On Thursday, February 27, several IU Bloomington students gathered in the IMU Tudor Room for the Mentoring Services & Leadership Development’s Career Dinner Symposium. Supported by the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, the Career Dinner Symposium allowed students to network and ask pressing questions to a variety of business professionals from the Bloomington-Indianapolis area. According to Patrick Smith, executive director of IU’s Mentoring Services & Leadership Development, this event allows students to practice professionalism and networking skills while providing an opportunity for them to meet professionals in their fields of interest. Among the professionals in attendance were Monroe County circuit court judges, small business owners, doctors, and directors of non-profit organizations.
“I am very thankful for the employers who helped support our students,” Smith said. “They enjoyed the event and gained a great deal from the experience.”
The Career Dinner Symposium fostered easy and natural conversations with those in attendance by separating the students into tables based on their interests. Whether in law, medicine, business, or politics, students were able to connect with a professional that mirrored their career interests.
“I am always interested in networking with others,” Raymee Johnson, a first-year graduate student in the school of public health, said. “Even if they’re not in my field, making connections with others is always useful.”
During dinner, students were able to ask their professionals important questions about the workforce, such as dress and appearance, job shadowing, relocation, training, and much more.
After dinner, there was a brief Q&A session where students were able to ask specific questions to five distinguished professionals. These questions, such as “what was the biggest challenge for you to overcome?” and “how did you get to where you are now?” allowed the panelists to open up and discuss their professional journeys to the young audience.
In one instance, freshman Whitney Roberts asked, “For the minorities at the table, how do you deal with the struggles of getting into your career being a minority?” The answers ranged from inspirational messages of perseverance to somber stories of workplace racism.
By the end of the night, several students walked away with business cards, contact information, and valuable networking experience that will undoubtedly help them as they continue to grow and explore job and internship opportunities.
“I feel like the career dinner was super successful,” Whitney said. “Especially after covering how to get into any job while also facing potential challenges as a minority and the mentors gave great advice on how to tackle that.”
“Events like this help to prepare students for the outside world,” Smith said. “It’s a preparation opportunity to learn and practice these skills so that when our students are out there in the professional world, these skills aren’t foreign to them.”