Are you stuck in a cubical or strapped to a wired headset in a call center? It can sometimes seem impossible to network while managing job responsibilities and your unhappy customers. Quite frankly, I imagine you leave some customer conversations and seek blissful solitude. However, isolation can be detrimental to future opportunities. A corporate Toastmasters club is a great way to network with other people in your company. Through Toastmasters, I’ve made connections in Claims, Underwriting, IT, Accounting, Human Resources, Analytics and more. When I was working entry level in 2011 (and dying to promote), I rarely had an opportunity to network. Work force management scheduled me for incoming claim calls ALL DAY… again. This is where my corporate Toastmasters club saved the day! Once a week, I used my lunch hour and got to know folks around the building. When those next promotional job opportunities opened? I wasn’t just another resume in the stack. I was Samantha, that cool chick from Toastmasters 😉
- Leadership Opportunities
Have you ever gone into your performance review or into that ‘career’ conversation with your boss? “Well Samantha, where do you see yourself in the future?” To which I respond: “I would like to move into a management position in 1-2 years.” The notorious feedback I always receive is how I really need to gain some ‘leadership’ experience to set me apart from the competition. “Have you considered volunteering at church or as an officer for a community non-profit?” “Boss, I’ve been working 50-60-hour weeks with mandatory overtime. How would I even make that work?” Silence. While I no longer face the strict overtime requirements in my current gig, it felt impossible at times to pursue self-development opportunities. I wanted to build those highly coveted leadership skills but there is only so much time in a day. Toastmasters ended up being the perfect solution for me. Clubs each choose their meeting frequency. In my previous corporate club, we met on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday’s on a lunch hour. In my current corporate club, we meet every Thursday on a lunch hour. It’s the perfect balance to my work week and still gives me the opportunity to lead. There are a variety of Club Officer roles per club and higher-level leadership roles available if you choose to pursue them within the Toastmasters organization. I have been a Toastmaster since 2014. Over the years, I’ve had the honor of serving as Club Secretary, VP of Education, President, Club Mentor and Area Director. Each of these roles have fostered immeasurable leadership growth including networking and learning the art of tactful delegation.
- Impromptu Speaking
Whether working in claims, in underwriting or at the Agent’s Office, we all receive phone calls which (by nature) keep us on our toes or the edge of our seats. Do you feel poised when you are put on the spot to answer a question by a disgruntled customer? What about a pushy Agent cornering you into changing a coverage decision or overriding a policy cancellation? Hesitations, hem’s and ha’s can quickly take your phone call to a dark place and it’s often difficult, if not impossible, to recover rapport once your credibility is in question. The Toastmasters Program is designed to help you figure out to how to take a moment to organize your thoughts and allows you to practice responding to a surprise question tactfully.
- Positive Environment
Did you just issue your 4th claim denial today? Were you called several unspeakable names you wouldn’t dare repeat in front of Grandma? The insurance world can be a mentally and emotionally strenuous work place. If you find yourself emotionally drained, consider investing in your own career development. Give yourself a small break in the week from the steady stream of cranky customers. Toastmasters is a positive, safe environment to grow and develop your communication and leadership skills. Some of the best moments of my week are spent with my Toastmasters club where we all get a chance to speak, listen and learn. The best part? If any of us screw up, it doesn’t affect our jobs or our pay raises. It’s truly that ‘safe’ place to practice speaking, find your voice and develop your skills.
If you have made it through this entire article and you are scratching your head wondering what exactly is Toastmasters? Let me clear that up for you!
Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization with an awesome mission: “We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.” Toastmasters is comprised of local community and corporate clubs world-wide. At a club meeting, you’ll find it’s designed to be as simple as PIE:
- Prepared Speeches: 2-3 speakers are prepared to give a speech. Their material was determined and often practiced beforehand.
- Impromptu Speaking: aka Table Topics. A Toastmaster asks for volunteers. You are put on the spot to think on your feet in front of an audience and try to answer an open-ended question. The challenge is trying to come up with an answer you can convey for 1-2 minutes. Have you ever been called on unexpectedly to answer a question in a department meeting? This is practice for those moments.
- Evaluations: Every prepared speaker is guaranteed an Oral and Written evaluation after their speech at the meeting. This provides benefits for both the speaker (for the valuable feedback) and the evaluator (coaching peers or coaching up).