If you are looking for a job or to snag an internship, if you are invited to a corporate lunch or dinner, or if you are hoping for a promotion or to do well in an interview, you have questions.
Should you order a drink? Do you start eating before your host or hostess? What if you need to leave the table – what do you do with your napkin?
Where should you sit when a roomful of empty tables presents itself at a conference? How’s your body language? What kind of signals are you giving? Do you know how to optimize networking events? How do you approach a stranger?
For some, these kinds of skills come second nature. For others, they need to be learned and fine-tuned. For some, they are downright intimidating.
Jean O’Brien, president of The O’Brien Group believes that handling yourself in the dining room is just as important as how you handle yourself in the conference room. O’Brien is passionate about navigating the business world and doing it with grace, style and panache.
With decades of experience in the corporate human resources world, she has come to Warrenton optimistic that her knowledge, strategic networking skills and understanding of what makes us shine -- or not shine -- when we are in a roomful of people can enhance and bolster confidence into an executive presence that will leave a lasting impression.
“You need to be in sync with the table,” said O’Brien, which includes everything from your table manners to the topic and pacing of the conversation. Working with hundreds of professionals over the years, O’Brien is most focused on enhancing career growth and avoiding career-limiting situations.
O’Brien received a bachelor of science degree in community development from The Pennsylvania State University. Her professional credentials and certifications include Professional in Human Resources, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Executive Business Etiquette. O’Brien’s human resources background has had her working for organizations such as the American Society for Microbiology. But, in 2001, she decided to start her own company, The O’Brien Group.
With Northern Virginia and the district as her stomping grounds, O’Brien moved from Reston to Warrenton, a town that she has visited frequently over the years as her daughter and son-in-law live in Amissville.
“I’ve been coming out here and made the decision to live in Warrenton in the downtown area and I couldn’t be happier,” said O’Brien who lives on High Street. “I’m enjoying this community so much; everyone has been very welcoming … this is a community unlike any other that I’ve experienced.”
Since arriving, O’Brien has joined the Fauquier Chamber of Commerce and has been busy attending as many events as she is able.
“I want to get to know people … connect … see where my skills might fit in or work,” said O’Brien, who would like to offer programs in the schools as well as for young professionals.
She has been a part of leadership teams for many years. “I’m an observer,” smiled O’Brien who can quickly identify when a person is out of their comfort zone. “I like to focus on people skills … bring out the best … and help that person to become more confident.”
Acquiring people skills and table manners is especially important for young people, according to O’Brien who has a program – Junior Executive Presence - geared for the 13 to 18-year-old set. “It’s never too early to start, particularly with so many young people plugged into cellphones,” said O’Brien. She has found that when exposed to an elegant dining situation, most young people she has worked with enjoy the experience. “No room for cell phones,” she laughed.
O’Brien feels that it is very important for young people to build their interactive verbal and non-verbal skills, making them more confident in and beyond the classroom setting.
O’Brien has also been called into companies to sort through management and personnel issues, figuring out the dynamics of what’s working and what isn’t, particularly when it comes to staff interactions and effectiveness.
Adding a touch of whimsy to her programs, O’Brien also offers a presentation on the art of napkin folding. If you are the business host or hostess for different venues from buffet lines to sit-down affairs, a creative napkin fold can add elegance and excitement to your table, she said.
O’Brien has done her homework and enjoys sharing the history of present-day business etiquette protocol, the differences between American and Continental eating styles and why it’s important.
Admittedly, O’Brien errs on the side of refined behavior. “I like to preserve civility,” she said, noting that she has taken on pro bono work just because she believes so much in the importance and benefits of being an effective communicator and doing it with genuine sincerity.
“This is my passion … it’s all about confidence and relationships … to be memorable,” said O’Brien. She looks forward to offering workshops, classes or assisting organizations or individuals improve their personal and professional potential and goals.
Reach Anita Sherman at firstname.lastname@example.org