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Hone your Skills

As COVID-19 rages on, it is easy to get complacent about our skills and stay in our comfort zone.  At some point, things will change, and we will be out in the world again among our colleagues. In the meantime, build new skills and don’t let your current ones atrophy.

The competitive edge belongs to those who know how to communicate their expertise effectively. Being able to share and sell our expertise verbally and in writing is essential for career success.  Think about it, job hunting requires that we communicate in writing using a resume and cover letter to open the door to interviews. Once we land the interview, we must communicate our expertise and build rapport with the hiring manager and future teammates in person or via a video platform.  Doing so successfully demands a certain amount of finesse.

Regardless of the position, company or industry, our job demands that we present and sell our ideas, products, and services to others.  Yet even though a large part of work involves communicating with colleagues and customers, most people say they “hate” giving presentations and speaking in front of groups. It is estimated that as much as 73% of the population struggles with public speaking.

Fear of public speaking can negatively impact your job prospects, opportunities for promotion and income.

A 2014 survey of over 600 employers found that oral communication and presentation skills ranked among the top five skills that recruiters look for.

In a speech at Columbia University, Warren Buffet suggested that improving public speaking skills could boost one’s income by 50%.  Those who can clearly present and sell their ideas are more likely to be chosen for bigger, higher profile, career-enhancing projects.

So how do you build your communication skills during a pandemic? One way is through public speaking organizations like Toastmasters. Many clubs have adapted their in-person meetings to an online ZOOM or hybrid format that accommodates both in-person and distance attendees. I must admit that I am a huge fan of Toastmasters having been a club member for more than 20 years. Once the pandemic hit, I was skeptical about meeting online but have found it a great way to stay connected and keep my skills current. Doing so also enhanced my ZOOM skills, important since I regularly deliver workshops virtually.

There are other options for improving your presentation skills including LinkedIn which offers an online public speaking course through LinkedIn Learning. Dale Carnegie also offers live online and in-person public speaking courses. I attended a Dale Carnegie public speaking course early in my career and found it to be extremely helpful. In addition, many community colleges offer classes on public speaking. Check out Monterey Peninsula College and Hartnell College for their current course offerings. While you are at it, look for opportunities to improve your written communication skills. Many of today’s jobs involve creating content for websites and social media platforms; that need is likely to escalate in the future. Communication skills are here to stay; hone yours while you have the time.

©2021 Mary Jeanne Vincent.  All rights reserved.