While some students attended parties, did homework or watched sports events on Nov. 11, a group of students wishing to further their careers with proper etiquette and finesse attended the Career Center’s 7th annual Etiquette Dinner.
Among other topics, one of the dilemmas posed by the night was how to eat a cherry tomato.
“It’s terribly problematic,” said Diane Keate, district manager for Sodexo Campus Services and host for the night. The cherry tomato is a horrible food item because it cannot easily be cut or chewed if too big, she added. In matters of the cherry tomato, Keate suggested that the guest refrain from eating it altogether.
The Etiquette Dinner aimed to present students with the chance to experience first-hand the challenges of eating correctly while presenting a good image to a potential employer.
“It’s a more stressful situation,” Keate said. “Employers want to see how you can act under this type of stress.”
Prior to the dinner was a 45-minute mingling session held in the foyer of the President’s Dining Room. Students gathered in small circles. Some chatted with company representatives from Bank of America, Rose, Kelin and Marias LLP and Enterprise. Representatives gave students the opportunity to converse and ease intimidation through casual conversation.
Gabriel Alaniz, assistant director and employer relations coordinator for the Career Center, said that part of the experience was knowing how to mingle, carry on a conversation and meet people while dealing with appetizers and drinks.
“You have to know how to deal with the handshake and which hand to hold your appetizer,” he said. “It helps students build confidence.”
Most students were looking forward to the good food and the dos and don’ts of business dinners.
“My professor told me to go,” said James Muldrow, senior accounting major. “He told us that we didn’t want to make the same mistakes he did on interviews.”
Some of the mistakes Robert Barrett, professor of law and business, mentioned to his students were eating too much and not knowing how to talk to employers over a meal.
Other students had similar expectations.
“Hopefully there’ll be good food,” said Brandon Holder, junior business and marketing major. “I want to be able to carry on a conversation while properly eating.”
Clive Brennan, international student from England, was hoping to see the cultural differences between England and America.
“It was very good and informative,” Brennan said. “Honestly, I eat slightly more formerly, but much of it was the same.”
Brennan mentioned that the style of holding utensils in England consists of the continental method, never putting the fork and knife down while eating. Keate showed the students both the American and the continental methods of eating and said students were welcome to choose either one.
Most students attended for the first-hand etiquette experience.
“I’d like some clarification on what to expect,” said Michelle Baccus, senior marketing major. “It’s nice to get something before I go out there and look like a retard.”
Keate said that business etiquette is different from social etiquette in that it is not based on gender rules.
For example, in social etiquette, all the men at a table would stand when a woman approached the table. In business etiquette, all members at the table would stand if a person of higher authority approached the table.
She also mentioned that business etiquette is constantly evolving and varies across cultures. In Japan, business etiquette is based on tradition.
In America, business etiquette is based on common sense.
However, some students did not quite see this common sense.
“It doesn’t make sense to pace yourself while you’re eating,” said Jonathan Antolin, senior kinesiology major at Cal State University, Fullerton.
Keate instructed students to carefully monitor their food intake according to the pace of each member of the dinner party.
“Food is meant to be enjoyed and you shouldn’t have to worry about how everyone else is eating,” Antolin said.
Most students agreed that eating with real food helped the effectiveness of teaching etiquette.
“I took an etiquette class in high school,” said Samantha Dauz, freshman.
“But actually using food really helped to give hands-on experience.”
While most students gave top ratings to the dinner and experience as a whole, the food was less impressive.
“The food was just like Davenport,” Brennan said. “It could have been a little better.”
Shabree Wenz, junior business and marketing major, also had her critiques.
“I wish they would have gone into the dress code a little more,” she said.
“But it went really well… it was worth my ten dollars.”
Stephanie Duarte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.