Cruise Career Coach: Interview with business etiquette expert – Ann Marie Sabath

Cruise Career Coach: Interview with business etiquette expert – Ann Marie Sabath

With 28 years of experience in coaching about the ins and outs of how to act in a business setting, Ann Marie Sabath—founder of At Ease, Inc.—is also the author of Business Etiquette: 101 Ways to Conduct Business with Charm and Savvy, plus seven other books.

“I believe that what you visualize does come to pass,” she says. “We assist business people in becoming business professionals…going from dorm room to board room.” Her firm has worked with tech companies, law firms and a variety of industries concerned with what Millennials want. “My goal—and what we teach— is to assist individuals in working smarter, not harder, how to make that internship a summer-long interview and how to position yourself for success,” says Sabath.

The first day on the job, whether at the start of an internship or a new career, the “new kid on the block” will no doubt be introduced to a myriad of individuals within the organization. What are the essential elements to making a proper professional introduction that leaves a positive, lasting impression?

Follow the platinum rule: do unto others as they would want you to do unto them. Make eye contact with others before they make eye contact with you. Greet with a “Good morning” or a “Good afternoon,” rather than a “yo.” Introduce yourself using your first name and your last name. Say something like, “It is great to be an intern here” or “It’s a pleasure being a part of your organization this summer.”

Rather than say “I’m scared,” get over it. When you walk in, you own it. If there’s more than one person in the elevator, don’t talk. You can make eye contact. Get rid of your smartphone the minute you walk into the elevator.

When communicating by E-mail in a business setting, what tips can you share to insure efficient, effective, professional messaging?

Begin by establishing rapport and add warmth. It could be “Good morning” or “It was nice visiting with you” or “Thank you for your interest in interviewing me.” In the second paragraph, get to the point in a maximum of two sentences. State the purpose of the message, such as confirming an appointment or a meeting. At the same time establish a pleasantry. Always add a signature: it could be “regards” or “best.” Keep “sincerely” for a document.

When it comes to appropriate attire, how do you interpret the meaning of “business casual?”

Business casual means one notch down—no tie, maybe a sport coat. If you’re not sure, it’s better to walk in with a sport coat because you can always take it off. Women should wear a nice top, not too low, and a skirt, not too high. If a woman is not wearing a blazer, she should wear something that represents a collar. A necklace takes the place of a collar.

Dress for the position you want rather than for the one you have. Look at your manager, assuming your manager is dressed appropriately, and mirror that person. The key is to mix and match. You can mix and match 10 items for the entire summer.

Business-casual faux-pas include slacks that do not have a crease and wearing shoes that are worn. No chips in the nail polish. You will know if you are dressed business casual if at the end of the day you cannot wait to rip those clothes off.

What is appropriate professional etiquette when it comes to the use of technology in the workplace for personal reasons? (Cell phones – calls, texting; social media, ear buds…)

If on a break, step into a private area and check your cell phone. However, you must recognize that once you are in the area where you are interning, you are being watched. You may be in the break room checking your phone but the person who walks by and sees you does not know if that’s what you do all the time. Unless you’ve been given a smartphone for business reasons, I would say to your friends “I’m interning from 8 to 5 and I’ll get back to you at the end of the day.”

Many people spend more time at the office than they do at home. When “personalizing” your office space, what guidelines can you share for balancing your personal and professional image?

Decorate your space minimally because you haven’t moved in. You’re really a long-term guest. Your décor should reflect the person you want people to see. Let’s say you have a dog. You can have a picture of Rover because it’s a great form of small talk. Let’s say you love rowing. You have a picture of you and your team. It’s something you’ve done or of personal interest that will strike up a conversation. What you have should be a jumpstart for small talk. Anything you would not be discussing is what you should avoid posting.

When socializing with colleagues after hours, what essentials should you keep in mind to maintain your professional image?

Alcohol should never act as truth serum. Keep the conversation to social topics. If you discuss business too much, it becomes gossip. Ask people about their interests or sports. You are still on duty even if you’re off duty. How would you act if socializing with clients? Everybody keeps mental notes. In socializing with colleagues after hours, visit with those you don’t know, versus those you do know.

What are the top three most common mistakes made when transitioning from a campus setting to a corporate environment?

  1. When you are in a meeting, you need to stay as long as the meeting is taking place.
  2. Showing up whenever you want. Never be on time, be early.
  3. Take the initiative. If your project is finished, email the manager and say, “Let me know when there’s another project you’d like me to begin.”


Would you like to receive the At Ease Inc. Etiquette Tip of the Month?  E-mail Ann Marie at Do you have a business etiquette question?  Text it to (646) 494-0348.