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Careers Office Etiquette Dinner Teaches Students "Rules of Engagement"

Etiquette Dinner
Kathleen Fisher advised students on proper table manners at Career Services' annual etiquette dinner. (Photo by Eron Earley-Thiele '04)

November 22, 2000
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu

by Emily Drew '04

"Social skills must be practiced just as interviewing skills and techniques are practiced," said Kathleen Fisher, while circling impeccably dressed Davidson students seated for fine dining. Fisher, the director of the career center at Marietta College in Ohio, was speaking at a recent four-course "etiquette dinner" where students learned how to polish their manners in preparation for job interviews. The second annual event was sponsored by Davidson's Office of Career Services.

About 70 students gathered in Chambers Gallery at 5 p.m. for an hour of mingling around a table of hors d'oeuvres. This segment, Fisher later explained, offered them the chance to evaluate their ability to maintain conversation while standing, holding glasses, balancing small plates, and eating. Crackers, meatballs, and vegetables were offered, along with dangerous bar-b-que wings--always a threat to clean cloths and hands!

Guests then took their seats at tables set with linen napkins (fold in half and lay across the lap, crease in), silverware (start from the outside and work in for each course), wine glass (hold white wine at glass stem, red wine at glass bowl), and dark chocolate cake (do not eat until all other courses have been served).

The wait staff began the dinner by serving chicken noodle soup, while Fisher answered questions and discussed the "rules of engagement." Students learned that leg crossing under the table is acceptable, and that sometimes coughing and sneezing cannot be helped.

Fisher explained the importance following the lead of the host. She encouraged students to take entrée suggestions from their interviewer. When he or she has completed a course by placing utensils in the four o'clock position across the plate, the interviewee should do likewise. When the host begins a course, the interviewee should also begin.

Large leaf salad heaped with croutons presented another challenge because it was difficult to cut and eat gracefully. Fisher noted that diners do not have to finish each course, but emphasized that each segment of the meal should at least be tasted. Also, alcohol should be avoided before an interview, and wine should be sipped in moderation during meals.

The main course consisted of chicken, spinach, and spaghetti with red sauce. Students learned the proper way to address "a spot" stuck in someone's teeth, and how to pass salt and pepper (always together).

Conversation skills were also emphasized. Fisher said that in the quest to be hired, advertising talents--without bragging--is far more important than eating food. "You probably won't finish your meal," she said, "but you can always drive through McDonalds on your way home."

Students finished their meals with dessert, coffee, and some light conversation. Each participant received a folder of information on the rules of dining etiquette.

Students like John Kenyon '01 appreciated the opportunity to learn precise rules. "The dinner was very pertinent to my career search," he said. "I have a lunch interview coming up in less than three weeks."

Davidson's Office of Career Services is dedicated to helping students determine their options in the work force, and the department hopes that the etiquette dinners will offer future interviewees an edge to the interviewing process. As director Tony Butchello commented, the dinner was meant to present students with a different context of an interview dinner. He said that although manners are definitely necessary, it is more important for an interviewee to realize that he or she is meeting to earn a position, not to socialize or relax. This year's etiquette dinner was scheduled for November to precede first and second interviews of current seniors.

Fisher, a the director of the Career Center at Marietta College in Ohio, commented on the attentiveness of her Davidson guests and said, "Students need to know etiquette and sharpen their skills."

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