You’ll quickly learn that corporate America has more money to spend on feeding you than Yale Dining does. A lot more. As a job seeker (now a freshly minted veteran), I was treated to French cheeses and Italian meats, tropical fruits and fancy artisanal chocolate truffles. And those were just at the info sessions! As what might be mildly termed a food enthusiast, I approached the whole gustatory aspect of the job search with great interest. I came away with some insights as to how to make the most of the edible side of the recruiting process, for those of you about to take the plunge.
Let’s talk more about those ones. You’ll quickly learn that actually eating is a no-no. Yes, even if the dining halls were serving General Tso’s tofu that night and you left still feeling hungry. Yes, even if you’ve been craving cheese for weeks and there’s an untouched Brie in the corner calling your name. Info sessions are primarily for schmoozing, and it’s a little hard to ask about what’s-her-name’s alma mater or most recent deal if you have a mouthful of goat cheese or prosciutto to deal with. At the very least, however tempted you might be to stuff your tote bag with some of those luscious figs or crunchy little cookies, it’s probably best to avoid looking greedy. Alas.
But it’s not just you who’s being evaluated at these events. Don’t miss the chance to size up a company based on its alimentary offerings. I would advise quickly eliminating, for example, any company that did not serve any food at its recruiting events. Do you want to work for a boss who expects you to skip lunch? You most certainly do not. On the other hand, if a company trots out a few trays of mini macaroons or charming cups of butterscotch pudding, consider ranking them a bit higher on your list. This is the kind of place that will not suggest that you grab lunch at McDonald’s on your first business trip.
Then there are a select few students, the job search foodie-elite, who learn how to game the system. These are the types who accept invitations to dinners at Miya’s or head over to the Omni for a PowerPoint presentation with absolutely no interest in working for the companies in question. Is this ethically dubious? Perhaps. Is this something you should learn how to do? Absolutely.
There are three steps to making this work. First, make sure you at least Google the company to learn what industry they’re part of before you go. It will make things awkward for you if you ask a Teach for America representative “how they got into consulting, anyway.” Next, dress the part. Have a handy sheath dress or Oxford dress pants combination that you can pull out at a moment’s notice. When the evening finally arrives, choose your moment wisely. I know you’re hungry, but showing up half an hour before the event begins, with no real job seekers in sight, makes it difficult to stuff that tote bag. You can pull out the Tupperware more easily when a lot of other students are there to give you cover.
When you finally get an offer — which will happen, let me assure you! — make the most of it. Once a company decides they want you, they kick their culinary game into high gear. It’s a kind of high-powered wooing that will make your boyfriend look bad and your roommates wonder why you’re never in the dining hall anymore. This is the time where you can expect a meal at Barcelona, fresh-baked cookies arriving in your P.O. box, and coffee and pastries with recruiters on a near-daily basis. These companies know you’re hungry. They know that your stomach is the route to your heart (Yale men, take note) and to that hand that will sign your contract. Well, enjoy it. You earned it. You resisted temptation at those information sessions and you skipped lunch for your interview.
Let’s face it: The job search is a bit surreal. It’s filled with powerful people you have to pretend to like, beautiful food you can’t eat and industries you don’t quite understand. It’s confusing and stressful and pressure-filled. But it’s worth remembering that it’s also a feast of possibilities — literally and figuratively. This is the time when you get to figure out what you want to do with your life.
Thanksgiving may be over, but opportunities for feasting still abound.
Elizabeth Chrystal is a senior in Davenport College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .