By Lauren Lavelle
Incoming fall 2016 freshmen in Rider’s Multicultural Student Leadership Institute (MSLI) were given the opportunity to begin perfecting their networking skills this past summer after attending a networking event with Aramark, a Fortune 200 global leader that provides foodservice, facilities and uniform services to countries worldwide.
Director of Multicultural Affairs Pamela Pruitt, who accompanied the students on their trip, feels networking skills are necessary to succeed in the professional world and the sooner students start making connections, the better.
“It is never too early to show someone how they will benefit in their future,” said Pruitt. “Networking comes in many ways, you never know when an opportunity will present itself. Not only is it important to students, it is important to people who are in the workforce. Why wait until you graduate to learn those skills?”
The MSLI, a private suburban institution, aids in the process of introducing freshmen and transfer students with diverse backgrounds to the Rider community and provides an outlet for discussion and exploration as they navigate their first years.
Although Pruitt insists all students should develop their networking skills early on, she thinks the MSLI students in particular will benefit the most from early exposure to networking.
“Some of them may never get the opportunity to learn about networking,” said Pruitt. “Some of the executives have personal stories about where they were and how they started, so there was a connection to the students immediately because many of them came from the same places as the MSLI students.”
Freshman musical theater major and MSLI student Sheldon Steele agrees with Pruitt and appreciates the opportunity to further his career options.
“Networking is a pertinent skill that, if learned early on, can benefit young professionals in their pursuit to molding their career and finding their place in life,” said Steele.
Known for their quality services and diverse clientele, Pruitt was excited to introduce students to the world of Aramark, and with their various programs for minority students, choosing them was a no-brainer.
“I only see mainly young people of color that are serving our faculty, students and staff,” said Pruitt. “I said, ‘Do you offer programs for minority students that would benefit them on a career path outside of serving people?’ And they assured me that there were people in Aramark Corporate with internships that were important to students’ growth.”
After nearly a year of planning with Aramark representatives, Pruitt was finally able to set the trip in motion, and they traveled to the Aramark global headquarters in Philadelphia on Aug. 31.
“We had an array of executives that spoke to us the evening that we went,” said Pruitt. “There were men, there were women, they were black, they were white, they were Hispanic; the students were able to see Aramark from a different vantage point.”
Steele thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hopes this will improve his networking skills for future endeavors.
“This networking experience opened my eyes to a huge world of possibility,” said Steele. “Being invited into such a welcoming and warm environment was very pleasant and the experience was very memorable. I was able to speak with the Aramark staff and get to know them, as well as share important facts about myself. My favorite part was learning about the different internship and volunteer opportunities that they offer within their organization.”
When asked how students can be successful networkers in and after their time in college, Pruitt urged students to make use of the several resources offered on campus.
“I believe students should put themselves in the position of where networking takes place,” said Pruitt. “Through Career Development and Success, we offer workshops that provide excellent opportunities for students to get out and speak to potential employers and network with them and be resourceful.”