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Public Speaking, what you should really study in college

Public Speaking

Are you ready to take your career to the next level?

Public Speaking and your career

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting on the topic of college and how the college experience can affect professional careers. A few posts that are ready to go include:

  • How the college reputation can affect the job hunt
  • My thoughts on delaying entry to the job market after graduation.

As high school students prepare to graduate, I am running into more and more parents that are visiting colleges with their 3rd and 4th-year high school hellions (self-proclaimed child prodigies) and I find this entire topic fascinating.

  • From an HR perspective, I know all too well how the education section at the bottom of a resume can impact a career. The college that is chosen will be making a permanent place on the resume for the rest of the student’s life.
  • My parents didn’t visit any potential schools with me so I missed out on this parent/child experience.
  • There are a number of topics I wish I studied in college. I am sure my parents told me what I should study, and I am sure I didn’t listen because I am lacking in a number of areas. 

I don’t have any children and so I write these posts fully acknowledging that I do not worry about funding a young persons college education (let alone 2 or 3 educations). I don’t worry about the spawn of HRNasty getting into the “right school”, college debt, or little HRNasty junior returning to the nest after graduation, unemployed. Let’s face it, anyone that has read this blog for any length of time knows one thing: I would probably have some unreasonable standards as a parent. Smart Goals would be applied to the academic career. Networking, public speaking and team sports would be the only acceptable afterschool activities and by God, they would know how to handle an interview!

The reason these skills make such a difference is that landing your first job out of school will exponentially make a difference in the rest of our careers. Like a 401K, the earlier you start, the better the long-term compounded gains you will realize when you cash out. This is also true with your career.

  • The company you land your first job with will influence the next few jobs you apply for.
  • Your first starting salary right out of school will set the tone for compensation moving forward. Just landing a job isn’t the goal. We want to land a job and negotiate a solid salary.
  • How you present your ideas and communicate will influence how management treats you, what bucket they put you in and their expectations. This directly correlates to what opportunity you will be given.

Now that I am in the working world, there are a few classes where I wish I paid more attention. Like most students, I had no idea why I was required to take many of the classes needed to graduate. We all know the typical algebra question:

If train A is traveling SW at 70 miles an hour and train B is traveling NW at 44 miles an hour, how far apart will they be in 854 minutes?

I have been working for a number of years now, and fortunately, I have not yet been asked to solve the infamous “2 trains” problem. That being said, there are a number of classes where I wish I had paid more attention.

If I had children, I would insist they pay special attention to a few topics beyond their chosen field of study. These topics are based on a career in Human Resources, where I have seen recent graduates receive offer letters, rejection letters, promotions, and pink slips. I am confident more knowledge in the following topics would have made a big difference.

This week and next week I will share my thoughts on classes I would insist the spawn of HRNasty pay attention to (If I had to put a couple of crumb snatchers through college). Although trying to figure out how far apart 2 trains will be after 854 minutes may not be that applicable, I believe that strengths and weaknesses in the following courses will make or break a career. This week I share thoughts on why I think public speaking is so important and a skill I wished I developed during all 4 years of my college career. Next week, I will share 3 more. I firmly believe these 4 skills will make or break a career in the new economy and technology age.

Public Speaking as a phobia

Public Speaking is one of the top listed fears. For most of us, public speaking ranks up there with the fear of spiders and heights. Because this is a fear, without realizing it, we avoid public speaking, public speaking classes, and public speaking opportunities. In reality, we should be doing the exact opposite. We should be signing up for classes, joining Toast Masters and volunteering for public speaking as often as we can. EVERYONE will be involved in public speaking at some point in his or her career. Even if you are working in a role that is traditionally not customer facing, being a spokesperson inside the company will help your career. Effective public speakers are desirable to ALL hiring managers. Whether it is public speaking for potential customers or internal presentations within the company, strong public speakers are a strength I know all hiring managers which they had more of within their teams.

I meet a lot of candidates that are nervous in an interview. I can see they are nervous and they know they are nervous. I get this. Candidates can be so nervous, they literally let me know, “I am really nervous” (heads up: don’t say this in an interview). Public Speaking skills will lessen this fear and WILL make a difference in how you present yourself. This transfers to how you will do in a job interview, salary negotiation, presenting your ideas to management and your career for the rest of your life.

As candidates, we assume that a resume is the first step to landing a job. When I have helped candidates with their resume, landing the interview didn’t mean doo-doo if they didn’t know how to communicate, handle the interview questions or the negotiation process. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. I feel very fortunate that I never had a fear of public speaking. I was started on a musical instrument at the age of 3 ½ years old and went to school on a music scholarship so getting up in front of the public wasn’t ever a fear for me. I just didn’t know any better. When I landed in corporate America, I became qualified to facilitate the company’s proprietary public speaking classes. This was a class where participants learned how to EFFECTIVELY speak in public. This class helped me more with my career than any other class and I can easily say that participants also said it was the class that made the biggest difference for them. I completely believe it helped me get to where I am today. To this day, I strongly recommend debate, presentation skills, public speaking, speech or Toast Masters to anyone that wants to further their career. This includes developers that typically do not have customer facing roles. You can be the best developer out there, but if you are not able to communicate specs or vision, that talent will not be fully utilized.  

Next week, 3 more critical skills to concentrate on during your college career.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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