on Facebook (Pratt Success)!

Written by: Bree Balsamo