10 Ways Toastmasters Can Boost Your Career
Excerpt of an article by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D. | Quint Careers
- Chance to improve the skill most in demand by employers. Hiring decision-makers consistently list communication as the No. 1 skill they seek in new hires. Toastmasters members have endless opportunities to polish this skill that is so crucial for career advancement. Members frequently credit Toastmasters with their new jobs and promotions. Others say they’ve developed the confidence to take on projects they would not have felt they could handle before Toastmasters.
- Opportunity to polish leadership skills. Communication skills are a huge part of how Toastmasters helps professionals, but they go hand-in-hand with leadership skills. Since 2011, Toastmasters has emphasized leadership and used the tagline, “Where leaders are made.” Toastmasters is known for its well-organized and engaging meetings.
- Practice in thinking on your feet. The comedian George Jessel once said: “The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.” Most of us have had the terrifying experience of freezing up when asked to speak unexpectedly. In addition to delivering prepared speeches, Toastmasters members attain experience in impromptu speaking during a regular meeting component called “Table Topics,” in which they speak for 1-2 minutes on a subject for which they’ve had no advance preparation. In the workplace, the rewards of learning to speak on your feet are tremendous. You may be called upon to speak to your boss, the media, customers, and other audiences with little previous notice. Developing your ability to speak eloquently off the cuff means you’re ready to talk about anything and respond quickly to questions instead of having your mind go blank.
- Experience in running time-efficient meetings. You have probably been in meetings that dragged on and on and went way over their allotted time. That doesn’t happen in Toastmasters. Toastmasters clubs meet for a set amount of time — often an hour — and are committed to staying within that timeframe. “Toastmasters has shown me how to keep a meeting on task,” says Colville Toastmasters founder Troy Anderson, “so that everyone comes away without feeling frustrated from spending a lot of time and yet not making any headway.” Linda Evans, also of the Colville club, says, “I like that the meetings are so organized and only an hour long.”
- Even more skills and resume items. Beyond communication and leadership skills, the Toastmasters program specifically targets listening, critical thinking, giving feedback, time management, planning and implementation, organization and delegation, facilitation, mentoring, motivation, and team-building. Toastmasters members can choose to undertake projects such as mounting publicity and membership campaigns, planning training programs, organizing special events, and serving as a top officer in a district comprising thousands of members.
- Attention from employers who recognize the value of Toastmasters and sometimes favor Toastmasters members in hiring. “There are several types of experience that always make me take notice of a candidate,” says webinar specialist Susan Black (Niven). “One is Toastmasters. Why Toastmasters? Because the communication, teamwork, leadership, and feedback skills that every member in every club learns are all-important in virtually any job. But probably the most important thing, for me, is the self-confidence that Toastmasters build along the way, and which affects every aspect of their lives,” says Niven, who has served in volunteer leadership positions from the club level through to the Board of Directors of Toastmasters International. As evidence of employers that recognize Toastmasters’ value, more than 3,000 organizations, including the Walt Disney Company, The Coca-Cola Company, and Apple Computer, sponsor in-house Toastmasters clubs as communication training for employees.
- A way to legitimately characterize employment gaps constructively. We’ve always advised job-seekers to try to account productively for time between jobs. Sometimes, however, candidates aren’t very convincing in describing vague “consulting” or “project” work. Active Toastmasters members don’t have that problem. “I had been unemployed for a year and a half at the height of the economic downturn,” recalls Linda Eenigenburg, a metrics analyst at Aon Hewitt, Chicago. During an interview, both hiring managers, Eenigenburg says, were concerned about this gap and asked her what she had been doing during that time. Without hesitation, she described her extensive activities in Toastmasters International the past few years. “I was hired within 24 hours,” she says.
- An inexpensive training and professional-development program. In most organizations, budgets for training and professional development were among the first line items slashed in the economic downturn. You might be willing to invest money out of pocket for such programs, but if you were to search on the Internet for programs that teach you communication, public-speaking, and leadership skills, you’d be looking to pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in most cases. In contrast, the dues a member pays to belong to Toastmasters are a little less than $2.00 per week. Your employer might even be willing to sponsor your membership. Learn more about Toastmasters educational programs.\
- Excellent networking opportunity. Toastmasters provides a fun yet constructive way to network with others who may become your career contacts. Heather O’Neill describes a Toastmasters networking experience “beyond all expectations” in an article in Toastmaster magazine.
- Regular reinforcement of learning. As the Toastmasters brochure, Clear Communication points out, “When employees attend seminars, they quickly forget what they learned; when they regularly attend Toastmasters meetings, they learn skills that stay with them for a lifetime.” Toastmasters clubs meet at least monthly, with many meeting weekly or twice a month, so members continue to practice and develop skills.