Tips for attending my first "professional" dinner?

Am a sophomore at a target. Going out to dinner with alum group at a BB next Monday for a recruiting event. Maybe it speaks to my uncultured redneck background but I haven't really done anything like this before in terms of a formal/professional dinner. Do you guys have any do's and dont's? Maybe dumb stuff that you did or maybe stuff that you didn't know about because you had never been in that setting before?

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Comments (17)

  • Associate 1 in RE - Comm
Oct 22, 2021 - 8:26pm

Uncultured rednecks are the best just don't talk about changing oil on your Stihl.

Napkin in lap.

Start using silverware from the outside in/top down.

Chew with your mouth closed.

Modern day bullshit that should go without saying but don't be on your phone.

Honestly do those and you'll be fine. I grew up the son of a career military officer and if I followed those rules I generally didn't get chewed out later. A great conversation starter is "where did you grow up?" Who knows, the MD that might be sitting next to you could be an uncultured redneck at heart as well.

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Oct 22, 2021 - 9:27pm

Thanks for the advice. Probably a dumb question, but what do you mean by "Start using silverware from the outside in/top down."

Oct 22, 2021 - 8:49pm

The poster above has it right. It's not that hard. Does your school have practice dinners? At my school every fall and spring we have a dinner/event on formal manners a week before the career fair. I go to a non target state school, and none of the firms people talk about on here recruit on campus. So I would hope you have something similar at your school.

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Oct 22, 2021 - 9:28pm

One thing I would add to the above is try to have some snacks before.

Some redneck friends have invited me over before and the culture seems to be that they want you to be really full - seconds and thirds are expected.

For professional dinners, its the exact opposite. Don't fill your plate too much that you have gravy going over the edges or a mound of food, and avoid seconds unless you're directly told to. 

On a similar thread when you get a drink, drink it in sips - don't down the whole thing and then go for another round. 

Also, If you've never cut meat before with a fork or knife it's worth a practice round. You don't want to be the guy trying to chainsaw the meat into pieces. 


  • 1
  • Intern in IB - Cov
Oct 22, 2021 - 9:43pm

Thanks for the advice. I'm definitely the guy who struggles to cut meat so gonna have to work on that.

Most Helpful
Oct 25, 2021 - 1:24pm

first poster has 99% of what you need to remember, couple other random thoughts

to slow yourself down, put the fork down between bites

mind your posture (upright, shoulders back, the guy across from you should see your face not the top of your head)

elbows off the table

be careful of what you order. I've ruined many a tie by ordering noodles, instead opt for things that don't have to be slurped or twirled, like rice, gnocchi, potatoes, etc., and if you're uncomfortable cutting meat, order the fish. if it's chilean seabass, salmon, etc., should be able to get by with just a fork. I've been in many dinners where my medium rare is medium edging towards medium well and it's infinitely harder to cut, and the worst part is the knives aren't always sharp (even in the nicest steakhouses), so I usually skip steak. granted, I've been disappointed at every steak business dinner this year (regardless of city) so I'm probably just bitter...

don't be a convo killer or dominator, follow the MDs lead, you likely won't be in charge of conversation, but be ready for your brief intro (this is customary) something like "I'm from here, I went to school there, I grew up doing A & B, I got to this job in this year, and I recently got into C. how about you?" also this time of year, ask people's holiday plans, if they have kids ask about them, if they mention travel, ask about that, and a good one to keep the convo going is "what was that like?" or "tell me more about that, I've never done/been to____"

other cultural things you may have to be aware of is many major metro areas opinions of guns and things like that, so instead of saying "I grew up shooting guns, target practice, hunting, skeet shooting, culling the coyote population, you name it!" maybe say you enjoy the outdoors.

Oct 25, 2021 - 3:46pm

Yeah for me I just don't even worry about the actual food itself at dinners like this and get the most simple thing that won't cause a mess or be hard to handle. Plenty of other times to enjoy the food so it shouldn't be hard to focus on something else for one dinner

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
Oct 25, 2021 - 4:11pm

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