October 31, 2012

Students Learn Professional Etiquette to Get Ahead

Knowing when, where to place a fork, knife can make a difference

By Trent Brown
Grambling State University Media Bureau

Johnny Patterson wants students to taking eating properly seriously. “You can lose a job if you don’t know what fork to pick up,” he said.

As part of an ongoing effort to prepare Grambling State University students for the business world, Patterson and the university’s Office of Career Development and Placement Services hosted an etiquette dinner Tuesday night. Patterson, the office director, said the goal was to help students polish their skills so they can better present themselves during important interviews that might involve meals.

Patterson stressed the importance of appropriate etiquette as well as proper behavior and attire when it comes to business events. “More and more employers are asking applicants to dinner to mingle with them in a social setting,” added Denesia Lofton, a career counselor and the event coordinator who started the event in the spring. “We want our students to get comfortable sitting down with an employer.”

Etiquette expert Linda Montgomery walked from table to table greeting students before the dinner program started, giving them samples of how to meet and greet in a professional, business-like manner. During her talk, Montgomery told students to always know where they are going, and know how long it takes to get there, so they can arrive on time. “Always leave few minutes ahead of time in case of a unexpected problem,” she said.

Getting down to more serious etiquette business, Montgomery taught students about the proper dinner place settings and dinner service. She said in an interview that she wants students to immediately “feel comfortable particular in dining situations” because social etiquette skills will give them a competitive edge in the business world.

Some of her key tips during the program at the Eddie G. Robinson Museum included:

  • before the meal, always use common courtesies such as “please” and “thank you”
  • when done with the meal, do not push plates aside or stack them on top of each other
  • place the knife and fork side by side on the plate, pointing to the 10 o’clock and 4 o’clock positions as if facing a clock
  • always remember to thank the host

Montgomery was trained at The Protocol School of Washington, an accredited protocol and etiquette school in the nation’s capital. She is an etiquette expert in the area, giving media interviews as well as public speaking and planning conferences and special events.  “We wanted to invite somebody who has a reputation, and she brings the knowledge and skills …,” said Patterson.

Students had a chance to practice what they were learning as they enjoyed roasted chicken, glazed carrots, steamed asparagus and bread pudding. They talked about their desired careers and Montgomery talked about how to avoid social networking mistakes, especially on Facebook.

The etiquette expert shared ideas about how to make small talk and how to mingle at professional receptions.  They were given etiquette booklets to take home so that they could brush up before their next professional dining experience.

Damilola Dade, an 18-year-old freshman economics major from Nigeria, said she will take what she learned at the event and use it.

 “I knew I was going to learn a lot,” said Dade, who needed to be convinced to attend. “I persuaded myself to come.”


Media Contact:
Will Sutton



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