Etiquette Dinner 2017

“Trust your gut. Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right”   – Kelly Meerbott

On April 6th, 2017, one hundred undergraduates gathered in Center City at Estia Restaurant for the annual Wharton Women Etiquette Dinner. As the tables filled and conversation buzzed, a feeling of excitement was in the air. Everyone was eager to learn more about this year’s theme: Unspoken Rules in Business. While enjoying a three-course Greek meal, attendees had the opportunity to hear from executive leadership coach and special keynote speaker, Kelly Meerbott.


Your Life Mission

Kelly spoke about the importance of having a life mission. While we as business students often think about the missions of companies, we were excited to hear about how we can apply this idea of a mission to our own lives.

Kelly defined a life mission as a simple phrase that encapsulates the aims, goals, and values that we want to strive for and live by each day. She said that life missions can help us make decisions and define how we want to focus our time and energy.

She asked us to take a pause from our appetizers and create our life missions using no more than three words. The task seemed daunting, but capping our mission statements at three words allowed us to really focus our thoughts on what we think our ultimate life mission is.


Unspoken Rules in Business

As undergraduate business students, we are entering the world of networking that can be daunting, nerve-wracking, and stressful. Kelly shared some powerful tips on how to navigate networking.

Networking is not about you. Instead, networking should be viewed as an opportunity to learn from professionals about various career paths. If we ask people what we can do for them, networking will not seem as much like an aggressive game to get opportunities but more like a way to build a relationship that will benefit ourselves in the end.


Ask people about their hobbies. This can allow the conversation to feel more like a natural conversation rather than a stuffy corporate exchange. If you start off by talking about non-work related interests, there is a greater chance you will be able to bond with someone and have a better conversation about work down the road.


Write handwritten notes. People today receive so few handwritten notes that if you take the time to send a follow-up or thank you note in the mail, people will be very appreciative and remember your sincere efforts.


Life as a Leadership Coach

After the dinner, we had the opportunity to sit down with Kelly to learn about her decision to pursue coaching as a career:

In January of 2009, Kelly was shocked to learn that the company for whom she had sacrificed so much and recovered millions of dollars had decided to lay her off without previous notice. After such a huge setback, Kelly decided she needed to take ownership of her life and called a coach to see what her options were. At first, she was skeptical about the advice she received, but after giving careful consideration of the “gift of coaching”, Kelly accepted the challenge and started the life-changing process of making a career change. Eventually, she decided coaching was something she truly loved, and began working to become an executive leadership coach. The process started in Chicago: while studying there, she learned how to be proactive when her instructor told her to get out there and find a client, before learning any theory. She has now expanded her network to what it is today: a thriving, full coaching practice dedicated to helping executive leaders become the best version of themselves.


Nowadays, Kelly does not limit her services to a particular title or industry. Instead, she works with people who inspire her and with whom there is a genuine fit. As a non-directive coach, Kelly describes herself more as a guider of actions than a giver of advice. To learn more, visit her website, and be on the lookout for her upcoming book!

Written by Julia Bache (W’ 19).