Column: A New Year, a more professional you


Commentary by Beverly Randolph

Happy New Year! Is professional development one of your resolutions? According to a Harvard and Stanford study, one’s career success is based on 85 percent social skills and only 15 percent technical skills. Set yourself apart from the competition using these tips while simultaneously becoming more confident and credible.

Handshake.  Like it or not, one is judged by the quality of their handshake. To initiate a handshake, smile, lean forward about 20 degrees extend your right hand keeping your fingers together with your thumb up and open.  Slide your hand into the other person’s so that the web of skin between thumb and forefingers touches the other’s (web-to-web).  Squeeze firmly, but not bone-crushing, and pump twice from the elbow.  A good handshake comes from the elbow; the forearm remains firm. Practice with a trusted colleague, family member or friend. When at networking functions and the like, always keep your right hand free.  Practice having a beverage in your left hand.

Posture.  It says a lot about your personality.  Stand straight with arms to your side and feet shoulder width apart and of course, head up. When talking with someone face them directly. If your colleague is too close for your liking, pivot every so often. Americans prefer at least a foot of space between another.  A quick way to check your posture is when at a stoplight or stop sign.  This will get you in the habit of correcting yourself.

Eye contact.  In America, maintaining eye contact is vital as it indicates trustworthiness. However, staring can be considered threatening. With business associates, keeping eye contact from the top of the eyebrows to the bridge of the person’s nose is appropriate.

Do you have any etiquette dilemmas? Share them and any other etiquette questions you have.

Beverly Randolph, MA, is the Founder & Director of The Protocol School of Indianapolis and a certified Business Etiquette, Children’s Etiquette and International Protocol Consultant. Beverly lives in Carmel and is an Adjunct Instructor at Marian University teaching business-related courses.  Have any etiquette dilemmas? For more information, email Beverly at [email protected], call 317-430-5696, and/or visit