This article was originally published in the Winter 2011 edition of CSAVoices.
I found myself laid off quite unexpectedly last year. My workplace of the last 9 years no longer needed my skills. As thoughts of what new adventure awaits ran around inside my head, I was also starting to worry about stuttering in job interviews. A worry I haven’t had for a decade.
Would employers discriminate against my stuttering? Would they think the usual myths about stuttering? That I am a person of weak character or low intelligence?
Up to a decade ago, I tried to hide my stuttering as much as possible. And we all know how much more trouble that is than it’s worth. But things are different this time around. I’m no longer ashamed of my stuttering and fully accept it. I didn’t make any more efforts to hide it. Heck, I even have my podcast listed on my resume.
But, one thought did still cross my mind. Would potential employers accept my stuttering?
Worries aside, I planned what I was going to say. In a friendly tone and with a smile, I say “Before we begin, I’d like to mention that I stutter”. Followed by mentioning that “it has never got in the way of my job performance”.
Though after having done a few job interviews, I sensed that probably wasn’t enough. I felt that I needed to educate a little more. Just in case. After all, you never know what the interviewer may be misunderstanding. So I added “this isn’t an indication of low intelligence or nervousness” to my intro.
Disclosing at the beginning of a job interview helps me to relieve the pressure on myself. It took me a few interviews before I finally got the nerve to disclose. I kept waiting for the right moment to occur. The perfect segway. But sometimes, they don’t arrive. And when they don’t, I’m feeling awkward, stuttering increases and next thing I know, I’m feeling like a train wreck.
Disclosing assures me that the interviewer isn’t being distracted by my speech – at least now they know why I’m talking like that.
But I have to also ensure that I address a potential question that might have popped into their mind – “Can I imagine my team working with someone who talks like this? What about speaking to our clients?”.
Using all my strength to control my stuttering as much as possible, maintaining eye contact and specifically talking about my success in collaborating with team members and speaking to clients, I also make sure I mention that “I am working on improving my speech as well as attending Toastmasters regularly” to my disclosure.
Always talk about yourself in the positive. At the very least, the interviewer now knows that I get myself out there in spite of my stuttering. More positive reinforcement!
Disclosing your stuttering also comes in handy when they ask the dreaded question about your weaknesses. I list stuttering as one of them and I reiterate about working on my speech and Toastmasters.
I was talking about this with my friend, Samuel Dunsiger, who makes his CSA writing debut in the Winter 2011 edition of CSAVoices. He mentions that having a stutter allows him to be more sympathetic towards other people’s issues. I think this is a winning point to make especially when you are looking for work in industries such as health care and non-profits.
Samuel observed that disclosing shows that you are being honest and upfront about your stuttering. The employer will respect you for not being afraid or trying to hide your stuttering.
Of course disclosing alone won’t guarantee you will get the job. But it does help make our stuttering become a great secret weapon in job interviews!