Thursday, May 26, 2011

Interview Tip: Don't Hide Your Stutter

Here's a tip for anyone out there who stutters and who is about to interview for a job:

Don't hide your stutter.

When I interviewed for my current job five years ago, as well as for the job before that four years prior, I didn't hide my stuttering. That's not to say that I didn't try to speak fluently - I did! But I also talked about my stuttering with my interviewers, who also went on to become my bosses.

For a person who stutters, speaking perfectly fluent in an interview is a huge accomplishment. But to me, if you are perfectly fluent and never bring up your stutter, then you may actually be selling yourself short.

The thing is, you may really want to work somewhere because the pay is good, the work is interesting, it's a cool place to work, etc. But for me, I always also wanted to work where people wanted me to be there. It wasn't just about finding the right amount of money - it was about finding the right family. You'll be spending at least eight hours a day with the people you work with, so you'll be much happier if you get along with them.

It would be a lie to say that everyone at work is completely comfortable with my stutter. I hate to hear myself talk or watch myself on video, so I'm sure there are people that I work with who don't particularly like it as well. That's OK. But your manager should at least be comfortable with it. And if you have a good manager, he or she will vouch for you if you need some extra muscle behind you.

I actually do interviews now, so the tables are turned. And what I've noticed is that everyone has something that requires a little patience on my part. One person we interviewed years ago was an extremely slow talker. Some people have thick accents that are hard to understand, especially on a phone interview. Some people are blessed with perfectly fluent speech, but talk about the most boring subjects.

I had a good talk this week with the guy who hired me for my current position. He and I had spoken about my stuttering during the interview and have spoken about it since then, but he told me that after our initial interview he went back to his team and told them that he met a guy who stuttered, that it required a little extra effort to understand what I was saying sometimes, but that he could tell that I was a really sharp guy.

It would have been easy for him to write me off due to my stuttering. But he didn't. He chose to listen, even though it took more effort. Quite frankly, those are the kinds of people that you want to work for and work with. Those are the people who you want to become your mentors. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to work with people like that, and have learned a lot from working with my current team.

So... if you are going on an interview soon, don't worry too much about your stutter. You will find someplace to work that accepts you for who you are, who will foster your personal and professional development, and who will reap the benefits of having you as a part of their team.

Good luck!

Monday, May 9, 2011

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

May is "Better Hearing and Speech Month." That's right, we get our own month!

My brother is secretly jealous.

My family has already done our part for Better Hearing and Speech Month: my son recently got tubes in his ears. It's obvious that the tubes have already helped him, as he's talking a lot more. Hopefully he's hearing a lot better as well.

We recently learned that some children who can't hear might develop bad speech habits - which might ultimately lead to stuttering. I guess I knew that, but hadn't really thought about it in terms of my son needing tubes. With a genetic predisposition to stuttering, hopefully the tubes will allow my son to sidestep having a stutter.

I also put The King's Speech on my Netflix queue. I can't wait to see it again, and I'll probably buy it at some point. I read on a few of the other blogs about stuttering that I read that Colin Firth is having a hard time shaking his stutter. That's interesting. Some of my friends used to complain about their own stuttering after hanging out with me for a long period of time.

We're contagious!

I'm glad that there's a month devoted to educating people on speech and hearing issues. I think very often about how lucky I am to be alive at this particular time in history. If I had been born in a previous century, I might have been placed in a mental institution or been forced to speak with rocks in my mouth as a form of therapy. Instead, I had two caring and encouraging parents, two gifted speech therapists, great friends who never made me feel out of place, a wonderful family, and a great job.

And with the Stuttering Foundation, the King's Speech, the writers and actors who stutter, and all of my fellow bloggers putting the word out, hopefully our children will live in an even more accepting world.

Here's to May, and better hearing and speech!