Well-mannered? Think again!
Most people probably think they’re well-mannered, at least when they need to be. According to etiquette trainer Kathy Pykkonen, this isn’t the case.
Pykkonen served as the expert at the fourth annual Labovitz School of Business and Economics Etiquette Dinner on Feb. 16, which was hosted by LSBE’s Women in Business student group.
The etiquette dinner was curated for LSBE students, but the skills shared are essential for everyone, especially for students preparing for internship and job interviews during and after college.
“Our mission is to provide members the opportunity to connect with peers and industry professionals in order to improve communication, instill confidence and strengthen business etiquette,” Raquel Halldorson, president of Women in Business, said.
The group, only on its fourth year of existence at UMD, consists of about 60 LSBE students and provides opportunities for its members to develop as young professionals.
“This stuff doesn’t always come naturally, and a person’s actions can be perceived as rude or inconsiderate if they’re not thinking about what they’re doing,” Pykkonen said.
So what are the etiquette skills necessary to succeed and ensure a professional appearance? While there are different “guidelines” for different situations, they all intermingle and help to develop confidence in a professional setting.
Here are two common “situations” Pykkonen focused on during the etiquette dinner:
“The number one fear over dying and public speaking is networking,” Pykkonen said. “But you’re going to have to do it.”
Pykkonen made it clear that first impressions are critical. A bad first impression could cost a job or internship. It’s about appearance, body language and facial expressions.
“If you’re wearing a nametag, you want to wear it on the right side of of your chest. When you shake someone’s hand, their eyes will see naturally see it,” Pykkonen said.
Before an introduction, think of an introduction.
“Think about what you want to say. You’re a student. What are you studying? This is where having a good first impression is so important,” Pykkonen said. “You want to be remembered.”
Business professionals from Maurices, St. Luke’s, Target and more joined the etiquette dinner to help students practice their networking skills.
When someone presents a business card, it’s critical to look at it for a few seconds to acknowledge the connection that was just made. A business card is to be presented right after a handshake.
Networking isn’t for private conversations.
“You want to stand beside the person in a way that’s comfortable for others to join and for you to exit. You don’t want to close off the conversation,” Pykkonen said. “When you want to exit a conversation, introduce the person you were speaking with to someone else, or offer one more handshake and say something along the lines of, ‘Have a great evening. I hope to catch up with you later.’”
Pykkonen reiterated to be curious and to actually have a sincere conversation, but to keep it simple. Ask questions and learn something. Find a common interest and listen for advice.
In the overwhelmingly digital age, the question about cell phone use was raised.
“If you want to connect with someone on LinkedIn, perhaps politely ask if you may pull out your phone to connect with that person,” Pykkonen said. “Don’t just whip out your phone.”
Networking often involves standing and walking around, which can be tricky when beverages and hors d'oeuvres are offered.
“Never have food and drink in hand at the same,” Pykkonen said. “You don’t want to have a balancing act of items when you’re trying to shake someone’s hand.”
Upon arriving at a table where a meal will be served, don’t sit down right away. Shake everyone’s hand.
“When you’re ready to sit, enter from the right side of your chair. Put any items you have (like a purse) on the right side of your chair on the floor,” Pykkonen said. “This way, your items are only in a place where you will be stepping over them.”
While Pykkonen said it’s okay for a cell phone to be “out” during a meal, it should be on silent and it shouldn’t be in use.
“The moment you sit down, put your napkin on your lap,” Pykkonen said. “Fold it in half and put the folded side closest to your body. Lift a corner of the napkin to wipe your face. You don’t need to lift the whole napkin to do so.”
The setting of the utensils and dishware shouldn’t be moved around. If confused about what utensil to use first, always start from the outside and work towards the inside.
“Community items like butter and bread should be passed to the right. You can break the rule, however,” Pykkonen said. “Always pass the salt and pepper together—they’re married.”
As far as eating goes, it’s proper etiquette to cut a salad instead of trying to eat large leaves. Don’t slab butter onto a roll. Instead, break off a piece to eat and butter just that. Don’t blow on soup. Instead, stir it. Don’t pile something if it doesn’t taste good. Eat around it. Cut one to two bites of food at a time.
“Pace yourself when you’re eating. You want to keep pace with the others at your table,” Pykkonen said.
When in doubt, always follow the lead of the host, especially when wondering when to start eating or what to order. Asking for a recommendation of what to order can be helpful when deciding.
“If you need to leave the table at any time, discretely rise from the table and put your napkin on the back of the chair to signal to the waitstaff that you’re coming back,” Pykkonen said.
If a spill ever occurs, don’t start immediately wiping the person. Instead, let that person excuse themself to clean up on their own.
“Please” and “thank you” can’t be overused. Show appreciation to the host.
While it’s true etiquette for the host/employer to pay, always be prepared and have money in case the bill is split.
“Don’t pass out business cards at a table. However, it’s okay to do it at the end of the night after dining,” Pykkonen said.
According to Pykkonen, social media should be guarded. It’s out there for everyone to see, so keeping a “clean” and “respectable” presentation is key.
“You have to get comfortable in business attire. You can’t wear sweatpants and sweatshirts to work,” Pykkonen said.
Always sneeze into an elbow and away from a table/person.
“If someone thanks you for coming, say ‘thank you for having me,’” Pykkonen said. “Saying ‘no problem’ is so crazy casual.”
If alcohol is available, know a limit beforehand. Pykkonen said that “saying you have to drive is always a good excuse” to not drink.
It’s proper etiquette to respond to an RSVP within 48 hours.
“Show pride and carry yourself well. Don’t be afraid to meet people,” Pykkonen said. “Make personal connections, but have a professional separation.”