Keep Your Friends Close, Keep Your Contractors Closer: Lessons from the NEWH Young Professionals Event

Emily Barry recently attended the Young Professionals Event hosted by the NEWH. She was kind enough to share her experience with us! She originally published the following in the NEWH magazine.

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I, like many, find the build up before a networking event nerve-racking: The grind to get a presentable portfolio together, the obsessive spell-checking of your resume, the rush-shipping charges on business cards. However, the more often I attend these events, the better prepared I am and the less nervous I feel. For those new to an interior design
program or green to networking events, I hope my recent experience at the NEWH Young Professionals Event can provide some insight.

A tickle of nerves wakes me up at 5 a.m. I tell myself in nine hours it will all be over. I repeat my modified phone-keys-wallet checklist of things to do before taking the train into the city. Portfolio? Check. Resume? Check. Business cards? Check times 100. I change into anywhere from seven to twelve outfits before I settle on some pants and a
favorite blazer. I’ve learned from experience that in order to spread your best social sparkle while networking you have to be comfortable. Steer clear from the heels, unless they give you a boost of confidence. But when in doubt, it’s better to overdress than underdress.

I board the train to Chicago. My headphones blast some psych-up Beyoncé, while potential interview answers whirl through my head. In five hours it will all be over. My adrenaline forces me to unwittingly speed-walk to the Merchandise Mart, meeting my
friends, Olivia Nardi and Gabby Hernandez. Teaming up with familiar faces in an unfamiliar environment is an easy way to quell the nerves.

We arrive to the Kravet Showroom with time to spare. Arriving early to an event is ideal to compose yourself, find the, bathrooms check in, and look professional so you’re not seen red-in-the-face running through the doors.

The NEWH chapter president, Natalie Sheedy, wonderfully introduces the event and splits us up into groups. My friends are placed into a different group, but no need to panic. In four hours it will all be over. This is a great opportunity to remember that when
you’re interviewing, you’ll be alone, so practice these solo-skills in a less taxing
environment.

 

My group begins by watching a few short movies on NEWH scholarships. We hear inspiring stories on the opportunities these scholarships offer students around the world studying various aspects of hospitality. We also learn how few even bother to apply, so
pro-tip: Apply.

The first portion of the day whips by and we are led into the Lee Jofa showroom for a student and professional group “speed dating” session. The time we have with each set
of professionals feels far less than the actual 10 minutes given, teaching you to make a positive impression quickly. Offer a firm handshake, sit up straight, ask engaging questions, and confidently hand over that business card.

We move on to the final segment of our itinerary, meeting with professionals one-on-one to review our resumes and portfolios. I sit up with pride as Duk Kim commends my work and agree appreciatively when he advises me on portfolio layout. A few more interviews,
and before I know it, I’m wide-eyed listening to Ms. Sheedy’s closing remarks, piecing together the onslaught of information from the day.

The resounding message of the day is: You will mess up. You will forget your business cards. You will wear the wrong shoes to a job site. You will make blatant errors on construction documents. But time and time again we hear, “That’s OK. I do, too.”
Our careers will be bookmarked by mistakes, providing reference to learning opportunities. As the professionals advise, befriend the other designers, answer that call for lunch from the sales rep, maintain a steady rapport with the construction team.
These people will have your back when you mess up. They decide if you fall on your face or are there to catch you. So, keep your friends close, but your contractors closer because at the end of the day we all mess up.
I’m riding on the train headed home. One hour ago it was all done. I wish I could do it again.


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