by: Kaiya Knox, English Writing, Sophomore
(**Sophomore student Kaiya Knox gives us her perspective on participating in her first networking event**)
There is something inherently uplifting about being told you were nominated for something. When I was told that I had been nominated to participate in DiNewOrleans, I was both flattered and confused. I didn’t know what DiNewOrleans was, had never even heard of it, so how could I have been nominated to participate? A few emails later, and I had a meeting arranged with Tamara Baker.
The friendly, charismatic Associate Director of the Career Development Center explained to me that DiNewOrleans is a professional networking event designed for juniors and seniors in the College of Humanities and Natural Sciences. The aforementioned students, previously nominated at some point or another, get to informally meet with Loyola University alumni who are putting their liberal arts educations to good use. The event would be held at La Thai Restaurant, co-owned by a Loyola alumnus, and would be business casual. There would be roughly 30 guests in total.
Free food, casual networking, and a chance to look sharp? I was in!
Leading up to the event, I was a bit nervous. I was going in as the second sophomore to ever be invited (second following Katie Campbell, of course; the girl is getting her hands in new things every time I turn around). The opportunity was thrilling and a bit nerve-wracking because I knew I would be with 30 strangers for two hours. Plus, I had never been to something promoted as a networking opportunity.
All of my worries were for naught, I quickly found out. My fellow current students were both welcoming and fantastic conversationalists; the alumni graciously imparted wisdom and experiences unto us through drinks and appetizers, dinner, and dessert; and I found it easy to connect with almost everyone there in at least one small way… We were all interested in learning from each other. It was a true meeting of minds.
I think the event’s arrangement is the reason the night was so successful for all parties involved. Rather than speed-networking and hastily throwing our business cards at each other, along with a quick “Hi, I’m— Never mind, just read the card, nice to meet you, and call me maybe”, we socialized and got to know each other. We discussed interests and tunneled those conversations into futures and ideas. Rather than trying to get already-successful business persons to contact us based on the design of our business cards, we brainstormed with people who remembered what it was like to be students with too many career ideas and not enough insight on how to choose the best one.
Thanks to Jason Comboy and Harry Bruns, the two fantastic gentlemen (and Loyola alum!) I sat between during the dinner, I intend to look into the bed and breakfast business. Opening up a B&B has been in the back of my mind for years, but it was never really a goal. To be honest, it still isn’t. However, I now know that I can research hospitality. I can look into current bed and breakfasts around the world, see how they’re setup and how they work, figure out what I want mine to be like. I now know some of the steps that I can take to pursue an interest and possibly turn it into a goal.
The DiNewOrleans event at La Thai Restaurant was one of the most interesting and beneficial nights of my life, I think. I met some people who are truly happy with what they’re doing with their lives, which I find to be incredible, and I gathered worthwhile advice on how to find that happiness for myself.
Thank you to Katie Campbell for nominating me; to Tamara Baker for meeting with me and convincing me that networking is not all about business cards; to Harry Bruns for the excellent book suggestions, the cell-phone-as-the-One-Ring analogy, and general craziness only understood by fellow writers; to Jason Comboy for listening to my story; to Diana Chauvin for being a wonderful host; to the Career Development Center for putting this event together; to the alumni for joining us and dishing out some knowledge over dinner; and to the junior and senior students I met and hope to see again at the next DiNewOrleans event.