Alumni Dinner serves up good food and better advice

JSC recently hosted its first Alumni Dinner for students, which incorporated learning proper dinner etiquette, networking, and tips and tricks to get ahead after graduating college. JSC hopes to make this an annual event.

Guests arrived dressed to the nines in suits, ties, dresses and heels, ready for a sophisticated evening. This event, held Thursday, March 28 in the Stearns Performance Space, was sponsored by the Alumni Association and co-planned by Coordinator of Career Services Heidi Wrighton and the office of Development and Alumni Relations.

Rose Modry, academic skills advisor, gave a brief presentation on dining etiquette. A postcard picturing a place setting with each different parts of the setting labeled awaited each guest. “This is to remind you of a traditional place setting and familiarize you with it if you aren’t completely familiar,” said Modry. At the left was a butter knife and plate, next the dessert spoon and fork, then the water glass, champagne glass, red wine glass, and white wine glass. Closest to the seat, starting from the left was the salad fork, dinner fork, plate, napkin, dinner knife, dinner spoon and soup spoon. It’s simple enough when you get an instruction manual.

The card also had etiquette tips: Use your utensils from the outside in; When you are done eating, place your knife and fork across the plate in a 9 to 3 o’clock fashion; Keep your elbows off the table and don’t slouch; Wait to begin, and stop eating when others at the table have done so; Place your napkin on your lap as soon as you sit down, and when you leave the table after the meal set your napkin to the left of your plate; Eat lightly and avoid messy foods; Your social graces and general demeanor at the table can tell as much about you as your questions or answers.

Clyde Stats, assistant director of academic support, gave a presentation on financial literacy. “In some ways it is ironic that I am being asked to speak about financial literacy because I am pretty much a financial illiterate,” quipped Stats. “But it seems to me that when you are thinking about finances you can think about it two ways: in the short term and in the long term.”

Each student received the booklet, “Money Matters: The Graduates’ Guide to Making Smart Financial Decisions.” Stats provided an overview of the topics: Financial Health and Budgeting, Banking and Credit Cards, Managing Debt and Building Credit, Financial Problems, Insurance, Buying a Car, Buying or Renting a Home, and Investing and Planning for the Future. “Money is freedom,” said Stats.

Next Wrighton gave a presentation on the value of having a LinkedIn profile. “This website is a great way to network with people,” said Wrighton. She said with LinkedIn you can build your professional network, you can check out career paths, you can prepare for interviews by researching who it is that will be interviewing you, you can get referrals and share updates, you can expand your resume, you can join a group, you can search for jobs and internships and you can join the JSC alumni group.

After the presentations, dinner was served.

For the first course guests were served tossed green salad with red balsamic dressing with a delicately sliced pear. The main course was a choice of nutty chicken or a portabella-mushroom dish, both served with asparagus and rice. For dessert a rich chocolate cake with sliced strawberries, whipped cream and a decorative chocolate star on top awaited the indulgent.

After dinner, alumni offered up career advice and wisdom. Gar Anderson ’67, vice president of the National Association of Realtors, advised, “As you approach graduation, try and focus on both your interests and your specialty skills and don’t be afraid to start your own business.” Anderson once owned the Rusty Nail in Stowe and formed a nightclub-owners association.

Jeff Simone’01, vice president of Accuworx Usa, Inc., encouraged students. “Be yourself and be positive. Keep growing and keep challenging yourself and everything else will fall into place,” he said.

Rebecca Green ’99, digital sales manager at WPTZ Channel 5, reminisced about getting a job while hanging out in a sugar shack in Milton. “Network,” said Green. “Nobody networks more than the most successful people you see.”

Thomas Kennedy ’84 admitted, “Searching for a job is horrible, it makes you depressed. When I was searching for a job I got 142 rejection letters, and I still have the box. But writing your cover letter and your resume is really important. I read resumes with a red pen and if there is a typo on your resume I reject it.”

After the meeting moved to the Fireplace Lounge, Susan Bartlett ‘77 provided a few words of wisdom saying, “It really is important to be yourself, and here are the questions you will inevitably get asked in an interview so you can think of good answers now, rather than five minutes after the interview is over: What is your best working trait? What is your worst trait? What do you think is the perfect job?”

Zachary Young ‘00 stepped forward next, urging students, “Do your homework, know about the company you are interviewing with. Ask if the role you are interviewing for is a new position or if it is being filled. If it is being filled, did the person before you get canned? And if they did get canned ask them what the challenges were in that role, you have the right to ask that. And if the situation is that the person in the position was promoted, ask why, what things made that person good at that job? These questions are just a good way to get the conversation going, interviews don’t need to be dry and not fun.”

The last speaker was Doug Kellogg ‘00 who left the audience with his best advice: don’t bring your phone to an interview. “First impressions are very important,” said Kellogg. “You want to set an example for other employees and be positive.”

In attendance were: Andrea Altman ’94, owner/operator of Connecting Rhythms Bodywork, LLC and Green Mountain Massage School and Adjunct Professor at JSC and CCV; Gar Anderson ’67, Vice President of the National Association of Realtors; Susan Bartlett ’77, Special Projects Coordinator at the Vermont Agency of Human Services, and former Senator from Lamoille County; Rebecca Green ’99, Digital Sales Manager at WPTZ Channel 5; Kathy Hokman ’92, Science Teacher at St. Johnsbury Academy, Secretary of the JSC Alumni Council; Doug Kellogg ’00, Contracting Manager at Tour Mappers; Thomas Kennedy ’84, Executive Director of Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission; Diane Landry ’00, Producer/Video Librarian at WCAX-TV Channel 3; Jim Ryan ’94, Watershed Coordinator Vt. Dept. of Environmental Conservation; Jeff Simone ’01, Vice President of Accuworx Usa, Inc.; Robert Stevens ’69, Education Consultant, former Executive Director of Vermont Principals Association, and retired teacher and principal; Zachary Young ’00, Director of Sales and Marketing at RBM Technologies and Tammy Ellis, Manager of the Vermont Agency of Transportation.