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HomeEVERYDAY ETIQUETTEBehind the scenes at our Professional Finishing School

Behind the scenes at our Professional Finishing School

While our adult clients rarely take much convincing of the value of our training, those enrolled on our courses for younger people often join us with a degree of apprehension, having been talked into it by a parent or teacher.

Understandably, the words ‘finishing school’ can conjur up images of austere Swiss institutions, elocution and deportment lessons. In reality, our two-day Professional Finishing School is very different – as one of our newer recruits, Dan, found out when he took part in last week’s course to experience it first-hand.

The purpose of the Professional Finishing School is to build confidence and consideration in students at an important time of transition, when they’re moving on from school or university into the workplace. Participants are coached in first impressions, interview technique, CV preparation, networking, dress codes, dining and forms of address.

The purpose of the Professional Finishing School is to build confidence and consideration in students at an important time of transition

Dan was part of a small group led by Debrett’s tutor Katherine Lewis. “Although I’m biased because she’s one of my colleagues,” he says, “There is no praise too high for Katherine’s expertise. I’m always bowled over by the range of experiences she’s had – from graduating from Oxford in behavioural psychology to appearing on the West End stage.”

Learning is a combination of workshops, exercises, group discussion, individual feedback and video analysis, which Dan admits to finding a little unnerving on the first occasion:

“We kicked off, appropriately, with first impressions, and were filmed introducing ourselves to each other. In watching this back, we were made aware of any tics and unconscious habits of speech and gestures that might be distracting in interviews or when meeting new people. This was excruciating but (I’m told) necessary!”

After lunch, the first day moves on to CV preparation and techniques for interviews, and concludes with participants rehearsing their ‘elevator pitches’.

The first day concludes with participants rehearsing their ‘elevator pitches’

“These were essentially a short, snappy introduction to ourselves that we could use when meeting potential employers or, in my case, clients,” Dan tells us. “Again, these were filmed, and it was really encouraging to see how much we’d all improved in such a short space of time.”

The second day of the course begins with networking – both in person and online. Here, Dan was able to share some of his own experiences, having worked for a period in a recruitment role. “It was great to have Dan speak about his own experience in recruitment and with LinkedIn,” Katherine tells us. “The other students really valued that first-hand insight.”

A session on hosting and dining proved particularly relevant for Ffion, another participant, who will be hosting chalet guests as part of a ski season. Dan was slightly less confident in this arena: “Despite my place of work, I’m afraid I let myself down on this front – luckily Katherine was there to correct my somewhat haphazard attempt at a place setting.”

This preceded lunch at Claridges, after which the course concluded with forms of address and dress codes, including business dress. This was broken up with individual CV feedback sessions with another member of the Debrett’s team.

“I shouldn’t haven’t been surprised, because I’m always hearing from our clients how much they’ve benefited from our coaching,” Dan says, “But I was still very impressed – the two days were genuinely really, really interesting.”

I can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable courses I’ve done and I think what I’ve learnt will be so useful.

Ffion agrees: “I can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable courses I’ve done and I think what I’ve learnt will be so useful. I think the biggest thing I learnt is that I need to be more confident in general. I also liked how up-to-date it was with the inclusion of netiquette! Thank you for such an amazing opportunity.”

Our next Professional Finishing School is taking place on 21st and 22nd September, and places are limited to six per group. Please call us on 02037052210 or email DanScothern@debretts.co.uk for more information or to book a place.

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