It’s universally acknowledged that employers seek applicants with strong speaking and writing abilities. Despite being highly educated and armed with technical skills, many millennials lack the soft skills to compete in the workplace. A survey by the Hay Group revealed that 80 percent of employers are struggling to find graduates with the soft skills they need. Communication is the most in-demand soft skill in most industries, including engineering, finance, healthcare, information technology and sales.
Soft skills are defined by Oxford Dictionaries as personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. In addition to communication, organization, writing, leadership, problem solving and customer service are among the most desired soft skills in nearly every occupation.
“Job seekers with a good mix of both technical and soft skills will have the best prospects right out of college,” says Rosemary Haefner, Chief Human Resources Officer of CareerBuilder.
To help develop soft skills, millennials and all prospective employees are encouraged to focus on ways they can build the skills they lack. An effective method of developing communication and leadership skills is to join Toastmasters International. Toastmasters offers a supportive setting where people can improve these skills through practice and become more confident communicators and stronger leaders.
Nearly half of all Fortune 500 companies offer in-house Toastmasters clubs, including Apple, Bank of America, The Coca-Cola Company, Google and Microsoft. These employers have found the Toastmasters program to be an effective staff development tool that benefits their organization.
Many of these corporate venues welcome visitors from outside the organization, who are not employed there. I was a member of the HP Hilltop Club that used to meet just down the hall from Carly Fiorina’s office in the Hewlett Packard Headquarters building. It was open to anyone who wished to attend. I hasten to add that Carly herself was not a member.
Millennials looking to advance their career should be aware that visiting a corporate club gives a unique opportunity to network with employees.
“Prospective employees, including millennials, should focus on building the skills that will give them an advantage over other candidates,” says Jim Kokocki Toastmasters 2015-16 International President. “Employers want to hire people who can communicate effectively and work well with others. Toastmasters offers a place to develop and strengthen these skills.”
If your company does not yet have a club, consider starting one. “Forming a corporate Toastmasters club is an effective and inexpensive way to develop, enhance and retain employees,” says Toastmasters Chief Executive Officer Daniel Rex. “We are experiencing record growth as an organization in part because of the large increase in the number of corporate clubs. We expect that trend to continue as the skills we teach are always in demand in the marketplace.”
Finding the Right Club
While they all follow the same structure for meetings, no two Toastmasters Clubs are the same. The members make the club. When looking for a suitable group, it’s a great idea to take the time to visit a number of different clubs. Since there are approximately 30,000 Toastmasters members in the U.S. between the age of 18 and 34 it should be possible to find a club with people of similar interests. The last thing you want is to make your Icebreaker speech on current topics to a room full of retirees.
To find a Toastmasters club near you, visit toastmasters.org/findaclub.