What is Finishing School? Get Your Charm On!


Soft skills are some of the most sought after skills in today’s highly competitive job market. A Finishing School, a concept of a time gone by, once educated young women with the skills required to be considered attractive to affluent men. Surprisingly, a Finishing School of the past and the subjects taught, share some common features with today’s highly in-demand skills. Now, what is a Finishing School exactly? Let’s take a closer look.


What is a Finishing School?

The original old-fashioned Finishing School was a school for young women of affluent descent that taught social graces and etiquette.


Few educational opportunities were available for women in the 1900s. However, women from wealthy backgrounds were given the opportunity to raise their social and financial status in society through marriage.


The education that they received at a Finishing School gave them a higher social status, making them more attractive marriage partners for affluent men. Marrying a man who could provide for them financially was their ticket to success.


What Was Learned at Finishing School?

Women spent much of their time learning appropriate manners and etiquette for every social situation imaginable. They underwent extensive training to learn how to entertain their husband’s business and social contacts to advance his career. They were taught table manners, how to shake hands, and how to make polite conversation in company.


Women were even made to walk up and down stairs whilst balancing books on their heads in order to improve their posture. Standing up tall and not slouching was considered an important etiquette skill. They were also taught how to write a polite Thank You note, using immaculate spelling and grammar and on which occasions they should send one.


The Second Wave of Feminism in the 1960s brought the downfall of Finishing Schools, with the changing conception of women in society, new inequality laws, and reproductive rights. Women were no longer willing to be objects to be acquired but wanted to be part of the workforce, receive equal pay, contribute to society, and be respected and rewarded for their knowledge, skills, and academic and professional competency.


Finishing Schools for Men and Charm Schools for Adults

In reality, the concept of a Finishing School wasn’t actually discarded. It was updated! New concepts based on Finishing Schools came into effect.


For example, The British Butler Institute set up a Finishing School for Men to educate men on skills such as building relationships, communication skills, self confidence, body language, image, and personal representation. Charm Schools for adults, a more modern derivative, became popular in the US.


Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash


What Lesson Did We Learn From the Concept of a Finishing School?

Finishing Schools were a concept of their time. A time when social graces and etiquette were the key to success. But times have changed. Women are no longer dependent on acquiring the skills to become a perfect marriage partner for an affluent man — nevertheless, women (and men) still need these skills. After all, without manners and etiquette, forks would fly across tables, people would push each other out of the way, make noises when they eat, make inappropriate jokes and nobody would ever wait in a queue.


The skills that were taught at Finishing Schools are no longer referred to in outdated terms such as “etiquette” or “manners.” Although the vocabulary has changed, some of the skills are, nevertheless, equally relevant in the modern business world. Today we would refer to them as “soft skills” and “cultural competencies.”


According to the Washington Post, in 2013, Google did an internal study on workplace success. Their goal was to determine the most productive and innovative teams in the organization, by analyzing their hiring, firing, and promotion data, gathered since the company was incorporated in 1998.


The results of this study, surprisingly, contradicted the conventional wisdom that employees who are strong in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) become the most successful employees.


The study concluded that the most important characteristics for successful and productive teams were soft skills, as opposed to high competency STEM subjects.


It was determined that the top characteristics for successful teams at Google are:

  1. Being a good coach
  2. Communicating and listening well
  3. Being insightful and intuitive and understanding different values and points of view
  4. Empathy and support for colleagues
  5. Critical thinking and problem solving
  6. Ability to make connections across complex ideas


In 2017 Google carried out a further study which confirmed the previous findings. It determined that the best teams at Google exhibited the following skills:

  1. Emotional safety (No bullying in teams. Employees feeling that they can speak up, be heard and be permitted to make mistakes)
  2. Equality
  3. Generosity
  4. Curiosity towards the ideas of peers
  5. Empathy
  6. Emotional intelligence


Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash


Empower Yourself

We have learned that soft skills are indispensable in the workplace. However, to take success to the next level, we need to ensure empowerment. Empowerment is the process of becoming stronger and more confident. In today’s world, the key to empowerment is education.


“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

– Malala Yousafzai


By getting an education, you can gain:

  • A new career
  • Knowledge and skills
  • Financial independence
  • Self fulfilment
  • The ability to contribute to society and make the world a better place


Successful Billionaires

Barbara Corcoran, an American entrepreneur, founder of the Corcoran Group, speaker, consultant, author, and television personality came from humble beginnings. According to Wealthy Gorilla, she now has a current net worth of $80 million. She is shown here giving an interview on how to empower yourself by asking for a raise in a way that will achieve the desired results.




According to Forbes, Oprah Winfrey, the famous talk show host, TV producer, actress, and philanthropist, is a self-made billionaire and has a net worth of $2.6 billion. Oprah’s success story is based on her natural ability to listen and genuinely empathize with people in order to connect to them on a deep level.


Your Next Step to Get Ahead

In 2019, social etiquette, good manners and social graces alone are no longer the ultimate key to success in life. However, if you can combine your listening and communication skills, empathy, emotional intelligence, and intercultural competencies with an accredited degree, you will certainly be in the best possible position to get a great job and start a new career.


An education and a career is the new ticket to success! Perhaps we can call it the “Modern Finishing School.”


If you are not sure what to study, check out UoPeople’s well-researched list of The Best Accredited Online College Courses and The 10 Best Degrees to Get Online. You may decide to study on campus or online.


If you want to avoid the stress and debt of studying on campus, you can impress your future employer with an online degree. The ability to learn successfully online shows a potential employer your motivation, determination, time management, organizational skills, commitment, and competency.


UoPeople provides students with the opportunity to receive an online degree tuition-free. Our goal is to make higher education accessible to all, anytime, anywhere, regardless of financial, geographic, political, and personal constraints. UoPeople offers associate and bachelor’s degree programs in Business Administration, Computer Science and Health Science. If you already have a bachelor’s degree and want to take your career further, check out our MBA and M.Ed programs.


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