First Impressions: Manners matter
The number one rule of etiquette is making people feel comfortable. “That’s more important than using the right fork,” said Mary Jean Billingsley, program director, Learner Engagement, and the gracious hand behind JCCC’s First Impressions seminar.
Certified by the Protocol School of Washington, D.C., Billingsley can tell you the proper seating order for an international business dinner based on a guest’s rank and function, when and when not to take a sip during a toast and how to give a proper handshake.
Billingsley attended the school, recognized as one of the best protocol schools in the world, for an intensive five days of training with 30 U.S. and international participants, many of whom were government protocol officers. The week included training from the director of protocol for the Smithsonian Institution, speech critiques by a national speech consultant, materials development from a New York marketing executive, and the experience of a formal dinner complete with a receiving line and toasts.
At JCCC, Billingsley offers an etiquette seminar, First Impressions, four times a semester as a way to give JCCC students an edge in today’s job market. During a four-course lunch or dinner in the Capitol Federal Conference Center, participants learn how to conduct business while engaging in conversation and eating soup correctly. She says many job interviews are conducted during a meal or social event, so knowing appropriate behavior can make the difference in a competitive job market. The seminar also covers business introductions, Internet etiquette, savvy on the golf course and business correspondence. The next set of seminars will be taught April 14.
“Manners matter,” Billingsley said.
Even in today’s more casual workplace, Billingsley says etiquette still applies. She talks to students about how to best represent oneself in person, on paper and electronically – on “netiquette.” Billingsley advises job-seekers to clean up their electronic presence because employers check out the Internet.
“Really clean up your image on MySpace and Facebook – remove images of you drinking or using bad language that would indicate a lack of judgment to an employer,” Billingsley cautions. “Make sure your e-mail address and cell phone answering message are professional.”
And while it is an electronic age, Billingsley says, a handwritten, hand-delivered note following an interview will make you stand out among applicants.