Surviving a Business Dinner: The Essentials of Etiquette

Written by Cassandra Rudd

All of us know some form of etiquette when it comes to eating at the dinner table, whether it is where the fork and knife go in relation to your plate, to not talk while you have food in your mouth, or to push your chair in when you leave the table. However, when it comes to etiquette and business dinners, there are important steps to take in order to make a good impression.

Eating in a professional environment is a way to “break bread,” as the saying goes, and get to know your co-workers or future employer on a more personal level, but as with anything else in the business world, there are guidelines to follow.

You’re invited to a lunch at a nice restaurant by a potential employer. He wants to interview you in a more relaxed setting so he proposes lunch at a local eatery. In order to make a good first impression, make sure that you show up a few minutes early to avoid being late. Showing up too early may be awkward for the potential employer. When you arrive at the restaurant you quickly spot your host, and make your way to his table. You realize that he has brought some of his colleagues with him to the luncheon. Shake hands and let him know that you are thankful for the opportunity to have lunch with him. You then make your way to the others at the table and introduce yourself to them as well. The more people you network with, the better!

Once seated, remember to sit upright in your chair. Slouching would appear lazy or like you were uninterested in the conversation. Proper posture will show that you are present and engaged in the conversation at hand.

When the wait staff brings the menu, look it over being careful to avoid the pricey items like the fresh Maine lobster with truffle butter. Instead opting for something more reasonable like the chicken Florentine or the California Cobb salad. Your potential boss tells you to “order whatever you want!,”  but try to pick a dish that is neutral price-wise. Try to order something that is easy to eat so that you do not make a mess, even if the rack of ribs sounds delicious.

While in the middle of discussing the expansions that have been made to the company that the host works for, your phone begins to vibrate (you put it on vibrate ahead of time knowing that it would be rude if your Miley Cyrus ringtone started to go off in the middle of this important meal). Instead of checking your phone when the conversation begins to die down, leave your phone in your pocket, out of respect for the others at the table.

Before getting to the restaurant study up on the positioning of place settings and glasses at a dining table (See link for place setting: http://www.u.arizona.edu/~cflac/etiquette/settings.html). Be cautious not to grab your host’s water glass by accident; this would be an embarrassing mistake.

When you finally get your meal, you realize, much to your dismay, that the roasted chicken you ordered came with a side of asparagus, a vegetable you despise above all others.  One thing to keep in mind is that it would not look good for you to be picky about what is on your plate; this may give a lasting negative impression.

At one point in the dinner, just after taking a good sized bite of chicken, one of the guests at the table asks you what drew you to apply for the position at the host’s company; an excellent question that you have an answer for, but you just started to chew your food. Wait a minute gesturing to the person to hold on one moment and finish chewing before you speak. At this point in the luncheon, you begin to feel anxious, overwhelmed and worried about whether you are giving off the right impression and if you are presenting yourself in the proper way to the host and his colleagues. Just take a deep breath and remember to relax, you’ve got this!

While making a move toward your water glass, your elbow accidentally hits your butter knife, sending it crashing to the floor. You think to pick it up out of habit, but then think, “This isn’t someone’s home, so I should just leave it.”

After finishing the meal, the host insists on ordering a round of drinks for the table. He asks what you would like to drink, and although you know you probably shouldn’t, he insists.  Go with the safe choice and order one beer, no need to overdo it with multiple drinks or hard liquor when you are discussing business.

As everyone is conversating at the table, you begin to feel as though you may not be speaking up enough, but the discussion is currently about the most recent Mets game, and this is right in your wheel house. Although you know a lot about baseball, you know that you cannot do all the talking and that listening is an important skill to illustrate as well.

When the bill comes, a few guests at the table offer to go Dutch or at least pay for the tip, however you know that it is the host’s responsibility to take care of the whole bill and the tip, as he is the one who invited you out to lunch. When preparing to leave the table, make sure to push in your chair so that it does not obstruct the path of the other guests as they exit or that of the waiters and bussers as they clear the tables. Shake everyone’s hand and let them know how great it was to meet them and to have had lunch with them.

Overall, you think you did a really great job remembering all the etiquette tips you have learned and that you made a great first impression with the host. You are hopeful that the position that you applied for will be yours.

Use these tips to help you at any professional networking events. Some of these points may seem like common sense to most people, but they are very important to keep in mind. Making a good impression at a business dinner is very important and could make or break a job interview, give you a leg up for that promotion, or just help you to build a stronger relationship with your potential supervisor and fellow employees.

Ever wonder what advice a recruiter would offer to job seekers? Hear what Ryan Soldo of Alexander, Aronson and Finning has to say.

By Jillian Stadig

Nichols offers on-campus recruiting to students and alumni in both the fall and spring semesters. Employers who are seeking fresh talent schedule interviews on-campus. Recruiting schedules, job postings and career events are all posted on Road to Success, our online recruitment database. This is a great opportunity that many take advantage of.

Often times, job seekers leave an interview wondering what impression they left on the interviewer. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could gain some advice from them prior to the interview? Here’s your chance to hear what advice Ryan Soldo, Recruiting Director for Alexander, Aronson and Finning shared with Jillian Stadig during a recent interview.

It’s not every day you get the chance to sit on the other side of the table and interview a recruiter, but it’s an opportunity you should take advantage of if you can. On Friday, October 4, I got the chance to sit down and talk one-on-one with Ryan Soldo, Recruiting Director for Alexander, Aronson and Finning, a certified public accounting and business advising firm located in the greater Boston area. They were on campus recruiting for a staff accountant position. Ryan has previously recruited Nichols graduates and hired four Nichols graduates in 2013. They continue to return to campus each year looking for talent and professionalism.

Nichols students have opportunities that students at other schools do not offer, through both Career Services and the PDS program. Ryan’s advice, use these services to the fullest. “I can always tell the difference between the students who have made the most of these services and those who haven’t.” As a recruiting director, one of the first impressions Ryan gets of a job applicant is their resume. So what makes one’s resume stand out to him? “Format and uniformity is important to me. Make sure your spacing and margins are all equal, if not it can look unprofessional.” He also stresses that unless you are looking to go into a creative career field, such as graphic design, keep it simple, no borders, pictures, thumbnails, or colors. Format is important but it’s not the most important thing recruiters’ look at. “I want to see a GPA. If you don’t feel confident enough in your GPA to put it on your resume then make sure you make up for it by having a good list of soft skills, activities and experience.” Overall, Ryan wants an applicant’s resume to show that they are organized, involved and able to multi-task. “If you did extracurricular activities or held a job while in college it shows you are organized and able to multi-task, and that is a critical part of being successful in this field, comments Ryan.”

As we have learned through PDS, Ryan stresses that appearance and hygiene are key when going into an interview. “I interviewed someone at a college a few years back who hadn’t shaved. He was a good candidate, but that was it, he lost the interview right there.” Body language is also important. Sit up straight, but not too straight. Ryan’s words of advice, “Try to mimic the posture of the person who is interviewing you, if they’re leaning back a bit you can lean back a bit.” It is important to gauge the atmosphere in an interview and always be aware of your surroundings. The last interview tactic Ryan touched upon was preparedness. We all know how important it is to do our research beforehand. “Know a little bit about our company,” Ryan says. You don’t have to know the whole company history, but you do need to understand what it is they do. He also stresses the importance of having a list of questions prepared. “If you don’t have any questions, it makes you look uninterested in the position. Everyone has questions.”

RJ Travisano: Mohegan Sun Casino Internal Security

By: Jillian Stadig

There is a lot that goes on behind the haze of second hand smoke at the casino. Nichols College senior RJ Travisano was given the opportunity to see the workings of the Casino from a new perspective through his summer 2013 internship with Internal Security at Mohegan Sun. Throughout the summer, RJ learned not only about what it takes to run a casino safely but also how the security team works together to ensure the safety of both themselves and patrons.

How does a college student find an internship opportunity like this one? In RJ’s case, networking worked in his favor. After telling Professor Charbonneau, head of the Nichols College Criminal Justice Program, that he did not want to do a “normal” police department internship, she made a call to someone in her network that works at Mohegan Sun. One successful interview later, RJ was offered the internship position as part of the internal security team. Although the position was unpaid the amount of knowledge and networking opportunities RJ gained was well worth it. Some events RJ experienced through his internship included detaining a panhandler, seeing a person ejected for stealing a tip cup, and recognizing counterfeit money.

Working with the internal security team at Mohegan Sun RJ learned the ins and outs of the casino. An important part of his job was “learning the language and codes the officers used in their daily routines,” as well as learning the different locations and zones around the casino and their importance. Throughout the summer RJ shadowed a number of different members of the security team, many of them being either ex-military or ex-police force. One of the more exciting things RJ had the opportunity to do was work the “swing shift” meaning he was on duty until midnight, the busy hours for the casino. Considering most special events occur at night, this is an important time where a variety of different things could happen. RJ worked the swing shift on a night that a Glo event was going on. Glo is a popular event among young adults that, in this case, involved a pool party with brightly lit colors. On the same night there was also a popular concert and the regular Mist dance party occurring. Because there was so much going on in one night RJ experienced how important it was to tighten up security. Celebrity appearances at the Glo party required extra security, crowd control was necessary for the concert, and of course, the table games needed the necessary protection as well.

One of the most “interesting” times RJ had over the summer was the night that he worked the grave shift. For this shift he worked with dispatch, which in a sense controls the way the casino works. Almost everything security does must first go through dispatch. Access to many different areas of the casino must be given by dispatch. RJ learned that it is essentially the job of dispatch to make sure security and the casino itself runs smoothly.

Working with the Mohegan Sun internal security team gave RJ the experience of working with a security team that handles a number of different tasks, all with high levels of importance. Depending on the day of the week the security team consisted of anywhere from around 30 to 60 officers and supervisors dispersed around the casino areas. He worked closely with supervisors and investigators on cases of cheating, counterfeit money and drug trafficking. RJ learned that some drug traffickers use the casino as a way to trade “dirty” money for “clean” money. Working with internal security gave him a greater understanding of the Criminal Justice field.   There are many jobs other than police work that many students are not aware of. RJ’s tip for other students looking to do an internship, “make sure you’re doing something you want to do and always make sure you’re having fun with it.”

The Smell of Fall is in the Air. Fall Festivities Have Begun.

By Lori Smith

Summer season is quickly winding down. Fall is fast approaching. The days are getting shorter; nights are getting colder; and the leaves are changing colors. There are many fall activities to choose from – whether it be apple picking, fall foliage outings, pumpkin carving and scare crow contests, and fall festivals. Career Fairs are also hosted in the fall. Fall is the prime recruiting season for accounting positions. Here are some tips on how to prepare:

Fall Cleaning

Review your resume. Make updates and revisions as needed. Did you change positions since it was last revised? Were you promoted at work or given additional responsibilities? Have you completed a project where you can quantify the outcome?

Review your draft cover letter. Be sure to tweak your cover letter for every position you are applying for. Be sure to highlight skills and achievements that are pertinent to the position. Try to incorporate some key terms that will catch the recruiter’s attention.

Prepare your interview outfit. Men should be sure to have a clean pressed suit so that you will be ready on short notice for an interview. Women may want to select a couple of interview pant suits or dress/skirts and jackets so that you will be prepared for an interview no matter the weather. It is important for interviewees to look the part. It is much better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. Pay attention to details such as shined shoes, matching socks, nylons without runs, limited jewelry for women, no earrings for men and light perfume or cologne (if any).

Practice your elevator pitch. Place yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. Based on your resume and the job description, what would you ask if you were the interviewer. Prepare answers to possible questions. Many interviewers will ask behavior questions, such as “Can you tell me about a time when . . . ” Think about projects you have worked on or things you have encountered in your personal and professional life which address the situation presented to you.

Find and Attend Career Fairs

There are many places in which you can find out about Career Fairs happening in your area. Local newspapers, internet, college websites, Workforce Central offices, and Road to Success, the NC online recruitment data base, are all great resources. The following are two upcoming Career Fairs:

Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

MSCPA Accounting Career Fair/Graduate School Expo.
Sheraton Hotel (Copley Place)
Grand Ballroom 2nd Floor
39 Dalton Street, Boston, MA

Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013
1:30 – 4:00 p.m.

Westfield State Career Fair – Open to all majors
Woodward Center
Westfield State University

*For a list of attending agencies, visit www.westfield.ma.edu/careercenter

Available Resources

Road to Success has many resources available all in one site! Students can access Road to Success from their Nichols portal. Just click on in the bookmark section located in the lower right hand side of your home page. Alumni can access Road to Success at: www.myinterfase.com/nichols/alumni.
There are tabs to search for jobs (both on Road to Success and Indeed.com), career events, on-campus recruiting, employers, and also a resource library tab on the left hand side of your homepage which provides materials to assist with resumes, cover letters, portfolios, etc.

Optimal Resume is a great resource when creating and/or updating your resume, cover letter, or writing professional letters. There are many different templates to select from. In addition, you will have access to tips and advice, from keywords to sample wording, based on the criteria you select. Optimal Resume can be accessed from the Career Services page.

Take Action

Attend a career fair or networking event. Have confidence in yourself, smile, and go for it!

Set Goals; Relish Your Achievements and Gain Confidence

By Lori Smith

You don’t have to be a CEO of a company to set goals.  Goals are important to all of us whether it is for our careers, personal or financial objectives.  Goals are a roadmap to where you want to be or achieving what you want to accomplish.  Establishing long and short term goals is a good way to turn decisions you make into a reality.  “A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish.” (Larry Elder)

Simply stated, goal setting is merely being organized in your personal planning process.  The best way to achieve your goal is to make sure it is a S.M.A.R.T. goal:

Specific
A specific goal is much more likely to be realized than a general goal.  Clearly articulate what it is you hope to achieve.  To make goals specific, they must outline exactly what is expected, why is it important, who’s involved, where is it going to happen and which attributes are important.

An example of a general goal would be to “Save money for a trip to Disney.”  But a specific goal would be, “Cut down on discretional spending.  Set aside $50.00 per week for one year in order to save $2,600.00 for a trip to Disney.”

Measurable
Identify concrete criteria to measure your progress towards achieving your goal.  A measurable goal will usually answer, “How much?”; “How many?”; and “How will I know when it is accomplished?”  This will help you to stay on track, reach your target dates and ultimately reach your goal!

Achievable
Set goals that are reasonable and that can be attained through time and energy.  While your goal may be stretch, it should not be unrealistic.  When working towards a goal that is important to you, you will find ways to achieve it.  You will have the confidence to make it come true and will begin to develop the attitude, ability and skills necessary to make it a reality.  An achievable goal will usually answer the question, “How can this goal be accomplished?”

Realistic
A realistic goal will be something you are both willing and able to work towards.  Only you can decide how high your goal should be.  Often times a high goal is easier to achieve than a low goal because you will be motivated to work harder towards it.   A realistic goal will usually answer, “Is this goal reasonable and within your reach?”; and  “Are you willing to commit to your goal?”

Timely
Grounding your goals within a timeframe is an important aspect of reaching your goal.  Without a timeframe it is easy to lose focus or become overtaken by other daily responsibilities.  A timely goal will usually answer, “When?”; “What can I do today?”; “What can I do four weeks from today?”; and  “What can I do four months from today?”

“Perhaps one of the most immediate effects of goal setting is the gratification you feel when you set a goal, stick to a plan and achieve it.  Once you begin to make goals and achieve them you will gain confidence in yourself and gain a better understanding of your strengths!” (Quintessential Careers)

Dog Days of Summer Have You Feeling Down? Need Help Staying Motivated in Your Job Search?

By Lori Smith

The phrase “dog days of summer” refers to the hot, humid period of summer between early July and early September.  It is also often associated with a period of sluggishness and apathy.    This can be a difficult time for those in the job search to stay motivated.  Having a positive outlook and being motivated are essential for a successful job search.  The following are 5 ways to stay motivated in your job search:

1.  Realize Your Value!
Nothing makes you less motivated than feeling like a failure.  People often underestimate their value and experience.  Reflect on your experience, education and achievements.  What differentiates you from the competition?  What personal improvements can you make?

2.  Reward Yourself
Submitted three resumes this morning?  Invited in for an interview?  Made some new connections?  Take a moment to reward yourself for these accomplishments.  Take a break and go for a walk in the sun, meet a friend for a coffee, or sit down for a bit and read a book!  Don’t get burned out . . . take time to relax and rejuvenate.

3.  Keep It In Perspective
Discouraged by all of the bad news in the headlines?  Don’t believe everything you read or hear. After all, newspapers love bad news – it sells.  There is good news out there for jobseekers . . . companies are hiring!   Although the job hunt is hard work, the payoff is great!

4.  Avoid Burnout
It is important to maintain a healthy balance between job hunting and enjoying your life.  Spending hours on end on the computer, updating your documents, and networking will ultimately drain your energy level and you will be less productive.  Take time out for family and friends.  Create realistic schedules with breaks and stick to it!

 5.  Think Positive
Don’t go into application process with a negative attitude.  For example thinking, “What’s the point?  I’ll never get hired for this position.”  We have all faced rejection at one time or another.  Don’t let it get you down.  Remember, every “no” is one step closer to a “yes.”  View the process as great practice, especially the interviews.  Be calm, confident and positive!