A Tool Seldom Used Becomes Dull

Today's post is written by my friend Wes Johnson. Wes has been a Toastmaster since February 2011. He continues to sharpen his skills through participation in a weekly morning club in Tracy.  He is chartering an evening club that meets in Manteca at 7 PM on the first and third Mondays of each month.  

The newly unemployed have a few challenges before them.

  • Process the loss of their job
  • Identify any obstacles to re-employment
  • Resolve or minimize these obstacles
  • Develop personal networks
  • Market your abilities
  • Finally, ace the interview

Every day Matt has a blog post that covers one of these areas.  Some of these challenges may take a little time to achieve.  So, what are you going to do in the meantime?

I’m going to use the analogy of a precision cutting tool.  A tool designed to cut material should be straight and sharp.  If that tool is not kept sharp, it will eventually become dull and perceived as useless.  Does that mean it’s useless? No, it’s a tool that could still be useful, if only someone would sharpen it and start using it again.

You are that tool.  You need to ensure that your edge remains sharp.  One aspect of employment is communication.  No matter what your position was, communication will always be an important aspect of the job.  Employers love employees or perspective employees who communicate well with all levels of staff as well as their customers.

So, how are you going to sharpen your communication skills?  Let me share my story with you.

A few years ago, I found myself unemployed in the middle of the Great Recession.  I felt like a tool that was left out in the rain; neglected, and without a place to stay sharp.  I found a group to network with, which was nice, but I was still missing something.  It seemed like there was no challenge or purpose in my life.

Fortunately, a networking connection introduced me to Toastmasters, a non-profit educational organization that was committed to helping people improve their communication and leadership skills.  They help their members improve through constant practice and feedback.

From day one, I felt at home with the group.  In the program you receive two project books. One book covers communication projects and the other book covers leadership projects.  Each project is intended to teach or sharpen a skill.  With each project completed, you receive an evaluation and suggestions for improvement.

Once you complete the basic projects, there are many other project books that focus on many different aspects of communication. (Speaking to Inform, Technical Presentations, Facilitating Discussions, Communicating on Video, Interpersonal Communication, etc.)

After I had been in the program for a few months, fellow members shared with me that they noticed a remarkable improvement in my listening and speaking skills.  When your skills are sharp, you naturally have more confidence in yourself and your ability to communicate with others regardless of the situation.

Several months after joining Toastmasters, I was given a chance to interview for one of two open positions.  It was not a one-on-one interview but a panel interview.  The interview wasn’t easy, but all the practice and feedback I had received through Toastmasters prepared me to respond to their interview questions in a brief and organized manner.  The day after the interview they offered me the position.

I know without a doubt that if it hadn’t been for Toastmasters, I would probably not have landed the job.

I will be a Toastmaster for life.

That’s a great story, but how will that help me in my situation?

The employers are looking for sharp and useful tools. They’re looking for someone with excellent communication skills.  You need to be better than your competition.  Train yourself for when the opportunity presents itself.  The time to do it is now.

Toastmasters International helps the job-seeker practice/develop skills:

  • Ability to think on your feet – Interviewing, Communication
  • Leadership roles – Interpersonal Communication, Management
  • Time management / Organization – Interviewing
  • Networking – develop professional relationships


To find a club near you visit http://reports.toastmasters.org/findaclub/.

For more information, e-mail wesley.johnson@district39.org.


Don't Hide From Recruiters

What do you do when a recruiter calls you? What about when you get an unsolicited e-mail from a recruiter you've never met? Although most out-of-work job seekers jump at the chance to talk to a recruiter, these same people often avoid building these relationships before they're in need.

Regardless of your job search status, recruiters can help broaden your search.

Here are a couple things to keep in mind.

First, take their call. Even if you're at work. Take their call. Of course, you can simply say that you can't talk at that moment, take down their contact information and call them back. Even if you're not looking right now, there is no good reason to turn away an introduction to a recruiter. If it's via e-mail, you can still call the recruiter.

Offer a referral. If the position is not what you're looking for, or you're simply not looking for a change, offer to refer someone you know. Make a qualified referral and that recruiter will likely never forget you. That doesn't mean you have to give up your co-worker's phone number and e-mail address. Talk to your contact and give them the recruiter's information. Follow up with the recruiter in a few days and see if your referral made contact.

Too many people ignore recruiters as they would any other salesperson (and in a future post, I'll try and convince you why even that is foolish). Get to know recruiters in your industry before you need them.

The First Rule of Job Search - Never Stop Searching

The most successful job search is the one that never happens. Sounds like gibberish, I know. Allow me to explain.

If the goal is to get a job quickly, then the ultimate goal should be to find a job in zero days.

Through the years, I have discovered that the best way to find a job is to never stop looking for a job.

To decrease the amount of time it takes to find a job, never stop searching for a job. Although a more focused job search is best when you are truly looking, the goal here is to cast a much wider net. Here are five things you can do to keep your skills sharp when you're not looking:

  1. Create weekly job alerts from Indeed, Monster, and Career Builder for every job in your city (or the city in which you want to work). Yes, every job. And then spend a few minutes every week reading through the postings.
  2. Create another weekly job alert for jobs with your same job title within 50 or 100 miles from your city (or the city in which you want to work).
  3. Keep a journal. When you come across a job or company that interests you, write down a few quick notes. What is the company? What is the title of the position? How is the employer asking for candidates to apply? Make sure you include any contact information, dates and the source where you found it. You'd be amazed at how helpful this can be down the road. Spend time every week reading back through your journal. Over time, you will have a much better understanding of the job market.
  4. Every couple of months, create a resume and cover letter for a specific job opening you've found. Even if you don't send it out, the practice will help you improve this skill.
  5. Update your resume. This should go without saying but I'm saying it anyway. Every couple of months, spend a few minutes updating your resume. If you've been capturing your successes and other job notes this will be simple and painless.

As a cyclist, the best advice I've ever been given is "Eat before you're hungry". The same applies to the job search. Don't wait until you need to find a job. Build the habit and the skill when you don't need it so it's there when you do.