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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

Ask a Career Coach: How Do I Stop My Stutter From Getting in the Way of My Job Search?

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Dear Antonio,

I’ve currently worked for the same company for six years. I’m not learning anything new, and the company doesn’t invest in their employees.  Not much room for advancement, either.

The reason why I haven’t found a new job yet is because I have a pretty severe stutter.  It’s very bad when I’m networking and interviewing.  My current job doesn’t pay great, but it’s flexible time-wise, and that provides me a lot of time to spend with my wife and children, which is the most important thing to me.

I’m looking for advice to help make networking, interviewing, and job searching easier. My stutter has been a big issue in the past, and I keep being passed over for roles at my current company. Unfortunately, I know it’s because of my speech. Thanks for your help and time.

Speech Woes

Hi Speech Woes,

I’m so glad you reached out about this issue. I want to start out by saying that your stutter is your stutter. Try not to make it more powerful than it is. It’s not a weakness, and it doesn’t define you; it’s just a part of your story. Your experiences—not your speech impediment—are what have shaped you into becoming the father, husband, professional, and overall resilient human being that you are.

I’d recommend connecting with a mentor or coach to help you improve your confidence. Because once you are able to boost that, you’re ready to really focus on your search. And I’ve got a couple of ideas to help you get out of your rut and ahead of the game:

Invest in Yourself

If you truly aren’t learning in your current position, and the company doesn’t invest in the development of their employees, it’s time for you to make a move—in spite of how much you value your current flexibility.

If you wait for your organization to improve your situation, you could be waiting years, so be proactive and spark your own change. This could include investing in an online course, attending a professional conference, or developing a particularly in-demand skill.

Build Relationships

Think quality over quantity and have an agenda. To improve your networking skills, and, in turn, your interviewing skills, consider building professional relationships on a more one-on-one level. Opt for informational meetings, coffee dates, and cocktail get-togethers over large events where everyone’s a stranger.

In intimate meet-and-greet settings, you’re likely to find yourself more relaxed and focused on the conversation (rather than overthinking everything you say and how you say it).

Also, have an agenda. Identify the three key things that the person you’re with should know about you. Think of your accomplishments, results you’ve generated for your company, or something unique about your life journey that makes you memorable. This way, regardless of what you talk about (or particularly if there are silences to fill), you’re prepared to lead the conversation.

Emphasize Your Results

If you’re still concerned that your stutter is what’s holding you back from getting hired or promoted, you need to do everything you can to make your results speak louder than it. Remember: It doesn’t define you, and it definitely doesn’t define your work.

To do this, carefully review your time with your current organization (identifying key projects and assignments you worked on). Dig into your past performance reviews. Note any big wins over the years. Maybe you increased sales by 15% for your department over multiple quarters. Or maybe a program you developed saved your team a large sum of money.

Once you identify these achievements, use them to your advantage. Highlight them in cover letters, on your resume and online profiles, and then again during interviews and while networking. Force people to see you as someone who delivers, not someone who stutters.

I’m not saying that you’re going to land a great, new job overnight if you follow this advice, but if you stay focused, I believe the right opportunity will present itself.

In the meantime, enjoy your flex schedule and take advantage of the time you have to spend with your family.

This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Credible Career Coach in the subject line.

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