Students Learn from SMC's Miss Manners

Etiquette Guru Gina Snyder Reveals the Secrets of Socializing for Success 

Gina Snyder reveals the finer points of business etiquette to SMC students.

"Get your elbows off the table! Your fork is on the left! Put that napkin on your lap!" Sound familiar? As kids we've all heard such mealtime instructions, quick reminders to mind our manners. Dinner with the family might have always come with rules, but how crucial are manners in the working world?

If you want the real answer, look no further than Saint Mary's own resident etiquette specialist, Gina Snyder of the Career Center.  When she's not helping you get hired, she'll be helping you "behave in front of food," as her business card so aptly states.

This spring, Snyder helped to host the Third Annual Business Etiquette Dinner for Saint Mary's student athletes, who had the opportunity to polish their politeness skills in an interactive setting that included a professional business cocktail hour, meet-and-greet session and formal, sit-down dinner.

Snyder said the exercise should give students an edge in a competitive job market. "Our whole purpose here is about interviewing, it's about putting our best foot forward," said Snyder. "Once you learn the etiquette, then you're really able to do what you're supposed to do, which is network, connect and communicate."

The confidence that comes with social graces is a key to success, said Snyder. And while combining confidence, competence and charisma might seem like a tall task for a student, Snyder said manners go a long way toward helping people reach their full potential.

When people feel uncomfortable, they "cannot be their best self," she said. "When you're ill at ease, you cannot possibly project confidence to others."

And with that, the students set about practicing how to juggle a plate and glass while shaking hands during a networking event, use utensils in the proper order and correctly pass the bread basket at the dinner table, among other fine points of etiquette.

Students at a dinner last year try to figure out which fork to use.Throughout dinner, Snyder clearly relished sharing some of her favorite stories about the importance of manners and presentation. One of her most memorable concerned a certain Saint Mary's student's ill-fated trip to Chicago for a high-profile job interview. The student stepped off the airplane dressed in a T-shirt, shorts and sandals, only to be met by the surprised gaze of his potential employers, decked out in suits and ties.

"Needless to say, he didn't get the job," Snyder said with a chuckle.

After practicing how to project a business-professional appearance and attitude, the student athletes said they had picked up some valuable skills.

"I think it's a very useful tool to know how to conduct ourselves in a businesslike setting, especially for job interviews and for future formal dinners," said Saint Mary's pitcher Patrick Keane. "It was really useful for us all to mingle and learn as a group."

Snyder simply nodded in approval, quoting her favorite adage: "Manners have never gone out of style."

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