This may surprise you, but I agree! You are absolutely correct in feeling this way. Why should you have to take a speech class? I mean, you talk every damn day right? What a stupid requirement. Just know that Professor SpeechLady is on your side. So the next time you’re sitting in my class, think back to this article and relax knowing I have your back. Here are the top 5 reasons you should not have to take a course on the unimportant skill of public speaking.
1. “The topics are fake and the class is a joke. Nobody takes it seriously.” Are you pitching a fit over one little communication class because you think it’s a joke and you think the topics are fake? You really don’t have an opinion anyway right? Who cares about war? Who cares about the cost of healthcare? Who cares about kiddie porn on the Internet? Who cares about gun control, equal rights, gay marriage, child abuse, rape, drinking and driving, texting and driving, drug dealers, gambling, and any of the laws that impact any of these things I just listed. If you care about nothing, then you won’t mind anything, including taking this class. But of course, it certainly won't benefit you to be in a class that focuses on helping people develop stronger communication skills so that they can create better arguments. I mean, what a waste of time learning how to present your thoughts in a way that could help others better understand your point of view…especially if you don’t have one.
2. “I know how to talk. People just don’t listen.” Well, if this is how you feel, who the hell am I to try to talk you in to a speech class? But here’s the conundrum – if people aren't listening, then why are you on Facebook? Why are you tweeting with all of us other twits in the Twitterverse? Why do you insist on posting your pics on Instagram? Besides, you clearly have an excellent command of the English language and know all about the communication process and how the chosen medium, the environment, frames of reference, and all of that other communication nonsense impacts your ability to send a message that would be received just as you intended. But just in case this is not your experience and the problem truly is that the people around you just don’t listen, then here’s my advice…if you’re talking and nobody’s ever paying attention or listening anyway, just stop talking all together. Save yourself hours of time each week and stay off of the social networks, stay away from social engagements, and invest your time into becoming the “cat person” who lives next door. You definitely don’t need a speech class to achieve that life goal.
3. “I’m just gonna keep it real in my interview.” You go right ahead and do that. Keep it real. Keep it real unemployed. Business leaders from pretty much everywhere (corporations, non-profits, military, government, etc.) agree that the top skills needed to be successful in the workplace are those pesky little communication skills. They’re looking for employees who have solid written, listening, and……………(wait for it)………………….speaking skills! But I’m certain that once you begin your interview and the hiring manager sees that you’re just “keeping it real,” he or she will greatly appreciate your honesty in your inability to communicate effectively. You definitely don’t need a speech class to help you with that.
4. “I know how to listen. It’s not my fault others don’t know how to talk right.” I’m sorry, what? Could you repeat that? Oh, I wasn't paying attention. But, again I agree with you! It certainly is not your fault that others have even worse communication skills than you. And why on earth would you even want to try to develop better listening skills that could help improve your business and personal relationships? And since you already know all there is to know about listening, I wouldn't want to waste your time in class discussing when it’s appropriate to use empathic listening versus critical listening. Those little bits of info would in no way ever help you since you clearly already know the concepts and how to effectively apply them.
5. “Organize my thoughts, I already do.” Is your name Master Yoda? Your autograph, can I have? Talk like this, you should not. To your audience, tailor your message. A logical flow, your thoughts should be. Know this, you already do. My class then, you do not need.
Sometimes even those of us who are considered "experts" in the field of communication are at a loss for words, especially when it comes to comforting a friend in sorrow. For my dear friend whose brother recently passed away, I selected the poem below. It says everything that I cannot. This is for you, my dear sweet sister. May it bring you some comfort in this difficult time. Love you.
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.
"Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep"
by Mary Frye, American poet
(1904 - 2004)
“Santa just is white...Santa was a historical figure." Megyn Kelly, Fox News
Boy did that statement create quite the ruckus! For one, nothing gets us Americans into the holiday spirit more than a good old political or religious debate. As if those two topics aren't exciting enough, we just love to throw in a little race to make the mix just a tad bit spicier. Is Santa white or not? Let’s get to the bottom of this right now.
First things first. I know this will shock you, but folks I feel it’s my obligation to let you know Santa is … Not. Real. (audible gasp)! I know, I know. It’s a travesty. How dare I suggest such a ridiculous thing! But really, the mythical figure we know and love called Santa Claus, is not actually a real person. He doesn't really live in the North Pole. He doesn't really have a host of slaves, I mean elves, at his disposal to make tons of toys. He doesn't really have a bunch of reindeer that take him to houses all over the world to leave presents for little boys and little girls. Well, just the good ones. The bad ones are just shit out of luck. But I digress.
Santa may not be real, but the original St. Nick, from whom the legend of Santa Claus sprang, was in fact real. And he was, in fact, NOT white, but he is now.
Just for now, let’s suspend the romantic notions and legends and lore and just take a look at the facts and the timeline of St. Nicholas shall we? You know what I mean. The stuff that’s actually verifiable. Let’s work our way back.
American Santa 2.0 (aka) Coca-Cola Santa / Shopping Mall Santa
Coke has been selling us our current image of Santa since the 1920s. According to the Coca-Cola website, their version of Santa has undergone several renditions, but the essence has pretty much stayed the same. The first Santa’s followed closely to the skinnier, elf-like versions that were more popular in the 20s thanks to Thomas Nast. Their ads were so popular from the beginning that the Coke Santa became a holiday staple. In the 30s, the artist, Haddon Sundblom, took his vision from a popular poem you’ve probably heard of, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and this version stuck. But let’s talk more about Nast.
American Santa 1.0 – Fat Santa from the North Pole
Red suit trimmed in white fur. Fur trimmed hat. Long white beard. Red nose. White complexion. Glasses. Where in the world did this image come from? In 1881 a political cartoonist by the name of Thomas Nast created him. He even placed him in the North Pole and gave him a wife. But somebody had to make all the toys that he was giving away, hence the elves were also born.
We can mainly attribute our modern day version of Santa to Clement Clark Moore. Sound familiar? He should. He was the guy who wrote “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” in 1823. Moore described Santa as a “jolly old elf” who was “dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot” with a “bundle of toys he had flung on his back.” And then we get a very specific description, “His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow; The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath; He had a broad face and a little round belly That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf.”
The Dutch/American Version
Sinterklaas was the Dutch version of St. Nicholas, who was not only the patron saint of children, but also known as the patron saint of sailors. His legend of kindness to children and the poor spread throughout Europe. He was arguably Europe’s most popular saint. Although he was not officially canonized by the Catholic church, he has been revered for his generosity and life of selflessness since his death in the 4th century. For the Dutch, his image became one that was merged with the god, Odin, which accounts for many of the “whiter” features attributed to Santa today. You’ll notice some physical similarities. When the Dutch settled in America in the early 1600s, they brought the tradition of celebrating Sinterklaas with them.
The Original St. Nick
Turns out St. Nicholas was born sometime around 260-280 AD in the Greco-Roman town of Patara, an eastern Mediterranean port, in the country of Lycia (today known as Turkey).
Hmmm. He was a Turk. Okay, technically he was Greek. Mediterranean. Whatever. The point is, he definitely would not have looked like the jolly old St. Nick who is lovingly plastered all over the media today. Would he? Unfortunately, all of the images history has given us of St. Nick have been artists’ interpretations of the saint. Thank goodness we live in the time of technology. Research was completed in the 1950s as well as after the new millennium, after the saint’s bones were temporarily removed from their crypt in Bari, Italy, and reconstructed. Of course, the technology in the 50s was very limited, thus we were still limited to sketches of the researcher’s idea of St. Nicholas’s image. Thankfully, with today’s technology available, we can get an idea of how the real St. Nick looked. Dr. Caroline Wilkinson, a forensic pathologist, was able to use 3D scans in order to re-create the face of St. Nicholas in 2004. The fascinating results were featured on BBC as well as The Discovery Channel.
What the researchers could gather: he would have been just over 5 feet tall (short, even for his time) with a slender build. Given the geographical area, he would have had the darker features (olive-toned skin and brown eyes) typical of the Greeks of that time. It’s known that St. Nicholas lived into his 70s, so gray hair and a gray beard are assumed.
So, after a long journey through multiple countries and cultures, from man to saint, from skinny to fat, from olive-skinned to Caucasian, here is the original St. Nicholas.
Article 2 of 3. During the Interview. This series is specifically for those who are either new to the workforce (teens and college students) or are returning to the workforce (stay-at-home parents) after having a significant period of time off. But even if you don’t fall into this category, you should find these tips for interviewing helpful all the same.
You bought an awesome new outfit and you've been practicing your answers to those “most common interview questions.” You read my previous article and are now ready to rock ‘n roll this interview correct?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves too quickly eh? All that prep work you've done is just a third of the battle, remember? You might have the best answers planned out and the most impressive outfit lined up, but if you don’t mind your p’s and q’s during the interview, you could still find yourself searching for a job tomorrow. For the day of the interview, it’s especially important to mind your manners and be mindful of your body language.
Keep these important things in mind:
1. First things first. Turn your cell phone OFF before you enter the building. As a matter of fact, just turn the thing off before you get out of your car. I know, I know. I can hear the excuses already. “But playing ‘Candy Crush’ helps me relax.” “But what if I get an important call?” “But I like to multitask and can answer some emails before they call me back to the interview.” Okay, how about this? Since that cell phone is so important and obviously requires your attention 24-7, then why don’t you just skip the interview since you apparently have some other more important things to attend to anyway? Let me explain it to you this way. THERE IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW THAN THIS INTERVIEW. You don’t need to play any games to help you relax. You don’t need to read the magazine that’s sitting there in the waiting room. If anything, you need to remain focused on the task at hand and think about your opening statement. It’s called visualization. Also, any calls you get can wait. Trust me on this. If it’s important, they will leave a voice mail. You can get back to them after the interview. The world will not fall apart between now and then. And finally, no you cannot multitask. That is a myth. Sure, you might be able to do a few things at the same time, but you’re doing a half-ass job of it. You ever notice that people excel at certain things and not at everything? It’s because they focus and place importance on the task at hand in order to excel at it. If you truly want to succeed in this particular task, the interview, then you need to invest all of your focus and energy into it. Again, everything else can wait. And for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT allow your cell phone to ring or check your phone during the interview! Nothing screams, “I really couldn’t care less about getting this job or working for your organization” more than checking your messages during an interview. Don’t even try a “quick glance.” The second you do this, just leave the interview. You won’t get the job anyway.
2. The word of the day today is “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Don’t make the mistake of thinking the only person who matters the day of your interview is the hiring manager. Before you leave the car, look in the mirror and remind yourself to make eye contact and smile to anyone and everyone who crosses your path today. For example, hold the door for others and say “good morning” or “good afternoon.” If someone holds a door for you, say “thank you” with a smile. You never know who you might be standing next to or talking to. When you arrive to the designated area, greet the receptionist with a friendly “hello” and smile. Don’t be surprised if he or she tries to engage you into some small talk. There are many times the hiring manager will ask the receptionist what he or she thought about your personality. And if you’re rude or disrespectful to the receptionist and that information gets back to the hiring manager, well, what in the heck do you think is gonna happen next?
3. Body language is more than just a smile. While you’re sitting in the waiting room, should you sit slouched over like you’re at home watching your favorite show or should you sit up straight? This should be a no-brainer, but if you don’t pay attention to your posture while sitting as well as standing, you could look like a slouch and not even mean it. When the person (or people) enter the room to bring you into the interview, stand up to shake their hands. If you’re already in the interview room waiting for the interviewer, when he or she enters the room, stand up to shake his or her hand. Let me say that again, STAND UP to shake hands. During the interview, even though you’re sitting down, make sure your body is pointed toward the interviewer and make eye contact while answering the questions. Don’t stare, but good, strong eye contact is indicative of confidence. Hand gestures should appear natural and shouldn’t draw attention to themselves. When listening rather than talking, keep your hands down in a relaxed position (palms down on your legs) and don’t fidget.
4. Leave the slang at home. I don’t care if you’re interviewing for a job at the animal shelter to clean poop out of the cages or if you’re interviewing for a job as an intern in an accountant’s office, the language you use during the interview matters. The “Ain't nobody got time for that” and “That’s what she said” references do not belong in the interview. I don’t care how comfortable you are with the interviewer. And if the interviewer says something funny, don’t respond with “OMG!” Avoid answering yes or no questions with “yeah,” “yep,” or “uh-huh.” Those are completely inappropriate responses. Now whether or not you say “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am” to answer a question is up for debate. Many experts will argue that it depends on age, culture, etc. etc. etc. Rather than get caught up in the debate and try to guess at whether or not the interviewer would appreciate the “sir” or “ma’am” replies, just answer with a “yes” or “no” and quickly follow up with an explanation. For example, “Can you work at least 15 hours a week?” could be answered with, “Yes, my schedule is flexible and I’m able to work more than 15 hours a week if needed.”
5. Don’t let them smell you. No really. I understand you really dig the new perfume that just came out and I understand you've been told the ladies just love that brand of cologne, but you’re not here to get a date. You’re here to get a job. The bottom line is you want the interviewer concentrating on your answers, not your smell – whether you think it’s a good smell or not isn't even the point. There are many reasons to avoid the perfumes and colognes on the day of your interview. What if the interviewer is allergic? You’re screwed. What if the interviewer just doesn't like it? You’re screwed. Take a shower and make sure to put on some D.O. for the B.O. and you should be good. For today though, B.O. doesn't just mean body odor; it also means breathe odor. Now, DO NOT go into the interview chewing gum or sucking on a peppermint, but do have a breathe mint before walking in. Just make sure you finish it BEFORE you walk in. Don’t give the interviewer a stupid reason like “you smell” to quickly move on to the next candidate.
6. You’re interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. This may seem odd to you, especially if you’re new to this whole job interviewing thing, but it’s true. I understand that you want a job because you’d like to earn some cashola. Who doesn't need money right? But understand this, the money won’t matter if you’re a miserable employee who might end up either quitting or being fired. As much as you want this job, and as much as you want to make a good impression, you need to go into the interview with the understanding that you’re also trying to find the right “fit” for you. Now, as the interviewer prepares to finish the interview, he or she is going to ask you if you have any questions. There are three things you can do at this point to raise a red flag (and that is not a good thing). First, you could respond with a firm “No, I don’t have any questions” or “No, I can’t think of any questions.” Wow, way to show you are completely disinterested in the organization and the people. Second, you could just ask about the pay. Wow, way to show you are only interested in a paycheck. As a matter of fact, avoid any questions that involve asking about the pay, the vacation time, or the benefits. These are all things that can be discussed IF you are offered the position. Otherwise, asking them at this point shows that you are only interested in what’s in this for you and not about being a good employee or a team player. Third, you could ask questions that are easily answered just by doing a little homework. Questions like, “What can you tell me about the company?” Wow, aside from being completely vague, what a way to show that you don’t even know where you are. Just as you should spend time tailoring your answers to the interview questions asked of you, you should spend time tailoring your own interesting and unique questions. Scott Ginsberg offers some great advice here on types of interview questions you can ask in his article at The Ladders.
Stay tuned for the next article in the series that will cover what you should do After the Interview.
Article 1 of 3. Before the Interview. This series is specifically for those who are either new to the workforce or are returning to the workforce after having a significant period of time off. But even if you don’t fall into this category, you should find these tips for interviewing helpful all the same.
Okay, so you got the interview. Now what? Chances are pretty good that others are also interviewing for that same job, so you should just assume that the odds are not in your favor. But just because the odds aren't in your favor doesn't mean that you can’t beat them - even if you think the competition has more experience than you.
What do teenagers, college students, and stay-at-home parents all have in common? You've been fooled into thinking that you don’t have any (worthwhile) experience. This is a cruel psychological ploy by others who are competing with you for that same job to get you to doubt yourself. Don’t fall for it! You can ace the interview and this is how.
Think of the interview as a process for which you should start preparing NOW. Luck favors the prepared. Even if you don’t have an interview scheduled, you will eventually, so don’t wait to begin preparations until after you have one written on the calendar. There are many things you should do now to help you prepare for later.
The interview can be broken down into three main parts – Before, During, and After. Tackle each part individually. In this article, I’m going to explaining the first part of the process – what to do before the actual interview.
Skills/Qualifications: Reporting Skills, Administrative Writing Skills, Microsoft Office Skills, Managing Processes, Organization, Analyzing Information , Professionalism, Problem Solving, Supply Management, Inventory Control, Verbal Communication
Take a look at the experiences you wrote down earlier. I guarantee you have had experiences that match up to this description. For example, I’m certain you've had to complete school assignments where you had to not only write reports, but also provide an oral presentation on your report to the class. For the stay-at-home parent who is also the Treasurer of your child’s band boosters club, don’t you have to present the treasurer’s report at every meeting? Here’s another example. Microsoft Office Skills. Students, I know for a fact you have had to use MS Word® (and most likely) PowerPoint® to complete school assignments. Stay-at-home-parents, perhaps you use MS Excel® to keep track of your household budget. These are just a couple of examples. I could keep going, but I’m writing a blog, not a book (for now). I hope you get the picture though. Remember, the goal is to come up with concrete examples of how your experiences match up with the skills that the hiring manager is looking for.
“I volunteer as treasurer for the chorus boosters club at my kids’ high school. The club decided to use a website that provides a way to publicly track not only the club’s finances, but each individual student’s finances also. This is especially important when the chorus is fundraising for a trip and each student is responsible for raising a certain amount of money. However, just like any computer program, unless you’ve used it for a while, you can run into problems. And that’s exactly what happened to me. I found that the balance I kept in the checkbook was not matching the balance I kept using the online program. I went over the expenses and deposits several times to make sure I didn’t make an error, but still couldn’t figure out why the balances didn’t match. As far as I could tell, I did everything correctly but I knew I somehow must’ve made a mistake. I needed to solve this before reporting the balances during the next meeting, but knew that the other officers knew even less than I did about this new program. And as the treasurer, I had a responsibility to get this right for the students and the parents. I can’t just guess how much a student needs to raise to be able to go on the spring trip. I found a contact on the website and called the organization directly and explained my problem. The staff was very helpful and actually went with me step-by-step over the data until we found the error. And as I suspected, it was my error. But I learned what caused the error and how to correctly input the data for the next time. I had all of the fundraising deposits correctly recorded in time for the meeting.”
Notice how I wrote out my answer completely? Does this mean I need to memorize my answer? Absolutely not! But it does give me an opportunity to come up with a good, concrete example that I can use to answer the interview question. It also gives me an opportunity to PRACTICE out loud how I would like to answer this question. This is the most important thing you can do to prepare for the interview. Provide specific examples to help support your answer to the questions and practice the answer out loud. If you can do this for every question, then I promise you will do great in your next interview. Start practicing now and write out answers to these common interview questions for teens by Alison Doyle, job search and employment expert, as well as these other common interview questions by U.S. News & World Report.
Now, it’s important to note that there are different expectations for what’s acceptable for teenagers versus the older folks. For the teens, you have many options to look professional, but still look your age. Twenty-somethings, I hate to break it to you, but yes, you fall under the older folk’s category. After all, you are considered adults now. And for the adults, Jacquelyn Smith, writer for Forbes, has some very good examples of what you should and should not wear to the interview. Just remember that in the end, choose something that’s age-appropriate as well as work-appropriate.
Stay tuned for the next article discussing what you should do During the Interview.
Jennifer Furlong has 25 years’ experience in the communication field and teaches communication and public speaking courses in the Savannah area. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She currently resides in Richmond Hill, Ga. with her family of canines, felines, and humans. Let's be social! Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Just look for Professor SpeechLady. See you in cyberspace.
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