On September 22 the USF College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) organized a professional development etiquette luncheon for the Dean’s Student Leadership Society (DSLS).
DSLS represents a group of CAS students who are dedicated to strengthening the university’s identity through education. Students in DSLS acquire valuable skills by participating in student programs, community outreach, and a multitude of networking opportunities.
The etiquette luncheon was held to provide these students with an opportunity to refine their manners and conversation skills while in a relaxed setting, surrounded by their peers.
The event was hosted by Sashy O’Connor, a USF alumna and the current director of operations at The Grow Group. This non-profit organization has partnered with state-funded institutions, employers, and youth services to help individuals find and retain meaningful employment.
O’Connor graduated from USF with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She has actively been involved in assisting college students with their professional development skills since 2017. Over the years, she has conducted numerous workshops across USF. Reflecting on her own time as a graduate student, she empathizes with the challenges young professionals face in trying to navigate the professional world.
“When I was a graduate student in school, I didn't know the first thing about writing a resume or how to find a job. I started looking for something part-time, and I was so scared that when I was going to graduate, I wouldn't have anything. I worked entry-level as an intern for about two years, and I just felt this need to help more people and give back in some sort of way,” O’Connor said. “My husband actually started the nonprofit that I currently work for, where we help people find employment. I decided to start taking on clients and helping them with workforce and professional development. I met some people who went to USF, and they asked me if I would be interested in teaching those concepts here. Since 2017, I've been here helping as many students as I possibly can.”
O’Connor also emphasized the significance of events like this for emerging professionals. In her view, these events allow students to improve their interpersonal skills which are essential for networking opportunities, job interviews, and beyond.
“I think that the first impression is everything, and you never know when it's going to be sprung upon you. I like to eliminate the fear of what fork to use next, what to say, or what to order, and allow you to focus on your goal which is to make a sale, network, or get a new job,” she said. “These skills are something that students can keep for a lifetime, and they never know when they're going to have to use them. If you have those in your back pocket, then everything else can flow into place.”
During the event, O’Connor shared a variety of etiquette techniques. Some of the crucial topics she covered included how to make an impactful introduction, table settings across cultures, the best way to navigate an event, and easy-to-remember topics when striking up a conversation.
O’Connor engaged with the audience and had members at each table practice their newly learned skills. A notable activity involved students crafting and delivering a 30-second introduction highlighting their best attributes, such as college majors and work experiences, with the aim of impressing potential employers. The friendly atmosphere allowed students to deliver their introductions with a newfound sense of confidence.
Madison Cooper, a DSLS member and microbiology student, explained the significance of this event for young professionals.
“It's important as you get into the professional world outside of college because as you start getting internships, jobs, etc., you're going to start attending professional lunches and dinners where it's super important to be able to make a lasting first impression. As I start to attend professional events where I may be interacting with a group of people that I’m not familiar with, it gives me peace of mind knowing that I'm at least doing what I can to be respectful,” Cooper said.
Fabiola Morales-Gonzalez, a DSLS member and fourth-year biomedical sciences major, offers her perspective on how the skills learned during this event, and other events like it, have positively impacted her outlook and opportunities for the future.
“People from different backgrounds, such as myself, can face challenges if they are not exposed to professional development opportunities. As an immigrant, when I first came to the U.S., I was very introverted. I had panic attacks when I started to have a conversation, but these events helped me get out of my shell. A lot of students are very comfortable when they first get into college and they think, ‘It's okay, I can just be a bit casual,’ but I disagree. You need to put yourself out there and make your voice known, so you can set yourself up for success in the future,” Morales-Gonzalez said.
Applications to join the Dean’s Student Leadership Society open November 1.