How you speak is as much part of your “packaging” as is your resume or LinkedIn profile because sooner or later in the career change process you will inevitably speak to potential employers. Will they understand you or even take you seriously?

Some years ago, I was working with a young executive to develop his skills and help him navigate a complex and demanding organizational landscape in the biotech and real estate development fields.  As luck would have it, he was invited to speak at a pharmaceutical meeting that was an excellent forum for elevating his profile.  He asked me to come along and listen to his presentation to give him some tips.

In the first two minutes of his speech he used “um” twenty-five times.  He used “you know” another ten times.  He used “like” a further seven times.  In two minutes.

Fortunately, after his initial nervous start, he gained momentum and the rate of “placeholder words” dropped off, though they did not evaporate entirely.  These placeholders are present when people are nervous or when they are unclear on what they really want to say or when they are unconscious of the way they speak.  They are not a feature of clear thinking, articulate executives.

So, you may want to record yourself and listen to the way you talk.  We certainly will, as part of the Packaging and Presentation stages in our five-stage career change program, because, as I say, this is part of your “packaging.”

In the particular case of the young executive I cited above, he was a very high “I” in DISC terms—an extrovert who actually did not know what he was going to say until he had said it and even then, he had to keep going for a few minutes to become coherent.  Many extroverts behave that way.  This might be fine among friends or with your family, but it is very destructive to your interviewing success if you use this approach with the wrong kind of person.  A high “D” interviewer, for example, will likely cross you off the list within two minutes of such behavior.

So, my purpose in bringing this to your attention, as always, is to improve self-awareness.  If you find that you may suffer from this condition, then remember the adage “think before you speak,” or “count to ten” before you talk.  Organize your thoughts.  Create a logical sequence of supporting evidence and then state your conclusion.  For example, if you want to emphasize how your experience as a stock market analyst makes you a great candidate for a big data analytics job, then demonstrate with one or two short anecdotes how you recognized patterns and were able to act on them in your prior role, and then project these into the big data realm to show how applicable they are.

Do not try to “wing it,” especially in a serious job interview.

We practice with our clients during the Preparation stage of our five-step career change program, helping them to address gaps in their experience, prepare for critical questions they are likely to encounter, and demonstrate the transferability of their skills and experience.

We use actual role plays, so that the client (having already done this multiple times in preparation) is much more comfortable and relaxed when the actual interview takes place.

So, what about “awesome?”

When I returned to the US from several decades in Europe I discovered that a pernicious weed had flourished in the meantime in US English, eliminating more interesting and descriptive adjectives with the I-only-ever-need-this-one-word descriptor “awesome.”  I was truly amazed that the same word could apply to a major act of bravery, feat of intellectual achievement, or a reasonable cup of coffee.

“Awesome” is another placeholder word, but of a different variety than its humble “um,” “like,” and “you know” cousins.  In its case, the speaker is choosing not to make the effort to find a word that provides more detail about the event or item described.  There are rather a lot of wonderful words with an incalculable spectrum of nuance available: great, stupendous, fantastic, incredible, delicious, unbelievable, outstanding, etc. all of which can be readily utilized in place of “awesome,” thereby adding color and helping the speaker to appear significantly more articulate and perhaps intelligent.

So, again, weed your language and consider how it makes you sound to others who will draw conclusions on what you say and how you say it.

Certainly, having a dedicated and qualified third party such as the Barrett Group provides you with a six-member team of experts to help prepare you for your next career step is an excellent option.

Peter Irish
The Barrett Group

Barrett Speaks

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