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Etiquette Tip of the Week: Punctuation for your salutation

When writing a business letter or business email, begin with the “salutation.”  When should you use a colon and when should you use a comma in a salutation?

With a formal business letter or email, especially when contacting someone you don’t know, use a colon.
Dear Ms. Honeybun:

With people who are more familiar to you, you may use a colon or a comma.
Dear Mr. Sugarpie, or Dear John,
Dear Mr. Sugarpie: or Dear John:

Even less formal:
Hi, Lambchop, or Hello, Lambchop,
Lambchop  —

With people who are completely unfamiliar:
To The Consumer Affairs Department:

Always try to find the name of the person you are trying to reach.  Avoid, “To whom it may concern.”  It may not concern anyone.

Culture and Manners Institute

Etiquette Tip of the Week: Conceit of the feet

Have you ever sat down at a conference or in a movie theater with 20 empty seats on all sides, then someone plunks down in the seat directly in front of you?  And of course, that person has a head like a water tower.  This happens to me all the time.  It’s like I’m invisible.

I was at a conference last week where a woman sitting nearby, turned the chair in front of her, took off her shoes and put her feet up.  She flexed and wiggled her bright blue painted toenails the rest of the session.  I couldn’t help thinking of a person using that chair at the banquet that evening, leaving the table momentarily and placing his or her napkin where the feet were.

Other “feet first” offenders sit behind you on the plane or train and put their bare feet on your armrest.  It doesn’t matter how much is paid to pedicure and paint them — feet are really gross.  In some cultures, it is taboo to show the bottom of your foot or point at things with your foot, let alone put your feet up.

Back to the conference: a lot of people feel they would be doing a public service to correct or shame these inducers of “spectator rage.” But unless you are running the conference, it is not polite to correct the etiquette of others in public…unless they call you, “Mom” or “Dad.”

The best solution is to find another seat (and not the seat directly in front of the offender.) On the plane or train, you may ask in a nice voice, “I know space is tight and it’s a little uncomfortable, but could you please not put your feet on the armrest?”

And unless you are changing a light bulb, feet off the seat.

Culture and Manners Institute

The END (of the semester) is near!!

By Sam Kunz
Graduate Intern

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but the end of the semester is right around the corner.  Spring 2014 will soon be in the books.  As you are scrambling to wrap up papers and projects, it might be hard to see past that first week of May.  Rest assured, however, summer is indeed coming.  So when you take a break from cramming for those finals, it might be a good opportunity to review your plans for the summer one more time.

If you haven’t landed your summer job yet, it’s not too late.  The Career Center has loads of tools to help you build and refine your resume or cover letters.  We also have up to date listings of available jobs and internships.  If you need a little help working on your resume, call to make an appointment for a half hour resume review session with one of our counselors.  Or just feel free to stop by to use our library.

Summer break is also a great time to explore your career options by getting some experience.  If you have a summer job lined up, and you won’t be able to commit the hours needed for a formal internship, why not consider job shadowing?  A job shadow can provide clear insight into the inner workings of a career often without a long term obligation.  Shadowing experiences can be flexible, ranging from a few hours to a few days.  That said, always treat them with the professional respect you would bring to a job interview.

There are many ways to arrange a job shadow.  The Career Center has hundreds of connections via the Maine Mentor program, and we would be happy to help you find a meaningful connection with a UMaine alum.  Also your friends and family are great resources.  Ask them if they know of someone who works in your field of interest.   This could also be a great time to use your network of Facebook contacts, too.  Post a simple and clear message that you are looking for a job shadow experience in a particular field and would appreciate any leads or connections.

A more direct route would be to contact the HR department of local companies and businesses you are interested in and ask about their policies on shadowing.  Start with a call, but be prepared to follow up with a professional letter formally requesting the job shadow.  And no matter what the outcome is, don’t forget the ever important thank you letter, even for just considering your request.  Granted, the goal of a job shadow is to provide you with experience and insight.  However, the experience of landing the shadow can be just as valuable as you hone your professional soft skills.  Those, as they say, are priceless!

If you need any help with researching possible shadowing opportunities, drafting letters, or anything else related to your job search, you can always find us on the third floor of Memorial Union.  Our office will be staffed all summer, so don’t hesitate to call or stop by.

Now go hit the books!

Etiquette Tip of the Week: Interview meal quick hits

Some people think, “I’ll never have an interview meal. Interview meals are for finance or accounting majors and law students.”

No matter what business you are in, you are always eating with others.  There are meetings that run long, where sandwiches are ordered in; dining with clients or vendors; lunches and dinners with trade groups or at conventions; charitable fundraisers; company events with food; and if you have a cafeteria on site, you might lunch with many different people.

So what are some of the Interview Meal Quick Hits that apply to other business dining situations, too?

  • Keep pace with your dining partners – don’t finish too far ahead or too far behind.
  • Don’t order the most expensive items on the menu. Don’t order the largest items on the menu.
  • Avoid messy items like spaghetti, a French Dip sandwich, or finger food like ribs.
  • Taste your food before seasoning it.  Seasoning first makes you look like one who doesn’t think before you leap.
  • Take small bites, so you can answer questions or discuss business.
  • Don’t order things on the side.  It makes you look high maintenance.
  • Don’t try to cool hot soup or hot coffee with ice from your water glass.  Waiting for things to cool shows patience.
  • Leave your plates where they are at the end of the meal. Don’t stack them or push them away.
  • Turn off the cell phone or PDA and be attentive to the people around you.
  • Don’t order a doggie bag in business.  Your dog never has to know.
  • No grooming at the table – lipsticks, combs, nail files are to be used in the restroom, not at the table.
  • Kill the wait staff with kindness.  How you treat them is a reflection of how you will treat co-workers, reports and clients.

Culture and Manners Institute

Etiquette Tip of the Week: Don’t fuss with the lettuce…

When I give a dining tutorial, a frequent question is, “What if something falls off my plate?” This is usually asked during a salad course.  Because salads are tricky.  They are made up of items of wacky shapes and textures that don’t fit together like Legos.  Cherry tomatoes roll.  Croutons bounce.  Leaf lettuce flaps this way and that. Dressing just greases the skids. Of course, it’s piled high onto a tiny plate.

If a piece of lettuce lands on the table, leave it (no pun intended.)  When you are finished with your salad, put the leaf back on the plate before the plate is removed.

Do you ever feel self-conscious about bread crumbs left behind?  It’s probably because you are imagining everyone else at the table looking at your crumbs on the dark table cloth and thinking, “Did any of the bread make it into his/her mouth?”  Don’t sweat the bread crumbs. Into all our lives a few crumbs must fall.  In some fine dining venues, a wait person will come to your rescue by scooping up the crumbs with a magic wand called a crumber.

Culture and Manners Institute

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