Category Archives: Etiquette

These Are a Few of My Favorite Blogs

You are going to spend the rest of the day humming this beloved song from the Sound of Music in your head like me aren’t you?  Today I want to say thank you to just of few of my favorite bloggers for their insites and inspiration they have instilled in my personal and professional life.

Diane Gottsman: Modern Manners and Etiquette Expert.   Diane is also the owner of the Protocol School of Texas and author of Pearls of Polish.  The devil is found in the details of life.  Diane’s excellent advice stomps the devil out of poor manners and elevates professional etiquette to help today’s career manager truly excel.   Diane’s guidance helps readers learn how to positively stand out in business by simply demonstrating respecful manners.  Please follow Diane via Twitter @dianegottsman

The Savvy Intern by YouTern  Anyone seeking an internship or seeking to hire an intern must subscribe to the Savvy Intern sponsored by YouTern.  I found this blog of resources by following a Twitter chat recommended to me by a colleague.  #InternPro can be found each Monday night.  In addition to the chat, please add this blog to your daily reads to receive targeted advice concerning the internship job search.  Please follow YouTern via Twitter @YouTern

Keppie Careers by Miriam Salpeter  Social media heavily factors into an effective job search.  In addition to reading Miriam’s blog, please search for her on the US News career blog.  Creating a professional and branded online presence has become a key strategy for a successful job search. In addition to her overall stellar career coaching accomplishments, Miriam provides the best social networking guidance for job seekers and career managers.   While visiting her website, please take a close look at the career books she has authored and co-authored.  You can also follow Miriam via Twitter @keppie_careers

Bottom Line Ethics by Dr. Michael Shaub.  Dr. Shaub is a professor here in the Mays Business School at Texas A&M.  This authentic blog catches the eyes and hearts of each reader covering numerous topics that center around the same subject: Ethics!  I invite you to read Dr. Shaub’s insights into the varying subjects and news events.  I am amazed at the numerous POSTIVE comments he receives for each blog entry.  His former students can easily be labeled as his fans.  I promise you will subscribe and look forward to the journey of each blog post.  Bottom Line Ethics will entertain you and teach you life-long lessons that you will never forget.  You can find Dr. Shaub on Twitter @mikeshaub

Personal Branding by Dan Schwabel  If you struggle with answering the question “Tell Me About Yourself” then you cannot afford not to check out Dan’s blog and resources.  His book, Me 2.0, outlines a four step process towards creating an effective and results-driven brand for individuals.  You can find Dan featured in numerous networks and blogs.  Dan is a GenY expert; however, his message crosses generations.  Please follow Dan on Twitter @DanSchawbel

I could go on and on listing other blogs and resources, but I thought I would limit my list today.   This list of five excellent resources will provide information and guidance with etiquette, internships, social networking, ethical behavior, and branding.  Best wishes!





Discussing Salary in Information Interviews

I’m often asked by job seekers when it is an appropriate time to discuss salary in the job search.   Let me start by stating when it is absolutely not appropriate to discuss salary and that is during the information interview.  A job seeker gathers a great deal of information during the search and salary is included on that list; however, an information interview is an inappropriate time to discuss money.

The purpose of an information interview is to gather information about a company, industry, profession, etc.  While salary is an extremely important topic, it’s often considered rude when discussed too early.  Consider these reasons why you should never discuss salary during an information interview:

1.  Poor Marketing Message:  If you are working to increase your network and market your value  to potential employers, your message should focus on what you can do as opposed to what you want.   We all want to be paid adequately for the services we provide; however, salary is a very sensitive topic.  Your first order of business is to sell your ability to bring value to a potential company or profession.  Get the professional contact in your corner first based on what you can do.

2.  Lack of Authenticity:     When a job seeker asks networking contacts about salary, it sends the wrong message as to the authenticity of the reason an information interview was requested.  Salary information can be found through numerous channels including websites and HR representatives.  Information interviews should be used to gather information not readily available which might include best practices for navigating through a company or career.

3.   Barking up the Wrong Tree:  Most of the time, a networking contact is unable to tell you about salaries.  The subject of salary is a moving target.  Salary ranges can vary a great deal depending on industry, company, location and experience level.  More importantly, your reason for talking with a networking contact is for professional information.  Do not spend your precious time asking about salary.  It’s a question most networking contacts cannot and will not answer.

Do not confuse the goal of your job search with one of your desired results.  As a job seeker, and hopefully a professional job seeker, your goal is to secure a fulfilling position that provides you the opportunity prove your value.  Salary should always be discussed in the job search process, but an information interview is one of the first steps in the process.  It’s like discussing marriage on a first date.  You do not want to scare away your potential networking contacts.  People you talk with during your job search will hopefully become esteemed colleagues and mentors of yours in the future.  Don’t blow it!

Take the “Thanksgiving Unplugged” Challenge

I’m so excited to share with all of my blog readers a new campaign co-authored by a dear friend mine. Diane Gottsman is the owner of the Protocol School of Texas and has joined with Thomas Farley in creating “Thanksgiving Unplugged”.  The campaign challenges Americans to disconnect from their digital devices before sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner this year.  Please visit to take the challenge yourself.  I wholeheartedly get behind this idea.  I am even going to go a step farther in pledging to walk away from my digital devices during all business meetings during the month of November.  Unless it is a real emergency, I will not be distracted.  As the old adage states, the most important person in a given moment is the person in front of you.

When reading about Diane and Thomas’s “Unplugged” campaign, I couldn’t help but think about how bad all of us have gotten with taking our digital devices to meetings and meals.  Yes, we use these devices to take notes and maybe send the occasional emergency text or accept the occasional call from our kids, but is it REALLY that important to check our email during business meetings?  What if we all went back to life before our devices and held calls while we were meeting or dining with someone else whether that be business or pleasure?

I hope all of my readers take the “Thanksgiving Unplugged” challenge, and as a test run, practice by not looking at your digital devices during your business meetings and meals this week.  Just like before the cell phone, hold all calls except for emergencies.  And I mean real emergencies.

Please share your experiences as you go through this week, and most importantly, let me know if you decide to take the “Thanksgiving Unplugged challenge.  Thank you Diane and Thomas for creating such a powerful opporutnity.


Minding Your Business Manners

How many of you heard “Mind Your Manners” as a kid?  I know I was raised to “mind my manners” in someone else’s home, in church, with family, in public–basically everywhere.   Phrases such as please, thank you, you’re welcome, in addition to proper behavior were right up there with the Golden Rule.

In your professional life, “minding your manners” can make the difference between moving forward in your career or staying stagnant.  For job seekers, poor manners can keep them from potential jobs and career paths.  It’s no secret that many business deals happen over a breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings.  Many a business deal has gone sour due to poor manners in dining etiquette.  In addition, the simple gesture as a thank you has become such a lost art that it now an exception that actually propels professionals and job seekers into an elite category.  Such a simple gesture as saying thank you can make you different.  WOW!  In today’s world of online job postings and the “black hole” feeling of those who apply for jobs online, I am constantly being asked how to stand out.  Can you believe that simply saying thank you can do just that?

Here is a quick list of best practices in joining this elite group of well-mannered business professionals:

1.  Always write a thank you note within 24 hours of an interview, business meal, reception, mentoring conversation, etc.

2. In addition to writing a thank you note after a business conversation, always write a thank you note if you receive a gift, scholarship or award.

2. Circle back to people who give you advice in business and keep them updated on your progress based on their recommendations.

3. Say “You’re Welcome” or “My Pleasure” as opposed to “No Problem.”  No problem may be a norm in our society, but it is not the appropriate response to someone say thank you.

4.  Brush up on basic dining etiquette before attending a business meal or reception of any kind.  You have no idea how noticeable and basically gross it is to watch someone use poor table manners.  Use your utensils properly, don’t eat with your hands, don’t chew with your mouth open, etc.  If others at your table struggles with finishing their meal due to your poor table manners, chances are the business you are hoping to solidify during that meal will not go your way.

5.  Treat everyone you meet in business with the utmost respect.  Receptionists, executive assistants, and custodial staff are often watching potential candidates and will report on the way they are treated.

There are so many more examples to note, so this short list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.   Please note I am not telling anyone they have to poor over etiquette books, nor am I saying that everyone has to have perfect manners to succeed in business.  My point is that you will positively set yourself apart from other job seekers and career managers by exercising basic manners.  Be appreciative.  Be respectful.   Mind Your Business Manners, and you will Be noticed.



The Problem with “No Problem”

Have you noticed that fewer and fewer people say “You’re Welcome” when responding to “Thank You?”  The new response has become “No Problem.”  Think about what that really means.  “No Problem” infers that there could have been a problem.  I don’t know about you, but when someone thanks me the very last thing I want to infer is that I was put out in any way. 

The recipient of our gestures of kindness should see our freely given pleasure to help.   “No Problem” has become a slang response and while innocent does imply that our kindness was not 100% given whether we meant it that way or not.  Society has learned to accept this new response, but does that make it right?  My opinion is no. 

When someone thanks us for our kindness, the most respectful response is to reassure the recipient that our gesture was our complete pleasure. defines “welcome” as gladly receiving or acceptance with pleasure and without obligation for the courtesy received.  While does state that “no problem” means no thanks or apology is necessary, I argue that one should never respond to thank you with a phrase that is synonymous with no apology necessary. 

“Thank you” is an expression of gratitude; therefore, your response should communicate your complete pleasure in the gesture. 

The next time someone thanks you for an act or word of kindness, make sure this person knows of your complete happiness and pleasure of the courtesy.   Say “You’re Welcome.” 



Excuse Me Sir, Don’t Call Me Ma’am! – The Perils and Confusion of a Simple Acknowledgement

There is an ongoing debate that centers around one simple question:  Is using the terms “sir” and “ma’am” appropriate, outdated or condescending?

There are some that take offense when addressed as a sir or a ma’am; usually the complaint is that the terms are indicative of older age or the assertion that the terms come across as patronizing. Then there are those firmly planted on the opposite side of the fence who take offense when not referred to with sir or ma’am, as they feel the term shows an outward sign of respect. 

Clearly, Southern states are more prone to use such a title while on the East Coast it is seldom built in to any conversation. While the military routinely use the terms sir and ma’am as a daily part of their communication, a technology company or PR firm would be less likely to require their employees to use the term.

In customer service, “sir” and “ma’am” are commonly accepted ways to address an adult customer when you do not know their name: “Excuse me, ma’am, did you want a Grande or Venti Latte?”  Sir and ma’am are also often default terms when getting the attention of strangers: “Excuse me sir, you just dropped your wallet.”

Since the phrase does imply a perceived guesstimate as to a woman’s age (if you’re 16, you are more likely to hear “miss”) the safest route may be to simply eliminate the term altogether: “Excuse me, would you mind removing your shoe from the back of my jacket?”

Whatever your background, upbringing or training, here are some general etiquette tips on the use of sir and ma’am:

  • Calling colleagues sir or ma’am makes you seem junior-level. If you are relatively young, using sir and ma’am emphasizes your junior status, diminishes your power and could possibly make the person you’re addressing feel uncertain or ill at ease. “Yes sir, I can certainly provide you with guidance on your financial portfolio, just as soon as I have my milk and cookie break.” If, however, you are a new graduate, on a job interview, using the terms would be respectful and appropriate.
  • When in doubt of, ask. Your authority is conveyed through your tone of voice and professional demeanor.  It takes self-confidence to ask “How would you prefer I address your clients, sir and ma’am, Mr. Jones or by a first name?” Taking it upon yourself to clarify shows leadership.
  • Adapt to your surroundings. You may be “Southern born and bred” but if you insist on calling everyone older than you sir or ma’am, you may also be out of a job. Appearing unable to adjust sends the message that you are inflexible and unable to adapt.
  • When in doubt, err on the side of caution. While up to this point, sir and ma’am are somewhat controversial, Mr. or Ms. provides more clarity.   If you’re contacting someone you haven’t yet communicated with, it’s always safe to start by addressing them by their title (Mr. or Ms.   ̶   never Mrs.) and last name. If they ask you to call them by their first name, you may oblige. Never use any gender-specific title unless you are absolutely sure of the person’s gender (The Chris’s and Pat’s will thank you).

Above all, give each other the benefit of the doubt. If you are addressed in a genuinely friendly and respectful manner, take it at face value and respond in kind.   ~ Diane Gottsman

Diane Gottsman is a nationally recognized etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in corporate etiquette training. Diane is also the author of Pearls of Polish, an etiquette guide for today’s busy woman.