Two Thumbs Up: The Business Etiquette of Hand Gestures

Have you ever made an instant judgment about a person based on the way they shook your hand? Are you unsure what to do with your hands while speaking, or have you been distracted by the hand gestures a speaker used?

Body language plays an important role in the opinions (both conscious and unconscious) we develop of one another. By being intentional with your body language, you can change how people perceive you. The study of body language in the business world is broad. Today we’ll narrow in on best practices for handshakes and hand gestures.

The Handshake

As Professor Allan Pease, a body language expert, states, “People form up to 90% of their (first) impression in under four minutes.” The simple, non-verbal action of a handshake can set the tone for a professional relationship. Make it count and make it positive with these tips:

  • If you are sitting down, rise to meet the handshake.
  • Practice holding things such as your meeting notes, your bag, or your drink in your left hand so you are prepared to shake with your right.
  • Attempt to give the same amount of pressure you receive. Grip firmly, not too strongly or limply.
  • Keep your handshake vertical.
  • Keep your handshake brief and maintain eye contact.

Practicing good handshake etiquette positions you as an equal in the relationship, rather than as dominating or submissive. Now that’s a lasting good impression.

Hand Gestures

Young woman using open hand gestures while speakingWhen speaking, you convey meaning not only with your words, but with your movements. Gestures can make your audience more receptive to your message, or cause them to tune out. Before your next interview or presentation, brush up on these hand gesture dos and don’ts.

  • Listing: When referring to a number under five, show the number with your hand. This gesture acts like a highlighter, helping the audience retain key points.
  • The Open Upward Palm: Hold your hands open, palm up. This gesture suggests that you are being open and honest with the audience.
  • This and That: Use your hands to represent two different subjects or groups. Your left hand represents the 1st subject and the right hand represents the 2nd subject. Utilize the appropriate hand when referencing that subject or group.
  • Conducting: Avoid repetitive motions and patterns of movement. This can cause the audience to lose interest.
  • The Pointer Jab: Avoid pointing at the audience for emphasis. This gesture is often perceived as aggressive and belittling.

Hand gestures are a small thing that can have a big impact on your job hunt or other business endeavor. To make sure your gestures are working for, not against you, practice speaking in front of a mirror and train yourself to use positive, non-confrontational gestures at the appropriate time.

If you are a workforce professional, consider sharing this article with your colleagues and the job seekers with whom you work. If you have other favorite resources or an example about body language best practices, please share in the comments.


5 Steps to Winning at Presentations

Is it your turn to present at the staff meeting? Are you giving a talk at a business conference or job fair? Were you asked to prepare a presentation for a job interview? Whether you’re workforce center staff, an employer, or a job seeker, you will run into occasions when you need to talk in front of other people. All of us know the protracted pain of poor presentations, so to win at your next presentation, we suggest keeping these five steps in mind:

  1. Know your audienceWhat do they value? What do they already know and what do they need to learn?
  2. PracticeKnow your content; know your technology (how comfortable are you with the presentation software or other media you may be using?); regulate your breathing.
  3. Consider aestheticsChoose colors, fonts (type and size), and graphics that enhance your presentation without distracting from the content. Remember #1 above. Will your audience find your aesthetic choices pleasing? Also be sure to follow any applicable branding or style guidelines.
  4. Promote interactivityGetting your audience involved makes a presentation more interesting and memorable. Try mixed media or polls, but remember #2 above. Practice and know your technology!
  5. Make a connectionUse a story or statistic to connect with your audience, then give a call to action so that they can apply what they’ve learned in your presentation.

5 Steps to Winning at Presentations Graphic

Check out our Proposing and Presenting board on Pinterest for more advice and a collection of cool, free online presentation tools. We look forward to putting our words into action and giving top-notch presentations at the upcoming Spring Meeting in KCMO. If you have any advice or recommended resources, leave us a comment.

#InclusionWorks: Celebrating Diversity in the Workplace

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time to focus on the value that workers with disabilities bring to the workplace. With nearly 20% of the working age population represented by people with disabilities (think one in five), employing workers with disabilities is a timely and important topic to the workforce development community.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month Poster

Disability employment is an important facet of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), as explored in Section 188, which was originally enacted with Workforce Investment Act (WIA) in 1998 and continues to apply to the updated WIOA legislation of 2015. Section 188 seeks to prevent discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or political affiliation or belief.

To assist American Job Centers with understanding and applying inclusionary practices, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) developed “Promising Practices in Achieving Universal Access and Equal Opportunity: A Section 188 Disability Reference Guide.” Other resources, like The Disability and Employment Community of Practice, educate employers and workforce staff on providing services and programs to people with disabilities.

To celebrate and promote awareness of NDEAM, we’ve prepared a quick list of Do’s and Don’ts for making your workplace or American Job Center more inclusive:


  • Test your website, online applications, recruitment material, and social media content for accessibility. (See Section 508 for detailed info on accessibility standards.) The America’s JobLink system is routinely tested for accessibility using the SSB BART Group’s Accessibility Management Platform (AMP). AMP is a web-based solution for meeting Section 508, Americans with Disabilities (ADA), WCAG, and other compliance needs.
  • Provide accommodations for public spaces and events, such as considering the height of display tables, offering a variety of publication formats, or being prepared with assistive technology.
  • Participate in internship, mentorship, and hiring programs for students and recent grads with disabilities.
  • Consider the needs of employees with disabilities when developing emergency management plans.


Have something to add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

List Lovers: Discover the Bullet Journal for Work

I have a problem. Some might term it an addiction. I love lists. I need lists. I have lists for everything; I have lists of new lists to make. I have whole notebooks dedicated to my lists. And recently, I’ve found I’m not alone. Buzzfeed, Reddit, and Instagram have been populating the internet with images of lists, in the name of a new trend: Bullet Journaling.

Bullet Journaling is a style of tracking your life in a notebook. The term and the system was designed by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer from Austria. Carroll struggled with focusing and needed a way to capture his ideas, so he developed this system. He has described the system as

“For the list-makers, the note-takers, the Post-It note pilots, the track-keepers, and the dabbling doodlers. Bullet Journal is for those who feel there are few platforms as powerful as the blank paper page. It’s an analog system for the digital age that will help you organize the present, record the past, and plan for the future.”Bullet Journal

So what does this have to do with the workforce? Bullet Journaling is not limited to tracking grocery lists or birthdays; job seekers, students, and employees can use a daily journal to visually track progress toward career or educational goals with lists such as:

  • To Do: Note the tasks that require your attention. Make use of the Bullet Journal symbols to track whether the tasks have been completed, migrated to another list, or scheduled.
  • Kudos: Track the compliments you receive on your work. Whether you are an employee with a yearly review coming up or a job seeker interviewing for a new job, you can pull out this list as evidence of the work you’ve done well.
  • Lessons Learned: Write down something you’ve learned that day or week, whether it is a new skill or a reflection.
  • Accomplishments: Record projects that have been completed or goals that have been reached. If possible, write down the outcome.
  • Progress: Break down projects or goals into manageable tasks, and track when each phase is completed.
  • Duties: Divide responsibilities into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.

Communities have sprung up around the Bullet Journal trend, and among them are the Bullet Journal Professionals. Wondering why you should keep your own Bullet Journal as a workforce professional? Don’t worry; there’s a list for that.

The Benefits of Using a Bullet Journal at Work:

  • Organize and prioritize your responsibilities in one place.
  • Document growth and success in your career for reviews and raises.
  • Refer to the lists when building your portfolio or LinkedIn profile.
  • Record the ideas and plans that usually get lost in the shuffle.
  • Feel a sense of accomplishment from checking off completed tasks and projects.
  • Reflect on successes and missed opportunities.

If you’re a case manager in an American Job Center, consider sharing the benefits of Bullet Journaling with your clients. Maybe you could even offer a “Bullet Journaling for Your Job Search” workshop! If you keep your own Bullet Journal or something similar, be sure to comment and/or post images below. You can also check out our Bullet Journaling at Work board on Pinterest for inspiration.

Asking the Right Questions: Brainstorming a Social Media Plan

According to a 2015 report from the Pew Research Center, 79% of Americans who looked for jobs in the past two years used online resources. Of the nearly two-thirds of Americans who use social media, 35% used social media to find jobs and network. To most fully engage job seekers and employers, workforce organizations should be utilizing social media.

Within the workforce industry, a primary goal of social media is to offer engaging, helpful resources for staff, job seekers and employers, and other workforce organizations. Social media tools are an important element not only of establishing your organization’s professional online presence but also of promoting communication about services, resources, and events internally and externally with staff, current and future clients, and industry colleagues.

If your organization wants to develop or improve their social media presence, you need to develop a social media plan that outlines how to successfully engage with this medium. When you sit down to brainstorm where your organization wants to go with social media, try answering the classic reporter’s questions: Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why?


  • Who is our audience? Who will be responsible for administering our social media program?
  • When is the best time to post?
  • Where should we post?
  • What do we want to achieve?
  • How will we generate content? How will we set and maintain standards of use?
  • Why are we succeeding or failing?

Who, When, and Where

You can begin your social media plan by looking at who your audience is (or will be). Scope out the social media profiles of your peers (such as other workforce agencies) to see how you stack up.What are they doing well? Where are their gaps? Who follows them? As you establish a follower base, use the built-in analytics tools of social media platforms to identify basic follower demographics and user trends (read more about analytics here), such as the age of your followers and the best time of the day or week to post. When choosing where to post (which social media platforms to join or focus on), consider the opportunities and limitations that each social media platform holds for you. For example, Instagram is a primarily visual platform, so you will need someone to consistently post images from the workplace and/or stock photos that match your messages.

What, How, and Why

The next step is clarifying your vision: what do you want to achieve with social media and who do you want to reach with it? Better yet, how do you plan on achieving those goals? For each group of audience members—such as job seekers, employers, or workforce staff—identify engagement strategies. Create measurable goals, such as how many posts per week to achieve, how many followers you hope to gain, and how to create staff engagement.

Like any powerful tool, social media should be used responsibly. Don’t bog your plan down with “don’ts”, but do include a social media policy that outlines the standards and expectations of your online presence. Because we are a division of the Kansas Department of Commerce, our policy borrows some language from the social media policy of the State of Kansas. (Read our upcoming post on creating a social media policy to view ours.) If you refer to policies online from other companies or articles, remember always to give credit for any word-for-word material you use, though it is good practice to give credit for paraphrased material as well.

Ever heard the phrase, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”? To help avoid this fate, make sure your plan clearly defines responsibilities for achieving your social media goals. We have a social media manager, administrator, and analyst: the manager handles the majority of the content and day-to-day responsibilities; the administrator monitors and approves content and responds to followers as needed; and the analyst provides reports on user traffic and analytics. These responsibilities can be rolled into one position if necessary, but it’s always good to have another pair of eyes approving content whenever possible. The plan should also set a time for your social media team to reconvene and assess how well the plan has been implemented. Be prepared to adjust strategies based on what has been working well and what hasn’t.

We hope this article provides you with some handy tips for developing your organization’s social media strategy. Look for an upcoming post on how to create a social media policy. Until then, feel free to check out our social media board on Pinterest for more ideas and best practices, link to your own social media plan or profiles, point us to resources you’ve found helpful, or ask a question. And remember, we can customize your JobLink home page to connect to your social media accounts!