Etiquette for the real World

When one has to go to the bathroom during a business dinner, what should he or she do with his or her napkin? They should place it on their chair, shared Jennifer Bufalini, Shell recruiter, among many other guidelines at the informational lunch provided by Shell and the CSM Career Center. Bufalini’s talk discussed business etiquette in dress, general behavior, and dining.

Bufalini started with discussing professional dress for men and women. She explained, “The goal wherever you are is to look professional whether in business or business casual attire. Right, Wrong or indifferent. That is the way the world is and there are people who will make snap judgments based on what you’re wearing. So, whatever it is that you are wearing, be aware that image is what you are portraying.” Generally, clothes should be clean and pressed. Shoes should be polished and accessories should be conservatives. In business dress situations, both men and women should wear simple, conservative, dark colored suits with limited, conservative accessories. In business casual situations, men can wear khakis or slacks and collared shirts without ties or jackets. For women, such items as khaki slacks, skirts, dresses, and button-downs, with no jackets and light colors are appropriate. She also advised remaining in at least business casual attire for business events, unless stated otherwise.

Bufalini then progressed to general business etiquette and conduct. She stated, “Handshakes are really your first impression. It’s a good thing to know how to do appropriately.” She then elaborated on proper handshaking technique. Use a firm, but not crushing, grip; make eye contact; and hold the other persons hand for three to four shakes. Bufalini also discussed posture, stating, “Slouching can give the impression that you’re slacking or bored. An upright posture lets people know you’re… paying attention and interested.” Eye contact is also important. Job seekers should make eye contact to show confidence and honesty, but should not stare. In conversation, job seekers should speak calmly and politely, but not monotonously. Thank you notes following interviews are not necessary, but greatly appreciated in either an e-mail or handwritten form.

One other topic discussed in the seminar was dining etiquette, which was an especially appropriate topic, given the luncheon setting. The key to professional dining, Bufalini explained, is to be polite and follow the host’s lead. This includes in ordering food or alcohol, in timing, and in discussion. In order to participate in discussion effectively, Bufalini suggests looking over at least news headlines before the meal. Another important aspect of professional dining is following general dining etiquette. Job seeking diners should use utensils correctly, give everyone at the table personal space, and consider intelligently what they are ordering. As an explanation, Bufalini said, “I love French onion soup, but I never order it when I’m at any sort of a function that has to do with work… because it’s really awkward to eat. So when you’re ordering, think about how you’re going to be eating and whether you’re comfortable with that.” Dinners can be a minefield, but basic courtesy and etiquette can alleviate many crises.

For the many students searching for jobs, a basic knowledge of professional etiquette can be a boost on the way to employment.

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