Whether chatting in an elevator or at a formal business meal, personal skills can make or break careers.

The Office of Career Services at Texas A&M University-Central Texas hosted a business etiquette dinner Saturday night to teach students and guests proper dining skills.

“The purpose of the dinner is to teach students to focus on the conversation without worrying about how to butter the bread,” said Cindy Guzman, assistant director of career services.

“A person’s professional success depends on how well and quickly he can build strong relationships in any business setting,” Guzman said. Forty-five people attended the event, which featured networking strategies and a five-course meal.

“I’m not good at meeting people, so I’m here to grow my business skills,” said Claude Prevot, a graduate student in business administration.

The first 30 minutes focused on learning the skills of networking, such as giving out a business card, the proper handshake — firm with two shakes — and making a positive elevator pitch.

The dinner followed, consisting of a main entree, soup, salad, vegetables, dessert and coffee.

“Eating with someone important is a nervous experience, and this dinner makes people feel more comfortable in that situation,” said Kristine Hughes, Career Services student worker.

Guzman stressed it is all about being strategic.

“The experience teaches them new skills to put in their business tool box,” she said.

Lauren Gillette, Career Services graduate assistant, agreed. “It’s amazing if you don’t use the skills everyday, you will lose them. Proper dining goes beyond basic eating,” she said.

The business dinner is held each semester, and some students return for a second or third time to learn as much as possible. Planning for the dinner takes about four months, officials said.

“The dinner gives students valuable lessons on how best to meet future employers,” said Chef Archie Mathis, from Arboniche’s Fine Catering, which catered the event.

“The dinner goes a long way in building a student’s confidence,” said psychology major Randy Ramey. “I’ll be better prepared for an interview after this business etiquette dinner.”

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