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Practicing the “Art of Conversation”

Practicing the “Art of Conversation”

Alumni returned to campus to help students practice their verbal communication skills during an event hosted by the Office of Career Development and Calling. (Photo Credit: Giovanna Hanson ’20)

In an increasingly digitized job market, having excellent verbal communication skills will set applicants apart from the crowd. A recent event at Bethel gave students a chance to connect with alumni and practice the “Art of Conversation.”

Hosted by the Office of Career Development and Calling, the event brought Bethel alumni professionals back to campus to help current students practice their verbal communication skills to better prepare them for networking and job interviews in the future.

Associate Director of Career Development and Calling Will O’Brien, one of the chief organizers of the event, says the original goal was to help students prepare for the annual job fair in which Bethel undergraduates participate. But beyond the job fair, O’Brien and his colleagues think that developing self-efficacy in talking to professionals will not only help students land that first interview, but also help them to build confidence—a foundational building block which will help them thrive in all aspects of their own future careers.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of being knowledgeable about how to network well; it is more about being comfortable and confident in these types of conversations,” says Hannah Gomes '18, a double major in communication studies and organizational communication from North Branch, Minnesota.

More than 30 students participated in the first-time event. Throughout the evening, they got to converse with 27 Bethel alumni representing eight diverse professions, including biomedical engineering, consulting, healthcare, human relations, marketing, social media, technology, and finance.

The event began with an alumni appreciation program to thank the professionals who participated in the event. It was co-sponsored by Boom Lab and ACR Homes, two local companies that have hired many Bethel graduates over the years. Then, students arrived and were able to practice “The Art of Small Talk” with alumni to break the ice. Later mock interviews were conducted on a rotation, allowing students to get feedback on their conversation skills in a relatively low-pressure setting.

Ammanuel Robinson '19, a physics major from Maple Grove, Minnesota, remembers one helpful comment he received from an alumna during the conversation portion. As a mock interview question, she asked about his greatest weakness. After giving his response, she “graciously explained to me that [my] response was over-common and most employers have heard that over and over. Moreover, what really stuck out to me was her ability to explain how a potential employer could interpret my response—and that is what truly helped me,” Robinson says.

Robinson has been consistently grateful for the Office of Career Development and Calling during his time at Bethel. “I scored my first internship due to what I learned… about networking,” he says. “I’ll always remember the support and guidance [this office] gave me.” He even credits them with “[changing his] life with their knowledge and recommendations.”

Gomes agrees, adding, “They provide some unique events that are helpful to students, but what I found most encouraging was the relationships built with the staff.”

O’Brien says that the Office of Career Development and Calling hopes to continue this event in the future, possibly extending it so that students and alumni are given more of an opportunity to chat and get to know each other. As for this first event, he considers it a success after receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants, with 100% of those surveyed saying that they would participate again. He also says that multiple alumni have approached him with interest in participating in future events like this one.

Riley Fournier '14 works as a campus relations project manager for US Bank in Minneapolis and was more than willing to give back to the Bethel community in this way. “People want to work with people who they trust and know, and for students, that trust and relationship is hard to build when you are in college,” Fournier says.

O’Brien hopes that by learning about the “art of conversation” during their undergraduate years, students will build an interpersonal confidence that will serve them for the rest of their lives.