I was sitting at my desk when my co-worker of the past 10 years started complaining about the chain of events that led to… “What?” I asked. “You didn’t hear? Everybody is getting laid off today.” He proceeded to talk about the chain of events that led to the today. A CEO’s dishonesty 10 years earlier put the company into bankruptcy. That led to a giant PC conglomerate purchasing the company. Eventually the PC conglomerate made a business decision.
By the end of the day I had the meeting with my boss about the decision to consolidate development sites, my severance and the timeline. I had also started thinking about how I was going to find a new job. My family depended on me. I was not angry about the decision. The company did what they thought to be a good business decision. I know that these things happen. I considered it to be my responsibility to prepare for this eventuality.
As I started to create my plan of action, I realized that I had indeed been preparing for this. The center of that preparation was Toastmasters. Through networking, gaining confidence in public speaking, and developing leadership skills, I was ready to compete in a tough market.
I believe that an interview is necessary to get a new job. Contacts – friends and co-workers – are the inside track to getting an interview. By being in Toastmasters for 6 years, I have “worked with” 50 to 60 additional people in my club over that time. These are people that I have been personal with. They have heard my story. I have heard theirs. We mutually respect each other’s desire to improve. I have worked with about 30 to 40 people outside my club as the Area Governor. That is 80 to 100 more good chances to get a face-to-face interview.
During that same time, I increased my public persona. I have a public brand… an image. I have spent more time talking with people that are not in Toastmasters because of Toastmasters. I have a better chance to get help and recommendations, even from people that I never shared seen in a Toastmasters club.
The first reason that I joined Toastmasters, the reason that most people join, is to be more confident when speaking in public. When I started, I was frightened to speak publicly. During my Ice Breaker, I was hunched over like I had been punched in the gut. The Ah counter gave up after 25 or so.
Since then, I have given 40 speeches, a hundred or so table topics, and dozens of evaluations. During my job search, I have had many opportunities to speak to people about my education, experience, and ideas. Interviews are combinations of these three activities. I feel a calm that I never felt in previous interviews. Of course I have an advantage over other candidates.
The most important benefit that I have received from Toastmasters in my job search is the practice I received leading others. If confidence is the style, this is the substance. I have set goals for myself and my club. I managed my time for getting work done, growth in my skills, and service to the club. I created the plans for open houses & membership campaigns. I listened to others as we solved problems together. And I delegated to volunteers – people that did not have to do it.
Leadership is something that I use whether I have a manager or not. I can help others, guide my team without being their boss, and give my employer an advantage for hiring me.
Of course I was facing the risk of a tight job market but I never got nervous. Because of the preparation through a network of contacts, poised communication, and leadership experience to present, I was ready to face the challenge. I used those contacts to learn about jobs and spread resumes. I answered the tough interview questions eloquently. I shared my leadership experience and vision for the future of our industry. I successfully landed a good job before my severance pay ran out. I was not able to control the events that led to being let go from a job of 10 years. I did, however, have control on my own direction.