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Etiquette Tip of the Week: The Other College Challenge By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor, 8/20/19

In college, I had a history class called, “Hellenistic World and Rome.” The midterm was so grueling, three students read the test, put down their pencils and walked out.

In the class after the midterm, I was sitting quietly, minding my own business, when this young man I didn’t know, sat down beside me, turned to me and said loudly, “Was that a test from Hell, or what?! I think Satan himself wrote that test!”

The professor, only feet away, immediately looks up, looks at him, then looks at me. I am a deer in the headlights, gesturing wildly and mouthing the words, “I’m not with him. I don’t even know him.”

It’s that time of year, when the kids are going off to college, some for the first time. There will be a lot of anxiety and tears flowing – and that’s just the parents.

College is a great adventure. It’s a clean slate. It can be the best four… or six years of your life. Certainly, there are academic opportunities – a variety of courses to challenge your mind and learned professors to push your boundaries.

Also important are the social opportunities. College is your chance to make new, more diverse friends. Some will be friends for a lifetime.

Don’t wait for a party. When you slide into your chair before class, engage the people around you in conversation.

Don’t walk across campus with your head down, texting. Look up and say, “Hi” to fellow students, faculty and administrators.

Don’t sit by yourself in the cafeteria. Ask to join a table of students already seated.

Business is all about relationships. In college or out of college, we should regularly seek new friends and exercise our social skills, because we need people… and also, because there are people who need us.

Now booking fall and spring dining tutorials and other talks on professionalism. If you could use a lively, interactive presentation, don’t hesitate to contact me at: or 515.225.9683

Find my book, “The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career” on Amazon:

When I present, audience members may ask any question at any time – it’s more interactive and fun and sometimes, an audience member contributes an inspired idea.

On one such occasion, we were discussing responses to, “Thank you.” Someone piped up, “I’ve always been told to respond to ‘Thank you,’ with ‘It was my pleasure.'”

Hmmmm. Etiquette-wise, that’s a worthy response. You’re saying, “It makes me happy to make you happy.” Think of that in terms of client relations. Do we have to wait until “Customer Appreciation Day” to say, “I enjoy working with you and I’m glad you are my client”?

A few years ago, I wrote an Etiquette Tip of the Week on “Bothersome Buzzwords,” about oft-repeated, irksome words and phrases. At the end of the Tip, I invited people to send in their own Bothersome Buzzwords.

I was completely unprepared for the tsunami of angst that hit my email inbox.

One – actually two – buzz phrases towered over the rest. When one responds to “Thank you,” with “No problem” or “No worries.” That drove people bat-crazy. It was not generational – this annoyance was ageless.

I confess, I was a “No problem” person. But after answering emails for days, I have reformed. I now say, “You’re welcome.”

“It was my pleasure,” now makes, “You’re welcome,” seem pedestrian. It leaves in the dust, “No problem” and “No worries.”

Don’t wait for the thank you. “It’s a pleasure working with you,” is a nice send off in an email, letter or in person.

What if it wasn’t your pleasure? What if the client’s a pain in the…? Well, you know.

Think of it this way, everyone has a bad day – it’s still a pleasure to have clients. Beats the alternative.

Say, “It was my pleasure,” and make every day Customer Appreciation Day.

Need a little steam in your team? I have bulk prices available for my book, “The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career.” It’s a unique look at Professionalism for all generations and it’s especially good for mentoring.

Ask me for a copy of the Intro and Table of Contents for your review and for a bulk quote:

Previous Etiquette Tip of the Week:  Get Out to Get In By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor, 4/16/19

I hear from a lot of college graduates frustrated with their job hunt. Their classmates found jobs right away, while they are churning through online application forms. They have landed a few phone, video or in-person interviews but say employers just don’t “get them.”

It’s not just new college graduates. It’s older employees, cast adrift in a layoff, trying to find their way in a changed market. Stay-at-home moms looking to get back into the game. Or younger employees, looking for a new direction.

The first thing to acknowledge: the job hunt is hard. You feel lost, discouraged, unwanted. It’s like being picked last for kickball… only with financial consequences. Give yourself a break. Not a vacation break, but an exhale, reality-check break.

If what you are doing is not working, you need a different strategy.

Start reaching out to people. On LinkedIn, you can find alumni from your school, people who work in your intended field or with your target organizations. Ask for advice. Ask for a meeting over coffee. Ask for an informational interview.

Get out and interact with others. Go to an event at a local association in your field, free lectures, a library event, volunteer, try a Toastmasters meeting. Hit the pavement and drop off a few resumes in person. Make yourself get out at least twice a week.

Find temporary work through temp agencies. Will some jobs seem like they are beneath you? Yes. Do they result in a paycheck? Yes.

Your job hunt is a job. It’s not meant to be easy – it’s a rough road paved with rejections and rebuffs. But filling out more online applications is like never leaving your driveway.

Can you do this? Yes, you can. The first step is to get out.

Have a difficult-to-buy-for graduate? My book, “The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career,” is the perfect gift for graduates of all ages. It talks about everything from Networking to Interviewing to Business Travel to Solving Workplace Conflicts. Find it on Amazon: Or contact me about bulk pricing at

Etiquette Tip of the Week: Etiquette Test and a Milestone By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor, 3/26/19

A weighty milestone is a week away: The 500th Etiquette Tip of the Week! In celebration, it’s time to take the Etiquette Quiz back to your workplace watercooler and find out what your colleagues are really made of. (Answers below.)

1. If there are three forks on the left side of your place setting, which should you use for the first course?
a. The fork on the outside
b. The fork in the middle
c. The fork closest to the plate
d. Either a. or c.

2. Which of these should you order during an interview meal?
a. Fried chicken
b. French Dip sandwich
c. Fettuccini primavera
d. None of the above

3. When seating people for a meeting, seat people who disagree:
a. Right next to each other
b. On the same side of the table
c. On opposite sides of the table
d. In two different rooms

4. Pass a bread basket:
a. From your left to your right
b. From your right to your left
c. Like Aaron Rodgers looking for Randall Cobb
d. Never pass bread

5. When traveling with your supervisor in a taxi, Uber or Lyft, where should your supervisor sit?
a. The middle of the back seat
b. Behind the driver
c. Behind the front passenger seat
d. The front seat

6. Crudites is pronounced:
a. Croo-dee-TAY
b. Crud-Itz
c. CRO-ditties
d. Cro-DIT-tee

7. In a meal served Banquet Style, food is:
a. Portioned out and served on prepared plates
b. On separate tables where guests serve themselves
c. Served on shared plates or bowls, passed around the table
d. None of the above

8. At the end of the meal, your napkin should be:
a. Wrapped around the leftovers tucked in your handbag or manbag
b. Slightly crumpled to the left of your place setting
c. Neatly folded to the right of your place setting
d. Neatly folded in the middle of your place setting

1. a; 2. d; 3. b; 4. a; 5. c; 6. a; 7. c; 8. b

Etiquette Tip of the Week:  If You Want It By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor, 3/12/19

Think back to something you wanted badly in your childhood. Something you would have done anything to get: a new bike, a video game, pricy shoes, a dog, cat or even a guinea pig.

You pleaded and entreated.
I’ll never fight with my siblings again.
I’ll keep my room clean forever and eat everything on my plate.
I’ll get all A’s.
I’ll clean up after it – you won’t have to do a thing.

Maybe you got what you wanted. Maybe you didn’t.

Why not put the same passion into your career? What is it that you want? To land a good job? Get a new client? Leadership responsibilities? A new bike?

If you want it, go after it.

When college students ask, “Do I still have to write a thank you note after an interview?” My answer is, “You don’t have to do anything. But if you want the job, you will write that thank you.”

When I interviewed for Manager of Public Relations at Amana Appliances, I returned to the company five times to interview with 12 or 13 different people. Each one received an individualized, typed thank you note from me.

If you want a new client or to improve your client relationships, be attentive to them. It’s like those dental health posters in the third-grade, “Ignore your teeth and they will go away.” The same is true for clients.

Do you want leadership responsibilities? Work hard, show initiative, mentor others and most importantly, ask for it. If you wait for the position to be offered, management might think you’re not interested.

Want a new bike? Earn it.

Be passionate in your pursuit. It’s not a high bar to be chosen over those asking, “Do I still need to write a thank you note?”

Career Tips – Etiquette Tip of the Week:  Leading Leaders Lift Others By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor, 3/5/19

Executives don’t tweet! They have people for that.

Or do they?

The higher you go, the more you should guard your privacy. A little mystery makes leaders interesting. If you post everything you do, think and feel on social media, your mystery is history.

Lately, I’ve been studying how leaders use Twitter. One who is especially effective is Patricia Davidson. The Dean of Johns Hopkins School of Nursing is a prolific poster on Twitter and she writes her own tweets. At events, she can frequently be seen snapping photos with her phone.

But instead of using social media to boast of her own accomplishments, Dean Davidson uses it to lift others up. Dean Davidson’s daily tweets and re-tweets @nursingdean show Johns Hopkins students and faculty:

Winning awards and recognition
Presenting at conferences around the world
Making a difference in the local community
Recruiting across the country
Working on special projects

She even created her own hashtag: #DeanProud.

In addition to promoting Johns Hopkins, Dean Davidson recognizes and congratulates colleagues from other schools and organizations and promotes the sharing of research and ideas.

Lifting others up, is how leading leaders lead. Social media is an excellent vehicle for this. So is recognizing others in person or sending hand-written notes of congratulations or gratitude.

The residual effect? Dean Davidson’s tweeting is a great public relations vehicle and innovative recruiting tool. Her tweets show:

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing has a lot going on.
Both students and faculty are working on important projects.
This School of Nursing dean is active, accessible and engaged.
Johns Hopkins is a diverse, enjoyable place to be.

This week, look for ways to lift others up. If you are on social media, turn that camera around and take photos of everyone else.

Leading leaders lift others.

Career Tips – Etiquette Tip of the Week:  One Recruiter’s Wisdom By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor, 2/27/19

What if, in an interview, you don’t know the answer to an employer’s question? Do you waffle? Make something up? Create a diversion?

Last week, when I was presenting at an Etiquette Dinner at Idaho State University, a tech recruiter posed this dilemma to the students.

Whenever I have employers in an etiquette dinner, I like to take advantage of their wisdom in the room. I invite them to jump in with any stories throughout the dinner.

I’ve never been disappointed. At another etiquette dinner, an employer said an interview candidate took butter off her bread plate and put it in her coffee – that was just gross enough to get her bounced out of contention.

Back to the tech recruiter. At the end of this dinner, I invited the employers to give one piece of advice to the students.

The tech recruiter said, “I look for honesty. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t try to talk your way around it. If I came up with the question, I know the subject and you can’t fool me.” (His pique suggested this was not a singular occurrence.)

He added, “It’s better to admit what you don’t know and show an interest in filling the gaps in your knowledge.”

Honesty means not exaggerating on your resume to begin with. This is a big problem in tech, when people claim skills they don’t have. So much so, that organizations often put applicants through testing to prove their skills.

It’s not just technical knowledge. Two years of high school Spanish doesn’t necessarily translate to “fluent in Spanish.”

“Admitting you don’t know, shows humility and candor,” said the tech recruiter. “I can’t train you to be honest. But I can train you in everything else.”

Universities and businesses are using my book, The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career, for their professional development and mentoring programs. Find The Exceptional Professional on Amazon at: Or contact me about bulk pricing at

You may buy local in Des Moines, Iowa at Beaverdale Books or Prairie Lights in Iowa City.

Career Tips – Etiquette Tip of the Week:  The Most Successful Do This By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor, 2/19/19

“The most successful people I know return calls the same day.”

That was an insight from my friend, Dave Swerdlick, in a recent conversation. It’s true. The who’s who get back to you. Part of their success is they are responsive.

You would think they might be too busy. Sometimes they are. Ask any executive about the volume of emails that hit their inbox each day.

Technology has raised expectations for instant responses. Ever had someone angry at you because you didn’t respond to a text fast enough?

Being responsive is all about making time for people. Which is really what etiquette is about – being aware of and attentive to people.

There are a lot of instances in business where we could raise our “responsiveness” game:

     Responding to emails the same day.  This isn’t always possible, depending on our volume of emails.  Learning to prioritize is a priority.  (Hint:  read the Etiquette Tip of the Week first, then everything else.)

     Sending a thank you note within 24 hours, especially a thank you note for an interview.  The sooner we send a thank you note, the more fresh the sentiment is in our mind.

     Replying to invitations as soon as possible.  Don’t hedge until the last minute to see if there’s a better offer.  R.S.V.P. means “Respond please.”  That means respond if we will be there or if we are not planning to attend.

     Communicating by email or text to confirm a lunch or a coffee meeting.

Most importantly, follow through. It amazes me to hear about job applicants who “ghost” (don’t show up) for a job interview, career fair appointment or events they have registered for. If you said you are going to be there, be there.

Make time for people. To be successful, be responsive.

Universities and businesses are using my book, The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career, for their professional development and mentoring programs. Find The Exceptional Professional on Amazon at: Or contact me about bulk pricing at

You may buy local in Des Moines, Iowa at Beaverdale Books or Prairie Lights in Iowa City.

Etiquette Tip of the Week: Thank Them Before You Need Them By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor, 2/12/19

It’s time for the Etiquette Tip of the Week Valentine’s Day tradition – to honor and cherish the ones who are nearest and dearest to us. The ones who make our day a little bit more special and who we can’t imagine our lives without.

No, I’m not talking about our significant others. I’m talking about the IT Department.

Who has seen us at our worst but still put us first? It’s the men and women of the IT Department, who magically restore our computers, make our laptops and iPads talk to the video equipment in the auditorium and somehow get that wifi-thingy to link us to the rest of the connected world.

Where would we be without them? Completely despondent in an empty conference room, downing leftover donuts from the morning Marketing meeting. (The same can’t be said for the Sales meeting. They leave nothing behind.)

When we are calling on the IT department, we are often frustrated and stressed out. It’s important not to transfer our stress to people trying to help us. Instead, try a kind word of appreciation for the time spent on your digital dilemma, no matter what the outcome. I once had a laptop with smoke coming out of it. Despite the valiant resuscitation efforts of the tech-spert, it didn’t end well.

This Valentine’s week, show a little love for your IT Department. Buy them some donuts or bagels. Order in some pizzas or sandwiches. Send them a note of appreciation for all their hard work the rest of the year. If you can’t find the words to express yourself, just forward this Etiquette Tip of the Week.

Thank you, IT Department, for making us all look like we know what we’re doing.

Universities and businesses are using my book, The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career, for their professional development and mentoring programs. Find The Exceptional Professional on Amazon at: Or contact me about bulk pricing at

Etiquette Tip of the Week:  Bombing on the First Question By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor 1/22/19

An employer once told me his first question in an interview is, “What can you tell me about my company?” If the interview candidate is stuck for an answer, he says, “Thank you very much, there is no reason to continue this interview, because you are obviously not prepared.”

It’s hard to imagine, with all the work involved in landing an interview, you would not put in a little extra effort to learn about who you are talking to. With the wealth of intelligence available on the Internet, there’s no excuse for walking into an interview, Career Fair or other opportunities with employers, cold.

It’s Career Fair season. Some think you walk into a Career Fair, drop a few resumes and get job offers. But Career Fairs are about relationship-building. It’s the place where you start a conversation with an organization.

To start that conversation, you need background information. Lucky you, you have access ahead of time to lists of employers participating in the Career Fair.

What type of information should you know about an organization? At the very least:
Products or services
Leadership and board of directors
Outside news reports and inside press releases
Domestic and global locations

Feeling ambitious? Reach out on LinkedIn to alumni from your college who work at your organization of choice and ask them questions.

Your conversation with any employer is two-way. That means follow-up. Very few employers are looking for people, sitting on their phone waiting for the job offers to come texting in. Make a phone call, send an email or send a personal note.

The more you know about an organization, the easier it will be to come up with questions to ask the interviewer. That’s an important part of your interview, too. Good luck. We’re all counting on you.

You know what makes a great graduation gift? My book, The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career. Find it on Amazon at:

Etiquette Tip of the Week:  Insights of an Icon By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor 1/8/2019

Last month, an icon of etiquette quietly passed away: Dr. P.M. Forni, the author of the New York Times bestseller, Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct.

Dr. Forni was a professor of early Italian literature at Johns Hopkins, when a side interest in civility led him in 1997 to co-found the Johns Hopkins Civility Project. He called it his, “Middle age crisis of a professor of the Middle Ages.” The initiative created a national discussion on civility and better behavior.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Forni in 2011, after his talk at Drake University. I told him I was an etiquette instructor and that I had first heard about him from my sister who worked at Johns Hopkins’ School of Nursing.

He said, “It sounds like you both have chosen professions where you are able to do good and help people.” Professional demeanor was out the window. I crumbled and giggled like a school girl. “Teeheeheehee…”

Civility is kindness and consideration. Charm goes beyond civility by making other people feel good about themselves. Dr. Forni was truly a charming gentleman.

I keep a copy of my notes from Dr. Forni’s talk that night pinned to the wall of my office. Here were some of his insights:

• “Good manners are the training wheels of altruism.”
• “‘Regard’ and ‘Respect’ both come from the words meaning, ‘to look again.’ When we are civil, we treat that person as if they are worth another look.”
• “When we are insecure about ourselves, we shift the burden of insecurity onto others in the form of hostility.”
• “Listening is a fundamental form of validation.”

Dr. Forni died from complications from Parkinson’s on December 1st at his home in Towson, Maryland. He was 67.

For more on Dr. Forni:

It’s a New Year and if Professional Development is one of your resolutions, don’t forget to grab your copy of my book, The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career, on Amazon at:

Etiquette Tip of the Week:  What Now? By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor, 12/18/18

December was supposed to be easy. Then the clumsiest etiquette instructor who ever breathed air tipped a glass of water onto her laptop.

There was an attempted resuscitation. Then a period of mourning. A purchase, a return and purchase of another laptop. What a relief to be up and running again! Then the aging modem passed away unexpectedly.

Leaving for a meeting, my house key broke off in the lock. There was also the plumber. (Don’t ask.) In a lot somewhere, the perfect Christmas tree still waits for me.

It took the death of the mother of childhood friends to provide some clarity.

At funerals, (euphemistically, “Celebrations of Life”), I love the stories. At the after party, we recalled days when we could ride a bike to a friend’s house blocks away and ring the bell without an appointment. We talked about current successes and challenges.

A neighbor said to me, “Your dad was legendary. We remember him driving his convertible with the top down in the dead of winter.” In Iowa, that meant sub-freezing temps.

My dad, who passed away a few years ago, believed in the health benefits of a good adrenaline rush. And I think, enjoyed the freedom that said, “Because I can.”

We discovered this neighbor was in the same high school class as the older brother of another lifetime friend, there at the funeral. When we were teens, her brother’s car hit a patch of ice and crashed. He was killed instantly.

“Your brother was a great guy,” he said. “Everyone loved him.”

This week, pause to reflect. Dial back your frenetic pace, clear the schedule. Re-read Holiday cards. Call that person you always say you need to call. Remember loved ones no longer with us and count your blessings for the ones who are.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! The Etiquette Tip of the Week is taking a much-needed two-week respite and will be back with renewed vigor on January 8th.

And if you are still looking for the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy for someone, get “The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career” on Amazon at:


Etiquette Tip of the Week:  Time to Bring It By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor, 12/11/18

You have an invitation to a Holiday party in someone’s home. You have responded affirmatively and enthusiastically to the R.S.V.P. and you can’t wait to go.

Should you bring something? Yes. But not a plus one, unless your invite says, “and guest.”

The thing to bring is a host/hostess gift. It’s a little token of thanks to your hosts for inviting you into their home for a dinner party, open house, sports watching event or any other kind of party.

It need not be expensive – somewhere in the $5-20 range. The best gifts for your hosts are found at local specialty stores or museum shops.

Here are some ideas:
* Gourmet coffee beans from a local coffee shop
* Small box of fine chocolates or mixed nuts from a candy store
* Note cards or other novelties from a museum shop
* Oddly colored or logoed golf or tennis balls from a pro shop
* Special toy, storybook or puzzle for hosts’ children from a toy store
* Pet gifts or bird seed from a pet supply store
* Fresh fruit from a market
* Spices from a spice store
* Specialty beer from a brewery or wine from a winery
* Anything related to hosts’ hobbies or interests

Whatever you bring, is meant to be enjoyed by your hosts at a later time, not served at the party. I once had a dinner party guest bring a bottle of wine and when it was not served, pick it up on the way out at the end of the evening.

The hosts need not send a thank you note for a host gift – that’s like saying, “Thank you for the thank you.”

So get your host/hostess gift and bring it. And after the party, don’t forget to write your hosts a thank you note.

Speaking of parties, my local NBC-TV affiliate, WHO-HD, interviewed me about “Etiquette Dos and Don’ts of Holiday Office Parties.” Watch it here:

Etiquette Tip of the Week: You’re Still at Work By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor, December 4, 2018

It’s time to talk about the office holiday party. “Party” is really a misnomer. It’s still work – only with food, in a festive environment.

Thank your boss for a good year and for the party – in person at the party and in a hand written fold-over note after. Do the same for the party planner.

Get to know your colleagues that you have the least interaction with.

Don’t mix with the malcontents. Avoid office gossips or negative colleagues, congregating in the corner criticizing the event.

Watch your alcohol intake. “I drank too much,” is no defense. You will still be held accountable for whatever you said, broke or grabbed. Better yet, don’t drink at the office party and keep a clear head.

Don’t overeat. Look ravishing, not ravenous in a professional environment.

If the event is in an upscale venue, dress appropriately. Work events are not the place to show a lot of skin. Or dress childishly with cartoon ties and Santa hats. (Unless, you are Santa.)

Don’t linger longer than necessary. Especially if the party is in someone’s home, don’t be the last to leave – the one who has to be asked to leave.

When planning the office party, ditch the Secret Santa, White Elephant, Ugly Sweater Contest or the party at the paintball place. While these might be a laugh-riot for a few, the majority of your people just want a party with good food.

Good food doesn’t necessarily mean expensive food. It means good-tasting. Spend too much on food and your people might say, “Why can’t this go into my paycheck instead?” (Why it can’t go into your paycheck might have to do with different budget silos. Don’t bite the boss trying to do good with what’s available.)

This season, party like a professional.

If you have read my book, The Exceptional Professional, let me hear from you.
Did you have a favorite story in the book or favorite section?
Were there stories you could relate to?
Did you learn anything new or see any topics differently?
Did you change any habits or behaviors as a result?
Are you using the book for mentoring or with any professional development programs?

If you don’t have it, “The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career” can be found on Amazon at:

Buy local in Iowa at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines and Prairie Lights in Iowa City. Or contact me directly about bulk prices:

Etiquette Tip of the Week:  See Them by Calista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor, November 28, 2018 

When the Holiday season is in full swing, lines are long and tempers are short. When you are waiting, it seems like people are never moving fast enough.

How come those people who came in after us already have their food?
How long does it take to make a lousy cup of coffee?
Why do I always get stuck behind the yutz quibbling over a 25 cent coupon for a can of beans?
Doesn’t anybody else in this place know how to work a cash register?

Before you snap your jaws or bare your claws, just hit pause.

That person waiting on your table, behind the counter or working the cash register at the drive-through in sub-freezing weather… they are human beings, just like you. They are someone’s daughter or son, sister or brother, mother or father.

Take a moment to see the people behind the tasks. Maybe their day’s not going so hot either. Everyone should, at some time in their life, wait on tables or work behind a counter. It’s a character-building experience.

As is often stressed in the Etiquette Tip of the Week, etiquette is not about memorizing a bunch of rules. It’s about being aware of and attentive to the people around us. Sometimes the people that need attending to are the ones attending to us.

Wow, this place is really busy – you’re doing a great job.
Thank you for the coffee. You have made my day and I hope you have a good day, too.
That previous customer looked like a challenge – you handled it better than I would have.
Computers are overrated.

Treat all people with dignity. Not just for the Holidays, but all year round.

It’s just what you need for your Professional Development or Mentoring program. It’s also an entertaining read for yourself. “The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career” is on Amazon at:

Buy local in Iowa at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines and Prairie Lights in Iowa City.

Or contact me directly about bulk prices:

Etiquette Tip of the Week: Push Some Buttons by Callista Gould, October 16, 2018


“I’d really like to work with you. I have an MBA, experience in marketing, I’m a deadline driven, team player, I’ve got computer skills, negotiation skills, I make the most beautiful multi-media marketing pieces you’ve ever seen, in my last job I increased productivity by twenty percent and saved the company a pile of money and… I’m a joy to work with.” Ding!

It’s the elevator pitch – the business equivalent of how to score between floors, without being a bore.

The elevator speech is answering a simple question: Tell me about yourself.

To create your elevator speech:
First, let’s talk about what you do well. List your good qualities that an employer might like. Are you friendly? Are you a good communicator? Are you creative? Are you a good team player? Do you have outstanding technical skills? Can you speak another language?

Next, think about the information a potential employer is after: your present, past and future.
“Who are you?” (present)
“What is your experience?” Or “Where have you been?” (past)
“Where are you going in your career?” (future)

The real question: “Who are you and why should I care?” Or “What can you do for my organization?”

Answer those questions while plugging in your good qualities and ta-da! You have an elevator speech.

Third, time it. Can you keep it under 30 seconds? Don’t wander in the woods of wordiness. If it’s taking three minutes, go back to your draft and start chopping.

While elevator speeches are not often deployed in elevators, they are very useful at networking events, career fairs and random conversations on planes and trains.

Practice your elevator pitch. Then get out there and push some buttons!

Traveling to your next interview? Catch my article on “Surviving the Out-of-Town Interview:”

You can also find more about business travel survival in my book, “The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career.” Find it on Amazon at:

Etiquette Tip of the Week:  Freshen Your First Impression
by Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor
– October 2, 2018

Is it time to freshen your first impression?

This week, we’re getting back to the basics. Whether you are networking, interviewing, meeting or just trying to get someone’s attention, your first impression is vital. It’s not about saying, “Look how slick I am!” It’s more, “Look how confident and approachable I am.” Be memorable, not notorious.

Make eye contact.
Be present with the people in your presence. Don’t glance at your phone. Don’t look over the person’s shoulder to see if there is someone better you could be talking to. Look the person in the eye.

A smile shows you are approachable and open to conversation. No one wants to deal with the person who ate their “grumpy flakes” this morning.

Give a firm handshake.
Your handshake speaks. It should say, “I am confident. I am enthusiastic. And I am darn glad to meet you.” A weak handshake suggests you are not a decision maker or you are insecure. The opposite, the knuckle crusher handshake, suggests you are overbearing or angry. There’s no need to pump – just reach out and firmly grasp the other person’s hand.

Introduce yourself.
People who have the confidence to introduce themselves are more memorable than people who hang back and wait to be introduced. If you are sitting down when a new person comes along, stand up to greet that person. In business, give your first and last name in an introduction.

Dress the part.
Dress out of respect for others. If it matters, suit up. If you’re going business casual, kick it up a notch with a jacket or collared shirt. Press your clothes and shine your shoes.

Be sure of yourself, not full of yourself. When you are confident, others will have confidence in you.

Leadership Macomb from Macomb County, Michigan purchased copies of my book, “The Exceptional Professional” for all the participants in its Junior Leaders Macomb program, which is training the future community leaders of Macomb County. Their feedback? “Your book is AMAZING – we loved it!” Do you have a group that can use “The Exceptional Professional?” Ask me about bulk prices or an in-person presentation plus books package:


Etiquette Tip of the Week: Highly Recommended for Career Intended by Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor, August 23, 2018

Two years after earning her business degree, my sister Maureen decided to earn an MBA.

But the application required a recommendation from a professor or counselor at her undergrad university. Her business classes had been in big auditoriums, so she never cultivated close connections with any of her professors.

Recommendations for my MBA were easy. I was an English major at the same university as my sister. I had small classes and was intimately acquainted with most of my professors. I had three or four who could write a recommendation… and make it sound like Milton or Faulkner.

Maureen reached out to the career counselors at the university’s College of Business. “I don’t know you, so I can’t write a recommendation for you,” said a counselor, “Your best bet is to try to get some professor to remember you.”

There was one professor. Maureen liked his class and he shared a common last name with our family. After class one day, she thanked him for the enjoyable class, mentioned the name connection and they talked for a few minutes.

She called up that professor and told him her recommendation predicament. The professor said, “I remember our conversation and would be happy to write your recommendation.”

For college students in your senior year or freshman year, cultivate relationships with your future writers of recommendations.

Get to know your career development counselors. Attend their workshops. Have them review your resume.
Get to know your professors. Ask questions after class. Take advantage of office hours offered.
To be really memorable, write thank you notes to both your career counselors and professors.

As undergrads, neither my sister nor I imagined earning an MBA. Now we each have one. Cultivate your recommendation relationships early. You never know when you will need them.

Honk if you love the Etiquette Tip of the Week! Tell your work colleagues, friends and family who would love it too (or who maybe need it badly) to sign up for the Etiquette Tips at:

Think about adding the book, “The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career” to your Professional Development Program or Business Book Club. Bulk prices available. Ask me:


“Aren’t we supposed to be ‘fashionably late?'”  June 12, 2018

That was a college student asking me about arriving on time for events. Here are a few guidelines about timeliness:

• It’s okay to be 10 minutes late for a dinner party at someone’s home, but never be 10 minutes early. Your hosts may still be scrambling and your early presence forces them to choose between entertaining and party preparation.

• If you arrive late to a dinner party or business banquet, start with the course everyone else is on. Don’t expect to be served the soup course, while everyone else is on the main course.

• Be at least 10-15 minutes early for a job interview. Make allowances for traffic, parking or public transportation issues.

• Always be on time for doctors’ appointments, haircuts, career counselors and other engagements where your lateness will delay everyone else on the schedule.

• Never leave a party before the guest of honor. Once the guest of honor leaves, you should leave within half an hour. Don’t be the last one hanging around the party, missing your exhausted hosts’ cues to prompt you to leave.

• If you must leave a party early, do not announce, “We have another party to get to.”

• Arrive at the airport at least two hours early for an international flight. Expect Customs delays when arranging ground transportation for your arrival at your destination and return back home.

• Never harangue, sigh loudly or roll your eyes at your TSA or Customs officials at the airport over delays. They are there for your safety.

• Arrive half an hour early or more, if you are the guest speaker, in order to do a sound check with the audio equipment and test any computer/presentation connections.

• Never be late for a wedding or a funeral… especially your own.

Think about adding the book, “The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career” to your Professional Development Program or Business Book Club. Bulk prices available. Ask me:

Etiquette Tip of the Week:  Get a mentor. That’s what everyone tells you early in your career.   June 7, 2018

But a mentor is useless if you can’t take feedback. I’m not talking about positive feedback – the soothing security of compliments and encouragement. I’m talking about the hard to hear, room for improvement message, formerly known as “constructive.”

“Your procrastination on major projects is causing us to miss important deadlines.”

The earlier in life you learn to accept and incorporate feedback, the more successful you will be.

“When presenting before the board of directors, you need to stop calling them, ‘You guys.'”

Feedback is not always artfully delivered and sometimes it hurts a little.

“I’d like to have you take our clients to lunch, but you shovel your food like a teenager and you spit food when you talk.”

Some immediately mount a vigorous defense and even interrupt the person giving the feedback. Others sulk in silence and let their resentment fester.

Here’s the thing about feedback: if people don’t care what happens to you, they won’t say anything. People giving you feedback care enough to tell you.

How do we accept feedback?

1. Listen. Don’t argue. Just listen. You might even want to take notes.

2. Contemplate. Even if it’s hard to hear, was there some truth to the feedback? Don’t take it personally. Take time to consider the feedback and see it as a positive push rather than a smackdown. If you feel it was unjust, meet at another time and talk it out.

3. Resolve to do better. Maybe it’s a little alteration. Or maybe it requires an action plan. Your ability to incorporate feedback can propel you forward.

Mentors are good. But for them to be effective, you have to be open to feedback and willing to put it into action.

Be a good mentor and a friend and forward the Etiquette Tip of the Week. You can also find us on Twitter @MannersThatMove

Think about adding the book, “The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career” to your Professional Development Program or Business Book Club. Bulk prices available. Ask me:

Etiquette Tip of the Week:  What is the most catastrophic computer crash you ever had?    February 26, 2018

I can think of an epic laptop fail. A colleague sitting at the same table in our open floor plan workplace said, “Do you smell something burning?”

What was burning, was me. Smoke was seeping from the back of my laptop. If I had to solve that problem on my own today, I would grab oven mitts and toss that laptop out the back door into the snow, which is plentiful in Iowa right now.

Back then, I turned the laptop over to Victor, one of our IT professionals, who opened it up with the precision of a surgeon and worked valiantly to save my hard drive and content.

“Time of death” was called later that afternoon. It was pre-Cloud and the contents were lost. Victor ordered a new laptop for me.

Our tradition with the Etiquette Tip of the Week is to dedicate the week of Valentine’s Day to the men and women of the IT Department, because in any organization, the IT Department needs love.

We often forget about them until we need them. And when our computer combusts and we do need them, we are stressed, irritable and not nice to be around at all.

When they resuscitate our computer and it’s performing like an Olympic athlete, we forget about the IT professionals, until the next time we need them.

The bigger message is to show appreciation for all the people who assist you in your work. Learn their names before you need them. Write a note of thanks. Send a note to their supervisor about the good work they did. And maybe even buy a treat, like donuts or bagels.

Happy Valentine’s Day, IT professionals! Thank you for all you do.

Wait, there’s more. Follow us on Twitter @MannersThatMove.

The Etiquette Tip of the Week may be forwarded to others who really, really need it, pinned to billboards, taped to the water cooler, blogged, Tweeted or used to fill that last little hole in your newsletter. Giving credit to the Culture and Manners Institute at is the polite thing to do.

The Culture and Manners Institute is all about respect. Therefore, your email address will not be sold, traded or gifted to other parties, as that would not be a polite thing to do.

Etiquette Tip of the Week: What They Don’t Say – February 19, 2018

In the past few weeks, two different executives told me about employees with etiquette challenges that are impeding their career advancement.

“Some eat like pigs,” said one executive. “They hover over their plate and shovel their food with their fork in their fist.” That behavior is killing any possibility of promotion, because in a more visible position, they would be a public embarrassment to the organization.

“They dress down,” said the other executive. “Some show up to work in what looks like pajamas.” They’re not going anywhere with the organization, because their outfits say they aren’t mature enough for additional responsibility.

This is not new. These issues have been covered in previous Etiquette Tips of the Week.

What is new, is that both executives added, “And no one wants to tell them.”

What? Why not? If it would help their career, why wouldn’t someone take them aside and say something?

Because people avoid uncomfortable conversations. I remember a supervisor telling me about having “the hygiene talk” with a smelly subordinate, who burst into tears. Uncomfortable all around.

When we do get negative feedback in a review, do we take it well? Do we get offended or accept the challenge with a firm purpose of amendment? Sometimes the awful tasting medicine is just what the doctor ordered.

No matter where we are in our career, we should always seek to improve. In addition to learning new skills, everyone’s table manners, image and first impressions can use a periodic upgrade.

We have to be open to constructive feedback and be willing to change whatever needs changing. We must also show appreciation for the good mentors who are willing to speak up and nudge us along our career path.

After all, not everyone is willing to tell us.

Follow us on Twitter @MannersThatMove.

The Etiquette Tip of the Week may be forwarded to others who really, really need it, pinned to billboards, taped to the water cooler, blogged, Tweeted or used to fill that last little hole in your newsletter. Giving credit to the Culture and Manners Institute at www.cultureandmanners.comis the polite thing to do.

The Culture and Manners Institute is all about respect. Therefore, your email address will not be sold, traded or gifted to other parties, as that would not be a polite thing to do.
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