When presented with a flavorful array of tasty options it’s hard to resist the temptation to indulge, particularly when you are a starving student. There is something strangely enticing about the novelty of that daily special or those wonderful little bite-sized items perched on little white doilies. However, when it comes to the art of the lunch interview or the science of working the room at a networking event, remember, you aren’t there for the food! You are there for the meeting… and you are being watched.
A Lesson Learned
When it comes to navigating the business lunch, I’ll never forget a lunch meeting I had a number of years ago with a former student of mine. She was my star student from an organizational psychology class I taught during my time as a doctoral student. I was very excited to see her as she had recently started her first professional job for a Fortune 500 company. She was just learning the ropes and wanted to get some advice from me on how to best deal with operating in the business world. She was about to teach herself a valuable lesson.
Just a few minutes into the meeting I was quickly reminded of how new she was to this game. When the server came over she promptly ordered the restaurant’s signature “monster” burger. My immediate thought was “oh boy, this should be interesting.” As she was somewhat of a dainty young woman, I knew this would present a unique impediment to good conversation. Needless to say, when this half-slab of a cow showed up oozing at all sides, her face was overcome with concern. For the remainder of the lunch the poor girl struggled though it, desperately trying to protect her white silk blouse. It wasn’t a pretty sight and needless to say, she learned a good lesson.
Remember, it’s not about the food, it’s about the conversation. If you really are looking to make a meaningful connection, the food should be secondary. Sometimes going with the conservative no-mess choice can help keep you focused on the task at hand.
Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a coach and author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy. Dr. Woody is president of the consulting firm HCI, sits on the Academic Advisory Board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership, and holds a PhD in organizational psychology.