Don’t Kill Your Career With Your Fork

Don’t Kill Your Career With Your Fork

My girlfriend showed me how to use my utensils, but I’m not sure she is correct. I have a job interview at a fancy restaurant coming up. Help. 

My colleague never puts his knife down when eating. Is that correct?

I read that there is a “finished position” for utensils. What is that? 


I have received a number of questions recently about correct behavior during a business meal, especially concerning the use of utensils.

People can get nervous when dining for business. And with good reason. You don’t want to blow a deal or a job offer based on your dining manners. To help people in my corporate classes remember what not to do with their utensils, I created these four examples: 

1. Waving William: You wave your hands around with your utensils in them when you are talking at the table. Beware – the food on the utensils may go flying toward your neighbor! It’s best not to do much gesturing at all while you are dining, and never with a utensil in hand.

2. Finger-Pusher Fran: You want to eat every last bite, so you use your finger to help push food onto your fork. The days of the “clean plate club” are over. If you can’t get the food onto your fork without using your finger, leave it on the plate. Or, eat Continental style. In this style, the knife is used to push food onto the back of the fork. 

3. Pitchfork Pete: You make a fist around your fork when cutting your meat. You look like you are holding a pitchfork! You should hold a fork with the handle inside the palm of your hand, and use your thumb and index finger to manipulate it.

4. Split-Personality Susan: You employ both the American and Continental styles of using utensils during one meal. When eating in the American style, you cut your meat using both knife and fork, then place your knife at the top of the plate and switch the fork to the dominant hand to eat. When eating in the Continental style, you still cut your food with both knife and fork, but then you eat the meal without putting the knife down or switching the fork to the opposite hand. As mentioned above, you use the knife to guide food onto the back of the fork. It’s generally best to use just one style.

Other Suggestions for Your Utensils:

  • Do not use your knife to cut your bread rolls. Break your roll in half, then tear off one piece at a time, and butter each piece as you are ready to eat it. 
  • Place your knife and fork in the rest position (knife on top of plate, fork across middle of plate) to let the waiter know you are resting but not done with your meal. Use the finished position (knife and fork together diagonally across the plate, knife on top) to indicate that you have finished eating. 


Additional information about business meals and your career can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (McGraw Hill, December 2016).

Barbara Pachter
Personal Development
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Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 10 books, including The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How ... Click for full bio

Advisors: How to Prepare Before Calling an Agency

Advisors: How to Prepare Before Calling an Agency

Written by: 

You’ve read my other posts:

Related: Should You Work with a Marketing or PR Agency, or Neither?

Related: There's No Point in Paying for Outside Advice If You Have No Intention of Listening to It

And you’re finally ready to talk to a marketing or PR agency.

Or are you?

I’m amazed how many prospects contact an agency without any advance preparation whatsoever. It’s not just that they don’t know what services the agency offers. The real issue is, they can’t even explain why they’re calling in the first place.

You might be raising an eyebrow at my suggestion that you actually need to prepare before calling a vendor. Don’t. I want to help you maximize your time, and potential investment.

Here’s why: The best way to use a vendor’s time during an initial call is to conduct a mini-discovery session. At FiComm, we will ask: What is your vision for your business? How do your services address your market’s needs? Where are you headed as a company? What will get you to the next level? What marketing obstacles do you face? That information shapes our remarks, ensuring that everything we say will be directly relevant to you.

Many advisors find those initial conversations enormously valuable in their own right. They help clarify their thinking. But others feel put on the spot. They freeze. They respond in standard brochure-speak: “We were founded in 1984, we have four advisors, we serve 200 households with an average account size of $400,000.”

Or they say, “We were hoping you would tell us the answers to those questions.”

Well, that’s helpful.

Imagine you’re meeting a potential wealth management client for the first time. They have $700,000 in a brokerage account, $400,000 in a retirement account, two kids, a dog and a house in L.A. Great. You start by asking their goals for themselves, their money, and their family.

Puzzled, they tilt their heads and say, “We were hoping you would tell us.”

See what I mean? How can you possibly come up with a solution for clients who can’t even articulate their goals, or speak to their financial pain points?

The same is true for us vendors. Before we can help you, we need to know where your business is going and how you think marketing can help you get there. The answers don’t have to be “right” (and we’ll help you get there), but it you come prepared to participate, our conversations can be very fruitful. If you don’t—well, it’s hard to deliver value for you. We know we’ll constantly have to prove ourselves and remind you why you hired us.

“But, Megan,” some advisors say, “we’re not ready for that. We’re just trying to understand the basics. How will we learn if you don’t tell us?”

If you’re calling an agency just to get a general marketing education, then that’s what you’ll get—general information, most of it irrelevant to you, and lacking the specifics you’re really looking for.

So, don’t call an agency to be your marketing tutor. Instead, read. Advisors have never had better access to self-help insights and information—through trade pubs, custodian relationships, blogs, podcasts, other advisors and industry pundits. Be curious. Be inquisitive. If you hear something on a podcast that intrigues you, follow the host back to LinkedIn. Read what they write there. Email your questions. Attend a webinar. Be an active participant at industry events.

At some point, you’ll understand the basics. You’ll have identified your own issues. And narrowed down your questions. Then, finally, you’ll be ready to call an agency.

Instead of saying, “Tell us what we need,” you’ll say, “We need help with this.

Megan Carpenter
Marketing
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Megan is CEO & Co-Founder at FiComm Partners, LLC. Her team develops winning communications strategies for entrepreneurs in the independent advisory community, and busines ... Click for full bio