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The Hire Power of the Toastmasters Experience

By Craig Harrison DTM, PDG

Note: This article appeared in the August, 2000 edition of Toastmaster

Did you know your Toastmasters experience can be the ultimate job seeker's resource? Whether you are seeking a new job or a promotion at your current job, rest assured that Toastmasters can offer you the inside track. Consider the many ways in which the Toastmasters experience strengthens your candidacy.

Hear Here. Employers want employees with good listening skills. Toastmasters get weekly practice at listening. And we listen to more than words. We become expert on language nuances, vocal inflection, and the subtleties of body language. We not only hear what is being said, but what isn't. We're quick to detect incongruities between the message and the messenger. Are the facial expressions consistent with the words a co-worker or superior is voicing? Does the body language belie the message being articulated? As an expert listener, you instinctively know when a message doesn't live up to its potential!

Facility at Client Relation The practice we get at introducing each other, avoiding pregnant pauses and also putting on a good show for club visitors helps us in work situations. We're confident when meeting strangers and know how to put our best foot forward. After all, that's what we do every week in our club meetings. Not only does this help us in job interviews, but daily in on-the-job situations, with co-workers, clients and customers.

Confidence. Toastmasters training gives job seekers and employees alike the confidence to aspire and achieve. It does more simply teach social graces and how to effectively exchange pleasantries; Toastmasters helps encourage the promotion and advancement of ideas.

Marcia Griffin, CL, is a vice president of Bank of America and the East Coast manager of the bank's network of speaking clubs. Griffin and other senior Bank of America managers recognize that the Toastmasters experience breeds confidence in employees. "If you have a great idea in a meeting, and you're too shy to say something, it will fall by the wayside. Toastmasters gives employees the ability to clearly articulate thoughts and feelings," she says. In this manner, we extend our sphere of influence.

Dedicated to Self-Improvement. On a weekly basis we receive evaluations on how we appeared, sounded and handled our roles within the club. Based on this feedback, and our ability to process it, we can improve. We also carry over this tendency in the workplace. We welcome constructive feedback, and we learn to separate the useful criticism from that which can be destructive. Being receptive to feedback and dedicated to improving ourselves makes us better employees. The Japanese believe in kaizen,the concept of continuous improvement. We may never be perfect but the quest to improve is perfectly appropriate, and appreciated, by our employers. Whether in customer service, quality management, production or in human relations, we just keep getting better.

Handling Pressure. Let's face it, after dozens of tough table topics, few situations in real life are as foreboding. The confidence we gain from accepting an assignment on short notice, or giving a "back-pocket" speech, or rising to the occasion when called upon unexpectedly, gives us confidence in pressure-packed work situations. When the boss is stuck in traffic and you have to pinch hit to give her presentation; or when the CEO comes by unannounced and you're 'Johnny on the spot' to handle introductions, play tour guide or demonstrate work processes, you're nonplussed and carry the day. All thanks to Toastmasters

Diversity. In an increasingly diverse workplace, the Toastmasters experience again gives job seekers an advantage. In our clubs each week we are speaking and listening to, and working with a diverse cross-section of the world. People of both sexes, all races, religions, persuasions and ages, work together effectively in Toastmasters. This broadens our horizons, understanding of and appreciation for others and their perspectives

Teamwork. In our Toastmasters clubs we develop the ability to effectively team with others of all backgrounds, leadership and communication styles. We've successfully interacted with those creative visionaries whose ideas flow like a stream of consciousness. Conversely we've effectively worked alongside those hard driving, detail oriented type-A's who fret the last 2% of every task. The Toastmasters experience is invaluable for the way it exposes us to differing styles. Job interviewers and managers want a sense of whether we'll fit in with their existing work teams. We can point to our Toastmasters experience as evidence that we'll flourish at work. After all, we've already worked well with people of different backgrounds, temperaments and styles. Our Toastmasters team has prepared us to embrace a new set of teammates to be found on the new job

Leadership. Regardless of our work title, we know how to provide leadership whether in meetings, committee work or other aspects of our jobs. We've been club officers and know how vital each member's role is in the effective success of the team. We've led our own teams in our clubs, areas, divisions and on District committees. That is why we understand the importance of articulating clear goals, measuring performance along the way and at the end of projects, and recognizing the contributions of others. We're also accustomed to our leadership being visible and can carry ourselves with confidence. Employees demonstrating leadership qualities are natural candidates for promotion. Leaders also have the inside track to become coordinators, supervisor and managers.

Advantage...Toastmaster! In these ways and more the Toastmasters experience gives job seekers an added dimension when it comes to work. So whether or not that job description explicitly asks for excellent communication or leadership skills, let your interviewer know of your Toastmasters communication and leadership experience. Be prepared to share examples of problems solved, innovative approaches applied and leadership accomplishments achieved during your Toastmasters experience. And showcase your newfound confidence as a result of Toastmasters.

You have a hire power...use it!

Professional speaker Craig Harrison DTM, a past president of the Dramatically Speaking #1580-57 club in Oakland, California, coaches job seekers to join Toastmasters for professional success. He is a past district governor who writes extensively for Toastmaster magazine.


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