Why Your Fear of Talking at Work is Total BS (and how to fix it)

I just started a new full-time job two months ago—and for the first time since then, things are starting to click between my coworkers and me.

I have reached the point where I have no issues speaking up during meetings, sharing jokes, or acting like myself in general. In many ways I can attribute the change to my company’s laid-back work culture—but it’s also because of the decision I made to talk more at work.

Surely there’s a term for it—and if you know what it is, do leave a comment and share—but I’m what I call an introverted extrovert. I’ll act shy initially when situations intimidate me, but when I get comfortable enough I’ll loosen up more. For instance, I usually get anxious during off-the-cuff events like parties or meetings, but I used to slay in my college speech classes because I could rehearse and polish myself beforehand.

Problem is, most conversation on the job is off-the-cuff in some way. And for the first few weeks while I sat in silence during meetings and listened to everyone else voice their thoughts so eloquently, I realized something: this fear of talking at work is total BS.

If you're an introvert and break into a cold sweat at the thought of talking at work, this post is your way to get over it. My fear of talking stemmed from what others would think of me—and not even in a “she’s so unprofessional” way. It was more a fear that people would think I’m incompetent, inattentive, annoying, or undeserving of anyone’s time and attention. I’ll say it again: that’s complete and total BS. I was hired because of my capabilities in those very fields. And I’m confident enough to know I’m a damn fine communicator. So why, why would I do myself and my employer the disservice of not sharing my ideas, questions, or concerns?

The biggest issue is looking vulnerable. Surely people don’t want to expose any rawness from their innermost thoughts, especially when American culture so heavily favors toughness at work. But think about it: the best thinkers, parents, and bosses share their thoughts—however tender—with the people who rely on their guidance. Long story short, vulnerability is more engaging… and most importantly, it allows you to be yourself.

But if you’re not used to talking or showing vulnerability, there are two (yes, just two!) ways to get started with the whole “talking more at work” thing:

1. Be curious. Ask questions.

It can be as simple as asking for clarification. Asking questions proves your desire for understanding and solidifying details. Only the most unprofessional people would think you stupid for asking questions, and those are the people you definitely don’t want to work with anyway. Plus, if you’re new to your job (or an intern), you have zero excuses for not clarifying your job role, your company’s working relationships, who you ask about what, and so on.

Curiosity and questions can also take the form of simple emails to coworkers who peak your interest. Maybe they have a killer workflow you’d like to emulate, or they just returned from a cool event you want to attend someday (Burning Man, anyone?). People love when you call them out on their experience and expertise, and 99% of the time they’re happy to help you achieve it for yourself.

2. Share something—anything.

If you’re a private person, you don’t have to spill every intimate detail about the cute thing your boyfriend did yesterday or the weird dream you had last night involving Ryan Gosling and a bag of marshmallows. But if you work with the same people for 8+ hours a day, things should get a least a little personal. Instead of treating them like strangers, at least let them in to the next layer of your onion-like personality (the layer where you can talk openly about harmless hobbies or that time you tried to go raw vegan). You owe it to them to go one step further because it will make your workday exponentially more pleasant.

If nothing else, sharing details about your life builds rapport faster with your coworkers. For example, if I had not dared to share a meme with one of my colleagues in response to a request she had, I never would have learned that she loves memes as much as I do. If I was too afraid to share for fear that she might misunderstand or think it was stupid, we never would have bonded so quickly.

For introverts, implementing these two steps means starting small and making this practice a habit. Start talking more to the people who seem more approachable, and work your way up. And you’d better be working your way up, or I’ll find a way to give you crap for it.

Speaking of crap, acknowledge that this process of talking more at work will scare the crap out of you. My voice still gets shaky and I still stumble over words when I share personal details and ask complicated questions at work. Just own up to it—even while you’re talking. Tons of people will identify with that fear, and will respect you all the more for facing it. It says so much about your personal and professional demeanor when you’re willing to get uncomfortable in the name of personal growth.

So start talking. Because life is too short to tolerate the BS.

How do you make yourself heard at work? Tell me in the comments, homie.

If you're an introvert and break into a cold sweat at the thought of talking at work, this post is your way to get over it.

Why Teach For America Should be Your Next Career Choice

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Teach For America. All opinions are 100% mine.

Some people know they want to be teachers from a young age—not me. But even though teaching wasn’t my passion, I served my first full-time job out of college as a para-educator at an elementary school in a low-income neighborhood.

Essentially, I became a multipurpose teacher’s assistant; I got to jump between classrooms every day and teach mini-lessons on reading and math. No, it wasn’t my passion—but that doesn’t mean I didn’t care. The vast majority of kids were part of the free lunch program because their families had low incomes, many did not meet the educational benchmarks for their grade levels, and some outright expressed that they didn’t believe in themselves or their potential.

It was hard to get up every morning and go to school feeling like my lessons, my treatment toward the kids, and my effort made so little impact—but there were always glimmers of hope that showed I was making a difference. When I got to see lessons “click” in a child, when I got to see them acting nicely on the playground, and when I saw them refuse to give up in the face of a tough math problem or new computer program, my job was all the more satisfying and made me fall in love with teaching. Little by little, those kids worked to surmount odds that were stacked against them.

And statistically, the odds seem unbeatable. Out of 16 million impoverished children in our country, one third of them won’t graduate high school, and a mere nine percent will earn a bachelor’s degree before age 25. What happens to the other 91 percent? What if they had more teachers to mentor them, love them, and show them how to beat those odds?

Teach For America is an amazing career path for postgrads and beyond. Learn why here. Teach For America (TFA) provides that opportunity to teach and be taught—to reinforce the belief that everyone has something valuable to share with the world. It starts by recruiting people from a variety of fields and college majors; these community leaders undergo a rigorous training process and are placed in one of 52 regions across the United States. TFA corps members make a commitment to teach for two years at their partner schools, receiving continual training and development opportunities in the field.  For over 25 years, Teach For America alumni have led more than 1,000 schools and school systems. TFA teachers and alumni reach more than 5 million children each day!

Why teach with Teach For America? Two years seems like a long time, especially if you’re like me and never pictured yourself in a teaching role. But that time span allows you to get to know the kids you impact and see the positive changes that can come from your teaching. I had friends in TFA who didn’t envision themselves as teachers either—but they decided to learn more about teaching anyway because they wanted to do something important. They, like many other TFA alumni, got so much fulfillment from the program that they continue to advocate for better education and are working their way toward bigger leadership roles. TFA doesn’t just empower kids to perform better in school—it can empower you too.

Maybe you don’t see  teaching as your life’s passion right now. But with Teach For America, you can still feel fulfilled knowing that you will not only teach, but learn what it takes to improve our country’s educational system. With your help, you can give kids the great schooling and opportunities they deserve—regardless of where they grew up.

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Why Your Infographic Resume is a Dumb Idea

You’ve probably seen them on Pinterest or Etsy: beautiful resume templates with splashy colors and designs that look waaaay better than your black-and-white resume slapped with Times New Roman.

If you Google a bit, you’ll even find custom resume designers with rave reviews virtually promising you a job—if you spend up to three hundred dollars on one first.

The logic is that cool infographics and colors will make you stand out from gazillions of other traditional resumes.

Yes, they’re beautiful. But they will ruin your job search.

Why?

  Infographic resumes get attention for all the wrong reasons. Check out why they're a bad choice for job applications, and what you can submit instead. [Read more…]