It's a good idea to keep the skills you use for your job current. There are always new things to learn, and many of the skills you have now have an expiration date on them.
Other skills, though, are broadly applicable to almost any career field. This means that they're portable: you can take them from one job to another. Portable skills are a great way to invest in yourself.
The ability to communicate effectively is one of those job skills that follows you anywhere you might want to go. The ability to speak effectively in front of a group can open a lot of doors, because competent public speaking is a skill that relatively few people possess. (Some get this training as part of their job description, but not always.)
Better public speaking for the price of a fast-food combo
A friend from work recently let me know that he and others were looking to start a local Toastmasters club. I had heard a little bit about Toastmasters, and had heard that it is good to improve public speaking, but after attending a meeting, I'm pretty well sold on the idea.
Toastmasters is a non-profit organization that currently has over a quarter-million people in 13,000+ clubs in 116 countries. This solid infrastructure allows easy access to experienced Toastmasters who can get new clubs off on the right foot. Leaders from nearby clubs are working to charter a club in our county.
The meetings provide a safe environment for everyone to practice speaking in front of others, both with prepared speeches and extemporaneously. There's lots of applause, lots of listening, lots of encouragement, and best of all, lots of opportunities to talk and receive constructive, objective feedback. Members receive training manuals that start people from ground zero and build them up. There are opportunities for speaking competition as well.
What surprised me was how little money this all costs. After the initial registration, which was something like $30, the ongoing cost is only $6/month. Compared to the cost of the time going to the meetings and preparing for the speeches, it may as well be free. I don't imagine that many career coaching services are this cheap!
General skill to specific opportunities
Ways to capitalize on better public speaking are probably obvious, but here's a framework:
- Serving more roles at work. Let's say your group lead says, “We need someone to pitch this to a customer tomorrow.” Are you the guy or lady raising your hand, or are you one of the people rushing to put index finger to nose, saying “Not it!” and hoping you're not the last one in the room to do so? Which person helping out your group lead more?
- Transferring to another department closer to the income streams. Sales is where the money is. The product your company produces could be the best in the world, but if customers aren't buying, it doesn't matter! Persuasive speaking is a big part of getting the sale. Sales are also (usually) commission-based, so the better you are, the more you stand to make.
- Starting a side gig. A friend (that I met up again at Toastmasters!) is consulting. Some training products are best delivered in video format. Being able to speak well, in a logical and well-thought-out structure, makes these kinds of products more effective. Additionally, being able to speak effectively in a group setting gives another venue both for delivering your services, and for promoting them through free seminars, YouTube videos, and so forth.
These kinds of opportunities, from job skills to side income streams, seem to make the $6/month Toastmasters membership a clear win for improving your public speaking.
Any “fellow Toastmasters” care to add anything or share their experiences on how it's improved their public speaking skills?