by Pattie Kim
Swarthmore students are known for their intellectual curiosity and academic prowess, but ask a student which fork to use during a formal dinner and you're likely to receive a blank stare. Many interviews and work meetings take place over meals, and in order to reduce anxiety around those experiences, in February 2014, over 60 students attended a dinner led by speaker Robert Shutt. The students learned about professional dining etiquette as well as general professionalism skills.
Shutt, who has led this dinner for about 10 years, walked students through interactive activities during a networking/reception hour and demonstrated how to properly navigate a formal event and dinner. Over a delicious three-course catered meal, the cost of which was covered by a generous alumnus, students learned about proper dining and social etiquette such as how to pass the bread, which forks to use, and how to properly excuse oneself from the table. Robert shared the historical underpinnings of many of these customs and how they have evolved over time.
One attendee remarked, "I enjoyed how the presenter created a low pressure environment for us to learn proper business dinner etiquette. It was very well done."
For many students, an event like this is a very new and different experience. "I feel like I've strengthened my understanding of appropriate business etiquette and have begun to consider details that I would not have expected to be important," one students shared. "The casually informative tone of the evening matched the speaker's energy, and I really liked the take-home summary of the night's teachings."
Skills such as networking and professional interactions are necessary to be successful during and after Swarthmore. Shutt talked about how important it is for students to start building their professional network and how powerful this tool can be. He also shared stories on interviewing and selecting candidates from when he was a hiring manager, as well as tips on making a good impression at workplace functions.
If a student were distracted by which water glass to use and how to get the butter without reaching, he would lack focus on the discussion taking place over dinner. By developing knowledge of professional dining etiquette, Swarthmore students will handle future dining experiences with confidence, allowing their true talents to shine.