Third in a monthly series on Young Executive Scholars.
Sit up straight. Never hold your fork when you chew. Don’t begin eating until everyone has been served.
Those are just a few of the dining etiquette tips that Jones Leadership Academy juniors and seniors learned over a meal on Wednesday. It was their monthly meeting of Young Executive Scholars, a partnership new this year between the academy and University of Toledo's business college.
The class is designed specifically to prepare students for the business world, and on Wednesday they learned that many business decisions are made during a meal.
“Interviewing with professionals sometimes occurs over lunch or dinner, and we want them to have the skills they need to be confident,” said Selina Griswold, a UT associate professor of management who created the class.
Ms. Griswold enlisted Robin Reeves, founder and president of Reeves Etiquette and Image Consulting, to walk the students through a mock networking luncheon. Ms. Reeves first quizzed students on how to arrange a fine dining table setting, then demonstrated the proper way to hold each utensil and how to lay a napkin on one’s lap.
As the students — all with perfect posture — began to eat their breaded chicken, green beans, and roasted potatoes, Ms. Reeves walked the room and offered constructive criticism.
“Dining brings people together. this is your opportunity to show that you have some grace and finesse,” Ms. Reeves said. “It’s very rarely about the meal. They want to get to know you.”
Senior Tyler Huff, 17, wants to study business management in college. When he graduates, he plans to run his own music program designed to give inner city youth a safe space to express themselves. In order to get his business off the ground, Tyler said he knows he’ll have to network.
“I learned that impressions are everything,” he said. “And dining is an important way to make a good impression.”
Ms. Reeves encouraged the students to do their homework before any event so they can arrive prepared with questions and ready to answer any questions that may be directed toward them. The students will encounter a real-world business luncheon at UT in May as a celebration for completing the Young Executive Scholars program, and she wants them to be ready.
Toledo Public Schools Superintendent Romules Durant told the students he was proud to see them preparing for life after high school.
“We’re engaging them in the skills of networking, and fine dining is part of the networking experience,” Mr. Durant said. “We never want our kids to get into a situation where they’re not prepared or comfortable.”
Junior Faith Osley, 17, wants to own her own business as a mortician by the time she is 26. She said the etiquette lessons are teaching her how to be polished and self-assured, skills she knows will come in handy when she is working to launch her career.
“Networking is important because you can meet multiple people willing to help with your business or invest in your business,” she said.
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