Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Students learn professionalism at etiquette dinner


Teaching students to act professionally during meals is no easy task, even if food is involved. The University of Kansas Career Center and the Student Alumni Association host the Etiquette Dinner twice a year, one in the fall and spring, to teach students how to conduct themselves with professional etiquette during a business dinner.  

Tuesday, Oct. 2, marked the first event of the 2012-2013 school year.

We had the opportunity to attend an etiquette dinner, which was nerve-wracking, informational and fun. 

Not only do a resume, cover letter and interview with a company demonstrate an individual’s professionalism success, but the real test comes with proper use of table manners. This isn’t a rundown of mom-and-pop’s table manners from keeping elbows off the table, it goes beyond that. Business dinners are less about the food and more about the business and manners.

The dinner featured a business attire fashion show and discussion panel before the meal. Much like opening a can of soda in a quiet room, the first question of the evening is asked and directs the panel toward resume, interviews, social media portrayal and how to land a great job after graduation. 

“The more well-rounded a person is,” said Joe Burke, retail recruiting specialist at Hy-Vee, “the better that person will transfer into the workforce.”

Most of the panel members agree that experience and involvement are more important than what kind of degree you have. Employers are more interested in an applicant’s ability to take on real world tasks in the professional world, the kind of experience that isn’t found in a textbook. 

Presentation is also important to an employer, not specifically at a dinner, but also how the individual dresses, talks and represents himself or herself on social media outlets. Anything posted to Facebook, Twitter and blogs reflects the kind of person the individual is and represents the company for which he works.

“I enjoyed the question and answer panel portion at the beginning of the evening the most,” said Kelsey McConnell, a junior in accounting from Overland Park, Kan. “They were all recruiters and provided awesome insights about the keys to interview success.”

Panel guests provided answers that stemmed beyond the questions. The answers taught students how to apply classroom knowledge and skills to position themselves as better candidates for a job. 

After the discussion panel was the business dinner, where not only the students had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with a panel member, but everyone learned appropriate table manners.

The rules flowed like wild fire, such as how to fold your napkin when it’s on the lap and rules about how to pass items on the table. When offering bread, fake left then continue to pass to the right until it reaches full circle. Each item on the table has a specific place, and when positioned in particular ways gives notion to the server how to act. There are more silverware pieces surrounding a plate than fingers on any one individual’s hand. 

“It would have been nice to have a print out of the etiquette rules, “McConnell said. “I feel like I forgot some of the things she said after the dinner.”

Practice does make perfect, which is why we created an easy-on-the-go cheat sheet, or I mean, memory bank, for back pocket access.

Dan’s advice: BMW: If you’re wondering which glass of water is yours, just remember BMW. From left to right, it’s bread, meal, water. Your bread plate, is on the left side of your plate and your water is on the right.

Steph’s advice: Only cut two or three bites at a time. Rest the knife across the top of your plate, sharp edge toward you, for easy access. When finished with the meal, place the knife down in 4 o’clock position on your plate with the fork, tines down, below it. This tells your server you have finished with your meal and he may take your plate.