With a climbing unemployment rate, competition for a job is increasingly fierce. It's becoming more important to stand out and make a good impression. "The way to outclass your competition is to be natural, know what you're doing, and be calm and cool," says Kim Goddard, a business etiquette coach and owner of Proper Protocol. Goddard recently taught the basics to some University of South Florida students, alumni and faculty. Here are some of her tips:
• First impression starts as early as when you enter a room. "If you're nervous as you walk into a room, fake it. When you go into a room, walk in with purpose and go right for somebody."
• Hold your drink in your left hand, because you're going to be shaking hands with the right.
• Don't appear to be miserable. If you want to climb the career ladder, then you have to be approachable. You want to look confident but casual.
• Don't be rude. If you make eye contact, smile.
• Connect with the web of your hand.
• Don't grab a woman's hand with your fingertips, but you also don't want it to be so firm that it's uncomfortable.
• Make eye contact. "If you can't make eye contact with me, I can't trust you. But no dead-on eye contact to make someone uncomfortable."
• There are so many people who are afraid of germs. "Just get over it." Don't insult people by using hand sanitizer in front of them.
• Sweaty hands? Grab a cocktail napkin and hold it in your right hand until you shake. "Or you can use Botox. But napkins are much less expensive."
• In a meeting or business lunch, don't bring your phone. If there's a compelling reason to have it, tell someone upfront that you need the phone for emergencies.
• Don't give a business card that's crumpled. The card represents you.
• Keep your purse off the table.
• For men, "when you put your hand in your pants pocket, it might look okay from the front, but the backside doesn't look good." Stand with your hands together in the front or the back. Or use a drink as a prop for your hands.
• For women, "don't go dressing like a hoochie mama." Wear conservative business attire.
• Don't put on makeup at the table. Primp in the restroom.
At the table
• Follow the lead of your host. Don't start eating until the host begins, or gives the cue to eat.
• At the table, acknowledge everyone and introduce yourself.
• When using silverware, go from the outside in.
• Which bread plate or drinks are yours? Use your hands to remind yourself. Put pointer finger and thumb together with each hand, like an "okay" sign. Your hands make two letters: "b" for bread on the left, "d" for drink on the right.
• "Don't open your mouth and talk the ugly talk, because somebody will hear it."
• Don't insult anyone, no matter what.
Kim Goddard is an etiquette expert and speaker, and runs Proper Protocol. For more information, go to www. properprotocol.com or e-mail her at email@example.com.
Goddard also works with ReStart, a nonprofit group that works with juvenile offenders and foster kids who grow out of the system. For more information, go to www.restartusa.org.