George Mason University

News at Mason

Networking event extolls the value of good manners

March 13, 2020   /   by Melissa Thierry

The event on the Arlington Campus had the same goals as in the past—to provide networking education and guidance—but used a new reception format. Photo by Melissa Thierry.

More than 70 graduate and professional students from 14 different majors received advice and practice in networking at a recent event on George Mason University’s Arlington Campus.

University Life Arlington, University Career Services, and the Mason Alumni Association hosted the educational networking event on Friday, Feb. 28, to teach students about the importance of networking during a formal professional reception. 

“Students are not always asked to formal dinners right away,” said Saskia Campbell, executive director of University Career Services. “Sometimes they are invited to a more casual reception during a professional conference or a happy hour event at a restaurant.”

The Arlington Campus event began many years ago as a networking event with a three-course dinner and educational program.

The goals were the same this year—to provide important networking education and guidance—but they came in a new reception format.

Students engaged in a pre-event workshop focused on the linking of online and in-person networking opportunities. It included lessons in proper LinkedIn use and etiquette, how to make online introductions, the importance of the “elevator speech,” and how to transition from virtual networking to in-person contacts.

Kristin Leonato, associate director of University Career Services, led the dressed-to-impress group of graduate students through a series of possible networking scenarios. From there, students transitioned into a professional networking reception with Mason alumni and staff, complete with appetizers, a cash bar, and background music.

Campbell offered etiquette tips, including the importance of professional dress, the handshake, and placement of nametags.  She also guided participants through methods of entering and exiting conversations. Mason alumni were stationed around the room to encourage students to “work the room” and engage in many conversations. 

“I’ve participated in the networking dinner in the past and was happy to be invited this year to the reception,” said Laura Gouge, an alumna of Mason’s Schar School of  Policy and Government. “I enjoy being able to help others learn and grow through a learning and less pressured experience.  It’s not always easy to walk up to someone you don’t know and start a conversation.”

Laurence Bray, interim associate provost for graduate education, said she values the professional development opportunity the networking reception provides students.

“This is a true collaborative program, which brings many Mason units together for the betterment of our graduate and professional students,” she said.

“This reception is a great opportunity to meet and mingle with alumni who are genuinely excited to engage with students,” said Sofiyat Ibrahim, a graduate student in the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. “I learned a lot and was able to practice my networking skills.  And the food was great.”