Liane is a Texas high school Geography teacher, travel writer, and former foreign English teacher. She graduated from Texas State University in 2010 with a B.A in International Relations. During college, Liane interned with the U.S. Department of State – Foreign Service Institute, and volunteered as President of the International Studies Club and Sigma Iota Rho Honors Fraternity. Since then, she has been fulfilling her dream of traveling the world by teaching English in Thailand, Georgia, and the Czech Republic. Follow her experiences by visiting her blog at Nicholsaway.blogspot.com.
When I first entered college at Texas State University, I was a timid person who felt most comfortable in small groups. When I discovered that my school required a public speaking course in the first semester, I was terrified. Even the thought of speaking in front of a class make my hands clammy and my cheeks turn red. I still remember my first informative speech. I can’t remember the content exactly, but I remember the experience. My notecards shook violently in my hands and my voice sounded like I was in a car over a cattle guard. Absolutely terrified. My goal was just to get through my speech, so when I reached that final word on the final notecard, I quickly found my seat. I had no idea if I had even skipped important facts, or even how long I had been standing. I just knew that I wanted to sit down.
I didn’t want this to be a recurring experience. I needed to be confident if I wanted a career. My dream was to work in a U.S. Embassy abroad, and I’m sure that no diplomat gets sweaty palms when discussing nuclear power and religious conflicts with other foreign leaders. Maybe they do, but one thing was certain – I needed to work on my composure.
Furthermore, I needed confidence. When you go into an interview, what do you think they judge more? You, or your resume? I’m sure that no matter what my resume says, if I can’t form a sentence without shaking like a chihuahua, I’m not going to get the job. Confidence is key!
So here are my tips for boosting that confidence and practicing your communication skills.
1. Join a club
There’s nothing like forcing yourself to socialize with strangers. It’s awkward, but can be incredibly rewarding. Sometimes the conversation goes stale and you move on. Other times, you meet people who could be your best friend. If you’re lucky, you’ll even find others who truly inspire you.
Also, don’t just join a frat. Not to be stereotypical, but most frat stories I hear involve large consumptions of confidence boosting alcohol. Alcohol can make anyone confident and easy to talk to, but hopefully you won’t be going to an interview wasted. I’m not saying don’t join a sorority or fraternity, but choose wisely and branch out!
2. Live in a dorm
Forced living with someone is never a pleasant experience. However, even if your roommate is awful, you’ll have other people to hangout with in the common areas.
My first three roommates did not go as well as I had hoped. The first one smelled like rotten onions, always had the lights off, and her stuff crept into every corner of the room – including the corners on my side. The good news is, had I not had such a creepy roommate, I would not have gone out in the hallway to escape, and I would not have met my future best friend!
I won’t bore you with the other two awful roommates, because I think you get the point. Even the worst experiences have great outcomes.
Find an organization in your college town and volunteer once a month. Not only does this look incredible on your resume, but it helps you talk to new people. It can be anything from working at an animal shelter, to collecting food for the homeless. Maybe you’ll even feel like a better person in return. There is no shortage of volunteer work just waiting to be filled. Just google “Volunteer opportunities in _______”, and you’ll be helping in no time!
4. Travel Abroad
Now, I’m a huge proponent of travel. It’s literally my favorite thing in the world. I think I became my most awesome self after travelling and was forced not only to talk to strangers, but people who didn’t speak English – now that takes good communication skills!
What I highly recommend is to find a job teaching English abroad. It’s super easy and you can find an endless supply of 6 month to 1 year long jobs. You don’t even need a certification as long as your first language is English. My first job was in Thailand and it was the single greatest experience I’ve had so far. I was forced to speak to a room full of twelve year old Thai students. The hardest part was that they had zero idea of what I was trying to say – so I always ended up acting out scenarios and drawing awful pictures on the board. If this doesn’t make you a better public speaker, nothing will.
So that’s my advice. Enjoy – and go talk to a stranger today!