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Friday, July 10, 2009

Secret for Workers-in-Transition (psst... Toastmasters)

I was talking to Marie Jakubiak today about a Toastmasters club we are forming at the Walsh College Novi campus, as well as the club at the Troy Campus (Park Street Presenters).

We were discussing how both clubs have been extremely successful at increasing members in recent months, and how many of the new members are workers in transition. When I'm talking to the unemployed about Toastmasters, I mention the following to them:

1. Toastmasters can help you with interviewing. How? Table Topics give you practice in answering questions on the spot.

2. Toastmasters can provide you access to network with hundreds of like-minded, driven professionals with leadership potential. Who wouldn't want these connections??? These are the people you want to know today, and the people you will want to know in the future when you're back to work. I can't even count the number of times I've provided a business referral to someone in Toastmasters, and many are not public-speaking related referrals.

3. Toastmasters will provide you with routine. Let's face it... when you're used to working 40-50-60+hours a week and then you're instantly unemployed, you're faced with an identity crisis. And a time crisis. What do you do with all that free time? And c'mon, admit it... even if you didn't love your job, you miss the routine. Most Toastmasters clubs meet twice a month.

4. Toastmasters will provide you with stability... through the current recession and beyond. There are many members who are beginners, but there are also many who have been with Toastmasters for 5-10-15-20+ years. And guess what? Toastmasters will NOT fire you. Well, unless you abuse the club rules (try selling to the members, etc.) but even in those circumstances we try to work things out.

5. Toastmasters will give you confidence and pride in yourself. I've been laid off, so I know how it can feel some days, like you've been kicked in the face. You start to doubt yourself. Even if you've been a dedicated, hard worker. Even if you were awarded Employee of the Month. Even if your former manager told you that you were the best hire she/he'd ever made. Because if you were so great, why aren't you working? Well, there are alot of great, talented people who are in transition right now. And you need to believe in yourself if you want your future employer to believe in you... especially in that crucial, uber-competitive job interview. Cuz gosh darnit, people like you! (remember Stuart Smalley?) I save every comment I'm handed after I give a speech at Toastmasters. I treasure the meeting awards I've won for best speaker, best table topics, best evaluator. And my Area Contest trophy, while it has an interesting story behind it, is a symbol to me - about me and how Toastmasters has helped me believe in myself.

6. Toastmasters will get you over your fear of public speaking. And if you're already over it, it will make you a better speaker. There's two types of people who come to Toastmasters: Those who are good speakers who want to be great speakers, and those who want to get over their fear or discomfort of speaking in front of groups. Guess what? Both will improve your communication and leadership skills through Toastmasters. And if you can speak confidently in front of groups, that's going to help you accelerate in your career and help you move into management positions, if you desire.

and if they're still listening to me after I've shared all this (you're STILL reading???), I'll share something a bit self-serving:

7. Toastmasters wants people like you. People who are highly talented, driven, leaders, lifelong learners, future CEOs, future managers, mentors, role models... and who have all the time in the world right now because they are NOT working. How many times have you put something off that you'd like to pursue because you couldn't fit it in with your work schedule? And how many times during your career did you think about maybe going back for that MBA, or looking into joining a professional association? And maybe you'd heard about Toastmasters, but were too nervous to actually go to a meeting. Well, after surviving a layoff, you're a stronger person and chances are you're open to taking chances. And you're the kind of person I would want in my Toastmasters club. You're the person I want in my professional network. Just because your former company has eliminated your position doesn't change that for me. Actually, it makes me want you as part of Toastmasters even more, because now you have the time to dedicate to helping my club and fellow members! :)

Toastmasters needs volunteers in leadership positions. Or you could even form your own club. How cool would THAT be on a resume? Forming a club in an organization known for leadership and public speaking. If I saw that on a resume, I would definitely call you in for an interview. That's just me, but I'm just saying....

I challenge you to check out a Toastmasters meeting. It can't hurt to visit and you never know who you'll meet. But I can guarantee you that there will be people there just as great as you.