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Use social etiquette to build your career

Published:Friday | March 24, 2017 | 12:00 AMLaura Butler

There are three categories of etiquette: social, business, and professional. In this article, I would like to focus on social etiquette. Many job interviews are nowadays conducted beyond the realms of the office space, in a social setting, and though you may be qualified and prepared for the interview, sometimes the inclusion of social etiquette can be offsetting.

Being able to manoeuvre a social setting without fear and insecurity can make a huge difference with your confidence, your ability to network more strategically, and can attract business opportunities as people will be impressed with your level of comfort.

Learning about the tools of the trade is key; and there are several rules of thumb to keep in mind. Remember to be appropriately attired and prepared to handle yourself with confidence in a social setting. This is the best way to send the right message and attract opportunities.

Dining out, inviting people over, or participating in the preparation process to host and entertain are good opportunities to familiarise and learn more about social etiquette.

First of all, you should try to put away the phones when dining so that you can enjoy the true purpose of that interaction, which is to enjoy the atmosphere, the company, flavours of the food, and sometimes, to discuss business or events.

Not being able to handle yourself in these circumstances can sometimes affect your progress and confidence. Bear in mind that good manners and the ability to conduct yourself appropriately in a social setting can prove to help build your career.

Here are some guidelines to help you make a good impression when dining out.

1. Dress appropriately for the occasion

2. Practise good time management.

3. Your napkin is placed on your lap once you are seated. It is to protect the clothing and to dab.

4. Never put elbows, bags, phones, cameras, tested glasses, sunshades or anything else in a position to affect the logistics of the table.

5. Take your conversational skills to another level by being informed and up to date with what's happening in the world both locally and internationally so that you can initiate conversations and participate.

6. Avoid discussing politics, people's business, religion, and sex. Though at times it is hard to avoid these topics, you should challenge yourself to learn more about other areas. The reason why it's recommended not to speak on these four topics is that you never know how people feel about themselves, it is not polite to speak of others unless it is in a positive way, and it is inappropriate and insensitive.

7. Start from the outside of your utensils and make your way to the ones closest to your plate as those are used last.

8. Glasses are positioned to your right and placed in the order of use.

9. Your bread and butter plate are to the left of your place setting. Should the person to your left take your plate, either do without it or ask the server, in a polite, respectful manner, to replace it. If you decide to do without your bread roll, simply say no thank you should the person who took yours ask. Try to ensure that your verbal message synergises with your body language to prevent you contradicting yourself.

10. Absolutely no chewing or sucking of bones at the table in public.

Remember that these are little things, which go a long way. All the best!

- Laura Butler is a business and career development consultant with Fusion Consulting Jamaica. She serves as a consultant to some of the leading companies in Jamaica and has been a consultant to numerous leaders in the Caribbean and North America. She can be contacted at or 469-427-2007.