May 5, 2011
How to use public speaking as a path to employment and career growth
An aspect of managing your career is making sure others within and outside your organization are aware of your expertise and contributions you're making. Too many people complain that during performance reviews they didn't get the bonus or pay raise they were expecting simply because their contributions weren't recognized.
This is even more important during the digital age of job hunting where every one of us is just another John Doe resume to a prospective employer. Unless we find ways to differentiate ourselves and boldly promote our expertise and experience, no one is going to notice us.
I'm writing this to inspire you to self-promote your expertise and availability in other ways than simply sending in your resume -- in this example, through public speaking. This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to the subject, but rather offer you some strategies to consider if you're flirting with the idea. I have used these techniques with my clients to differentiate them from the mass competition and it has helped my clients land opportunities faster.
Use public speaking to your advantage
One of the biggest fears many people have is public speaking. Should you already have this fear mastered, it is one of the fastest ways to get your name and expertise recognized by many people at once. I do frequent speaking engagements to broadcast my methods of job searching in the Puget Sound and beyond, and it has helped me reach several thousand people in a short period.
If you're not an entrepreneur, you don't have to speak as much as I do because all you're looking for is one employer to hire you or a few consulting engagements that will carry you financially until you reach your end goal. The key is to make sure you speak in front of your target audience or an audience that can serve as a referral source for you.
An attorney client of mine was struggling to find work with various law firms so he decided to try public speaking, and it helped land him several high-paying clients, a six-figure consulting agreement with a corporation and eventually his desired employment. His resume just wasn't carrying enough weight and he was missing many great opportunities. Had he not made the effort of public speaking, he might not have reached his goals.
If you aren't comfortable speaking in front of people, consider joining an inexpensive public speaking class such as Toastmasters or hiring a speaking coach. Toastmasters allows you to learn and practice public speaking in front of small audiences and break through any self-imposed personal barriers you might have. Speaking coaches, on the other hand, are more expensive but can probably help you reach your goals faster because they can tailor the program to your specific needs.
Choose your topic carefully
Once you're mentally ready to give a presentation, you need to think about the topics that would allow you to showcase your expertise. You also need to choose a topic that your audience would find of high value.
One of the best ways to find attention-grabbing topics is by studying conversations on groups, blogs, social media and in the news. People are attracted to listening to what's top-of-mind, so paying attention to trends is important.
Decide how and where you will deliver your message
The next decision is a little harder. You need to decide if you will self-host or have someone else book you as a speaker. Obviously the latter is more attractive because you don't have to worry about the marketing and event planning; however, due to volumes of speakers hosts can choose from, convincing them that you're the best fit is probably a challenge. Referrals, introductions, and having a sexy topic can all help get you booked as a speaker.
If you want to find someone to book you as a speaker, visit websites such as Speaker Match to find current advertised speaking opportunities or talk to group managers or targeted associations that might be interested in your topic.
If you're self-hosting, it's a great idea to partner with someone popular who has a large mailing list of people you'd like to reach.
Public speaking allows you to showcase your expertise, personality, and charisma in ways a resume would never allow and is a great career development tool even after you land your desired employment. I hope you try this out and see the many hidden benefits this can provide you in getting an edge in your career path.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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