Networking expert visits UND to train students in that all-important career-building skill

Networking expert visits UND to train students in that all-important career-building skill

Callista Gould is a certified expert on etiquette, networking and communicating in professional settings. In multiple visits to UND, Gould has spoken on such topics during “etiquette dinners” and lectures. Photo by Jon Melander/UND Today.

The seating in UND’s Gorecki Alumni Center was set up for a lecture. But the topic for the workshop was networking, so Callista Gould had her audience up and moving — and introducing themselves — as soon as the presentation started.

Gould, a certified etiquette instructor, saw an audience of students spread across the room, quiet in their seats. This wouldn’t really fit her goal of helping students learn networking as a way to get noticed by employers.

So Gould started with a simple question: “What’s something you’re good at?”

Playing sports; math; collecting data; communicating. A variety of answers emerged from those she called upon at random.

“Everyone has something,” Gould said. “Networking is finding those things in others.”

So she had the students stand; turn to a couple of neighbors; and ask the same question with which she started.

Soon enough, people moved around the room to formally introduce themselves while Gould challenged them to forego the perhaps reflexive “nice to meet you” for “how do you do.” A cluster formed at the center, where most students were at first a little timid. Some awkward giggles emerged as they conducted a ritual they thought they all knew.

“You should start by asking questions, and follow those with more questions,” she prompted, sensing their trepidation. Later on she said, “The answers you get aren’t really for yourself, but they’re so you can introduce others to that person.”

Then she told them to ask each other what they like to do in their spare time, and talk to others in the cluster. As the collective volume raised, signifying the comfort level of those conversing, Gould walked back to her materials at the stage and let the brief conversations run their course.

Gould had students up and moving not long after her presentation started. Ilene Odegard, director of career services at UND, described Gould’s style as humorous, engaging and insightful. Photo by Jon Melander/UND Today.

Deeper dive into networking

For more than a decade, Gould has traveled the country presenting seminars and workshops around etiquette, networking and communicating in professional settings. Wednesday evening’s hour-long event, which was hosted by UND Career Services, marked her fourth time coming to UND.

“In the past, I’ve talked about table manners, interview meals and how to navigate networking events,” Gould told UND Today. “This year, we wanted a deeper dive into networking and how to be proactive about finding opportunities to throw yourself in the path of employers or others who can help you on your career path.”

Ilene Odegard

Ilene Odegard, director of UND Career Services, said the age-old cliché rings true: It’s still who you know. Bringing Gould back to campus to present something reminiscent of a “Networking 101” seminar was a no-brainer, based on the feedback Odegard has heard from past engagements.

“We really feel like we’re family by this time because of how many times she’s visited us,” Odegard chimed. “Callista is a great presenter who’s engaging and has a fun sense of humor. Students love it. I know some who have attended over and over because they enjoy her that much.”

Georgia Paul, a senior, was one of those repeat students. She said while last year’s “etiquette dinner” (titled “Manners Matter”) was far more formal, and addressed networking in some respects, Wednesday’s event was more focused on the dos and don’ts of networking and where to find networking opportunities in the first place.

“This was more about step one,” said Paul, a Grand Forks native majoring in management. “Her tips were insightful, such as what to do when networking goes bad. What do you do when someone corners you? Or, I can’t remember this person’s name.”

Essential skills explained

Madison Moen, a projects and events specialist with Career Services, took on the task of organizing this year’s visit from Gould. She says the topic addresses some of the most essential skills in job searching.

Madison Moen

“It’s a great event for students to learn how to be able to connect with people and get your name out there,” she said. “As a student, I did a lot of work with Career Services and the people I work with today, so I was able to network throughout my job experiences on campus.”

Gould centered on the idea that students and soon-to-be-graduates shouldn’t wait for jobs to come to them. With that approach, they probably won’t end up with the jobs they actually want.

“There are so many people that just fill out online applications,” she said. “I want people to leapfrog over those candidates and get after it – get face to face.”

Alumni clubs, young professionals groups, Chamber of Commerce functions and volunteering are just a few of the settings in which people can directly interface with people leading companies, organizations and communities. Students were given a “cheat sheet” of where to network, as well as tips for navigating everyday networking events.

After the workshop drew to a close, a line of students stuck behind to thank Gould and ask questions. Any previous shyness was nowhere to be found.

“I would consider myself a people person, but I’ve never really been in a professional atmosphere,” said Natalia Simonett, a junior pursuing marketing. “Hearing from a professional with a bunch of stories about how you can be successful by ‘going for it’ gave me an extra push to put myself out there.”

Paul said that “networking” is on the tip of professors’ tongues throughout her management studies at UND, but Gould’s sessions drive home the ways to approach such situations.

“Instructors don’t teach you, ‘this is how you should shake a hand,’ or ‘this is how quickly you should follow up after an event,’” Paul said. “Having someone spell that out is beneficial.”

Besides noting the variety of majors, backgrounds and interests in the audience, Gould recognized the special qualities of UND students she’s observed over the years. She said many need a nudge to understand what’s possible with the right amount of assertive action.

“UND students are great because you can tell they’re hard workers,” the etiquette expert explained. “They’re friendly, have a work ethic and they’re nice. You wouldn’t believe how many people want workers from the Midwest. They shouldn’t be afraid to apply for jobs wherever they want to go.”