Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘disclosing stuttering during job interviews

I was instrumental in getting these two videos made for the National Stuttering Association and figured, what the heck, let me share them here. They might help you. They might help employers. They might help a lot of people. So, go ahead and share.

And I’m actually in both of them. Which is kind of cool. So are my friends Katie and Derek. Even cooler. We were all willing to be completely vulnerable.

The first video is something really short you can use to educate your employer before you’re hired – during the job interview stage – and after you’re hired too, to help talk about stuttering at work. Because we know that can be a challenge.

The second video is also really short and to the point. We who stutter get really stressed about job interviews. Preparation can make all the difference. Do some research. You’d be surprised how many people go into a job interview and it’s obvious they know nothing about the company they hope will hire them. Do that research. Show you are interested.

And consider disclosing that you stutter. It will make it so much easier for you and the interviewer. You will feel more at ease and won’t be obsessively thinking what will happen when you stutter. By telling the interviewer upfront that you stutter, you remove that anxiety you have and let the listener know exactly what to expect. It just makes the speaking encounter so much easier and then you can be your cool, calm collected best self at the interview.

 

 

Two weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to help out with a “Mock Interview Day” for people who stutter at a globally recognized corporate office in New York City. For the second time, Goldman Sachs offered it’s employees an opportunity to spend a volunteer day helping people who stutter practice job interviews.

I helped an employee who stutters who works at Goldman coordinate participant registration, which was free and open to anyone who could come in person for two practice interview sessions. Goldman had 25 employee volunteers who would each interview two different individuals and provide that all important feedback.

Too often, when we interview for a job and don’t get an offer, we aren’t given any feedback. People who stutter then sometimes automatically conclude it must be because of stuttering. Of course, that might be true sometimes but other times it could be for any number of reasons: lack of experience or education or someone else is just genuinely a better fit.

One of the things we did to help the employee interviewers prepare for talking with people who stutter was we provided a “stuttering overview” session in the morning before the participants arrived. A SLP who stutters, the Goldman employee who stutters and myself  presented for a little over an hour on what stuttering is and isn’t, tips for listening, when or if to intervene if the person who stutters really struggles and we all offered a personal perspective on our own stuttering in the workplace experiences. Everybody was extremely engaged and asked thoughtful, important questions. We got a lot of very positive feedback about how helpful that was.

At the end of the day, when we were networking and eating pizza, someone came up to me and asked about whether I’d be interested or able to help provide similar training to his staff. We spoke for about 15 minutes. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a Goldman employee waiting patiently to speak with me. I tried hard to acknowledge him, but the person engaging with me wasn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Finally, the Goldman employee got to me. What he waited all that time to share with me blew my mind. He said, “you probably hear this all the time, but you are the most compelling speaker I have ever heard.” I felt my face flush and immediately felt embarrassed. He went on to say that he felt he was a crappy speaker and he was so impressed that I stuttered and still managed to make people want to hear what I had to say. He wanted to know my secret. Truly, I was speechless.

I thanked him and we talked for about a half hour and I encouraged him to check out Toastmasters. We have since communicated by email a few times and he told me has checked out the numerous Toastmaster options available in his area.

So why am I sharing this? I am not bragging, honest. I was embarrassed, but it resonated so I feel I needed to share. We who stutter can be and are amazingly effective communicators. When we remember that it’s not all about fluency but connecting with our listener and saying what we want to say, there’s a lesson here. Even fluent speakers get freaked out about public speaking. Our words count and that’s what people want to hear. We just need to remember that again and again.

 

PamEpisode 185 features Natalie Park who hails from Loughborough, East Midlands, England in the UK. Natalie is a certified vocational assessor and tutor, currently taking courses in counseling and psychotherapy so she can one day help people who stammer.

We start off the conversation talking about job hunting. Natalie actually loves job interviews, which is quite contrary to most people who stutter. We also discuss education and advocacy and how important this is for future generations. She mentions that openly talking about stuttering smashes assumptions, which we know can be very dangerous.

We talk about how we have the opportunity to use our stutter/stammer in very powerful ways – we can control conversations, slow them down, actually listen to the words being said, instead of just listening to respond.  People who stutter are very powerful people, just not enough of us know that yet. YET being the key word here.

We wrap up this amazing conversation talking about the profound experience that Natalie had at the end of June with 40 other people around her age who stutter. The theme was performing arts and Natalie shares how hard it was to actually put into words the amazing transformation she saw in people after they embraced new ideas and pushed out of their comfort zones. She explains it beautifully here in this blog post called The Week That Changed My Life.

The music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

 

Many people who stutter worry about how to manage job interviews. It has been said that interviews are the single most stressful communication situation that a person who stutters faces. It can be intimidating trying to prove that you meet the expectations of excellent verbal communication.

I used to be one of those people. I definitely worried about how I would handle when stuttering reared it’s ugly head during a job interview. I ultimately wound up disclosing at the start of the interview conversation that I stutter.

These days I am dealing with being on the other side of the interview table. I am helping to interview students who are applying to our college in the high school programs. So I am asking the questions and trying to make the student candidates feel at ease.

I have not disclosed at the start of the interviews that I stutter. I don’t feel it’s relevant to why the student is there. I’m stuttering – especially when I have to read one of the questions from the scripted set of questions we use. I’ve noticed a couple of raised eyebrows and smiles when I’ve stuttered but nothing beyond that. I think the students are too nervous themselves to give me and my stuttering much thought.

I am an effective communicator even when I stutter. I am confident in my ability to convey my message and I don’t let my stuttering stop me from doing this part of my job. I think just plowing ahead and speaking with confidence is the way to go, as when I’m confident, it lets the student know to have confidence in me.

Have any of you ever had the experience of being on the other side of the interview table? How did it go?

 

Episode 11 of the series of conversations with men who stutter features Frank Stechel, who hails from Highland Park, New Jersey. Frank worked for the New York State Education Department for over 30 years, in the vocational rehabilitation field.

Frank felt it was practical for him to work in the disability field, as he was concerned that he might not find work due to his stuttering. He felt it made sense to work for an agency that helped people with disabilities as they wouldn’t discriminate against him.

We talk about being open about stuttering, and how Frank always would bring it up and invite questions during job interviews. Being open has always been most important to Frank.

Listen in as we discuss different speech therapy experiences, including the Hollins fluency shaping program. Frank uses fluency shaping tools he learned to modify his stuttering. We also discuss the variability of stuttering and how he often plays with different techniques to this day.

I look forward to meeting Frank and his wife at the National Stuttering Association conference in July of this year. Feel free to leave comments and feedback for Frank, or just thank him for sharing his story.

Music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2017.
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