Internships and other work experiences
Internships and other work experiences

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Internships and other work experiences

1.1 Shaking hands

In the UK, a key part of your first impression is created by your handshake.

Note: the Covid-19 pandemic has changed this fact, but we’re leaving this section in the course for now as it should become relevant again when we are able to return to normality. We will review this decision as longer-term Government advice becomes clearer.

Watch this humorous video about bad handshakes from the Australian Government to see what you should avoid.

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Transcript: Video 2

If you're in business, you shake a lot of hands. So what does your handshake say about you and the people you're doing business with? Find out as we count down the top-10 bad business handshakes.
Here we go with number 10, the sweaty palm. A potential deal-breaker-- you can't escape this nervous, sweaty grip fast enough. Yes. Wipe that off.
Number nine-- the lobster claw. When this person shakes your hand, they pinch your hand between their thumb and fingers. It's as if they're picking up a chemical-- definitely no good if you're allergic to shellfish.
At number eight, we've got the fist bump. Nothing says, I'm business savvy, like a fist bump. And exploding it? Well, [LAUGHS] That's just not suitable at all-- ever.
Number seven-- the wrestler.


He flips his hand on top of yours to assert his dominance. Rumour has it this is the guy who put the I in the team.
At number six, it's the phantom. Wow, that was quick. Let's slow it down to see what happened there. Ah-ha. Clearly, she's got more important places to be and more important people to see.
The lingerer drops in at number five. There's shaking hands. And then there's holding hands. Obviously, the lingerer has no idea which is which. Awkward.
Number four-- the decliner. Decliners are fastidious folk. They won't touch a doorknob without sanitising it, let alone shake hands.
Number three-- the tickler. Everything appears normal enough. And then something feels a bit odd. It's their middle finger stroking the palm of your hand.
In second place, it's the vice. Once you escape the crushing grip of the vice, you can't help but feel sorry for him. He must feel terribly inadequate to shake hands like that.
And what is the worst of the worst, the bottom of the barrel, the handshake only a mother could love? That dead fish. If handshakes say something about you, this one has to say, you're a limp-wristed pushover who is easily battered into submission. has the tools and templates to help plan, start, and grow your business so you don't get off to a shaky start.


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So what should you do? Lennon (2018) makes the suggestions shown in Box 2.

Box 2 What makes a good handshake?

  • Introduce yourself – tell the person who you are before you reach out and shake their hand.
  • Initiate appropriately – it’s almost always appropriate to initiate a handshake during a greeting. Never leave an extended hand hanging.
  • Use the correct hand – most people shake with their right hand, but be prepared to shake with your left hand if circumstances require that. 
  • Stand up – out of respect for the person you are greeting.
  • Make eye contact – look a person in the eyes as you shake hands.
  • Smile – establishing that you are a confident, friendly, genuine person.
  • Grip firmly – a good tip is to match the grip of the interviewer.
  • Shake from the elbow – two to three times.
  • Repeat their name – saying something like ‘It’s great to meet you, Tom’ during the handshake can help you to remember their name later on.
Lennon (2018)

You’ll now have a go yourself.

Activity 1 Shake some hands!

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes for this activity

Find someone you know well and feel comfortable with and practise shaking their hand. Perhaps you could try some of the bad handshakes as well as the one you plan to use when you meet potential employers.

Note: during the Covid-19 pandemic, you’ll need to restrict this activity to those you are permitted to have physical contact with.


That may have felt slightly awkward but the more you do it, the more natural it will feel. A strong, appropriate handshake is a great way to start a first impression.


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