Students Learn 'It’s Not About the Food' at Etiquette Dinner
Providence, R.I. — When it comes to business lunches, dinners, and other encounters that take place over meals, Providence College students know not to focus on the food.
That was the take-away message that Elizabeth Freedman, the author of Work 101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace without Hanging Yourself, shared at the Etiquette Dinner and Fashion Tutorial.
More than 110 students attended the event, which was held in the Slavin Center’s ’64 Hall and was sponsored by L3: Lifelong Leadership, the Office of Career Services, the Student Alumni Association, and Future Friar Executives (FFE), with support from the Balfour Office for Multicultural Activities.
In addition to Freedman’s dining advice, a panel of alumni experts critiqued clothing choices modeled by students for business casual and interview meetings.
Etiquette programming is not new to PC — similar activities have been held for nearly two decades. But FFE member Maria Pantazelos ’14 (Danvers, Mass.) suggested adding a fashion component to the traditional dinner after seeing too many fellow students dressed inappropriately for business casual events.
“I saw a lot of people didn’t really know how to do that,” she said. Some students would wear untucked shirts or skirts that are too short, she said. “You need to be more polished and cleaned up than that,” Pantazelos said.
Freedman, an executive coach and consultant at Bates Communications, told the students that practice will help them present themselves in the best way. “I want you to be the best version of you that you can be,” she said.
She guided the students through four courses, offering tips on how to eat bread (rip small pieces and butter each individually), how to sip soup (quietly), and what to order (foods that preserve your dignity). She also reminded them to wait for their host to take the lead and invite them to sit down and to begin eating.
“If there is one thing you have to remember about etiquette: It’s not about the food,” Freedman said.
During the dinner, she fielded questions from the students about concerns: When is the appropriate time to go to the bathroom? Where does the bread knife live between butterings?
Freedman also peppered the talk with advice that is applicable to many career-building situations, whether they take place in an office or over a meal.
“The best way to have a conversation is to plan in advance,” she said. Guests should be prepared to discuss some topics that would spark conversation.
She also told them to consider the host’s agenda for meeting with them. “Use 180 thinking — what do they want to hear from me?” she said. “Think about it from their perspective.”
After the dinner, FFE members modeled good and bad versions of interview and business casual outfits for an alumni panel — Kerri Colletta ’07, a store administrator at Nordstrom in South Shore Plaza; Josh Varone ’03G, human resources specialist at Swarovski North America Limited; Sarah Walker ’81, senior human resources manager at General Dynamics Corp.; and Kate Kennedy ’92, a human resources consultant.
The alumni said that certain clothing may be more or less appropriate for a job depending on the industry. The jeans and blazer combination worn by Jennifer Anello ’13 (Basking Ridge, N.J.) might work on a casual Friday in some situations, but Walker advised switching from sneakers to more office-worthy flats or heels. However, Varone nixed the white socks and boat shoes sported by Joe Neidermeyer ’12 (Colts Neck, N.J).
Students such as Ally Rohmann ’15 (Branchburg, N.J.) and Clare Dempsey ’14 (Lynbrook, N.Y.) said they enjoyed the experience. “It was really informative, just learning all the dos and don’ts,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey shared a handy reminder with Freedman for identifying where your bread plate and water glass are located. She learned the tip during a lunch at The Capital Grille while shadowing PC alumni over winter break. If you make a circle with the index finger and thumb of each hand, your left hand will form a “b” for bread and your right hand will form a “d” for drink.
“One of the mentors told us this because they saw in our faces we didn’t know what we were doing,” said Dempsey, an accountancy major.
Rohmann, a marketing major, said she appreciated the practice. “That’s the best way to do it — before making the mistakes, to learn what to do beforehand.”
— Liz F. Kay