Stuttering: Your Career & Job Interview

In this blog post and video, we’ll cover two topics: 

1) What careers are good for people who stutter and how to choose a job that fits you best?

2) How to prepare for a job interview. Like it’s happening tomorrow - what do I do? 

I hear these questions very frequently, I see them over and over again in stuttering support groups. And yes, it’s absolutely crucial to set yourself for the job interview right, so stay tuned!

The VIDEO: Stuttering & Job Interview

Stuttering & Job Interview

How to choose a career?

So, what careers are good for people who stutter?

The first thing that comes to our mind is thinking realistically and figuring out the activities where we don’t have to speak much. Like becoming a nurse or software developer. And on the one hand, it seems to make total sense.

On the other hand, I want you to think about the exceptions to this realistic thinking.  

  • Voice-overs? No, no way! Yet, James Earl Jones (a person who used to have a severe stutter and who calls himself “inarticulate” to this day!!!) is one of the most recognizable voices.
  • Politics -  Public speaking all the time - no, no, no. Joe Biden, Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson. Presidents and the Prime Minister. 
  • Performing on stage - no, no way! What about Ed Sheeran? TV shows - no, no way! What about Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) and Steve Harvey? Scientists like Isaac Newton, sportsmen like Tiger Woods, actors like Emily Blunt, and Bruce Willis. And the list goes on and on and on. You can find even more famous people who stutter in the "10 Stuttering Facts" blog post below.

Thinking realistically puts you in a box. Everything outside the box is impossible. Even though you don’t know. You haven’t been there. Thinking realistically puts a limit on what you can do even before you try, before you do anything. It’s quitting before you start. 

That’s a very dangerous thinking pattern of “I can’t.” I can’t do this, I can’t do that. It’s living in a box of fear. It’s living in a box of holding back. It’s living in a box of tension (physical and emotional tension) because deep inside we all want to open up, express ourselves and be alive. This tension amplifies stuttering and makes it a hundred times bigger and stronger. 

Being alive means you do something challenging. A river flows to the unknown. A swamp stays the same and it stinks. 

Getting outside of that box of thinking realistically feels like danger, it feels like risk. Risk of failure. Risk of stuttering. 

Do you see stuttering as a failure? Maybe it’s not? Maybe it’s not as bad as it feels? So, I want you to revisit your relationship with stuttering once again. 

The question "What careers are good for people who stutter?" in fact implies another question which is “Can I do it?” 

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t - in both cases you’re right.” Just think about it. It was true for Henry Ford. It’s true for you. 

I’ll go even further than Henry Ford. I want to go deeper into that idea and give you a little more guidance. I'll say this:

You can’t as long as you don’t like it. 

That’s the key to true real change. James Earl Jones became one of the most recognizable voices not because he persevered, sacrificed himself, desensitized himself to stuttering, or learned some magic technique. He liked what he did. He loved that. He wanted to do that. 

So what is it that you like doing? A great idea is to find a role model or role models. I wanted to become a lawyer. As a child, I liked the character of Mason from the soap opera "Santa Barbara" that was on TV at that time. I don’t know why but something clicked in me and I thought that I wanted to be like that guy! So I became a lawyer. Even though I heard them say quite a number of times, “Oh, you can't do it with your stutter!"

A much better question than “can I do it?” (you can!!!) is “how can I do it?” It automatically puts you into a position of finding a way. 

But there’s an even better question that you can ask. 

There’s a great book I highly recommend which is called “Who not How.” The idea of the book in a nutshell is that our resources are limited. You can look for a way out for a lifetime. It’s fun, it’s a journey, you can do it, it can be your choice. But a much smarter choice (at least a hundred times smarter choice) is to ask “Who can help me with that? Who has gone that way already and who can teach me?” 

Think about Apple, Google, Amazon, Tesla. Each of those companies is a team of people. Steve Jobs couldn't do it alone. Elon Musk couldn’t do it alone. Nobody can do it alone. Great results involve teamwork. So, hire someone on your team. Don’t think you’re smarter or better than Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. :)  

So if you really dream about becoming a nurse or software developer - beautiful! Great choice! But if you’re driven by how realistic it is - you put yourself in a prison. And it’s not cool spending your life in prison provided that you haven’t committed any crime! It’s a self-imposed sentence actually. So, pick something you really like and go for it!

Ok, you like something, you chose something, you worked for it, you applied for it, and here it goes - they invite you to the job interview! Congratulations!!! Let's move to the next part - how to prepare for the job interview.  

How to prepare for the job interview

1. Value Mindset 

Anxiety comes up when you don’t quite feel your value. When you don’t really feel you’re a great fit for this position. To feel the confidence you want to feel that you bring value. 

So, as an exercise I want you to get in touch with your value.

Nobody cares about your resume, all they care about is what you can do for them. What you can do comes down to your skills and desire. Your skills, in turn, heavily depend on your desire and commitment. If you like what you do, if you want to do it then you’ll learn the skills fast and you’ll develop them further.

First of all, you want to demonstrate your desire and commitment to solve problems. That is your biggest value. 

Prepare - put down on paper your achievements. No matter how big or small they are. If you don’t have much, maybe you don't have prior experience, write down what you can and want to do. (That’s how I got my first job. I couldn’t say that I did it already so instead I was saying, “Of course! I can do it!”) Again, your desire is your value. Get in touch with your desire. And then show how committed you are. 

2. Disclosure

There are two types of disclosure and if you’re a person who stutters you’ll probably end up doing one of them. 

The first one is what I call “active positive disclosure.” It’s when you do it proactively and give your stuttering the exact meaning that you want to give. The second one is “passive negative disclosure.” It’s when you don’t disclose proactively, basically, you try to hide it, and you wait till it shows up and then you need to explain it. 

Guess which one is better and which one I recommend? 

Of course, the first one! 

You want to be very clear that stuttering doesn’t diminish or affect your skills, desire, commitment, and ultimately your value. If you’re hiding it then you do think that it affects your value. Otherwise, why hide? So, you lie and cheat (which is not good). By hiding, you show that you want to do something and you can’t. You fail. By being open and proactive you show your integrity. You show that you can follow through on my commitments. If you say, “I’ll do it!” you do it! You truly (by action) prove that stuttering doesn’t affect your ability to solve problems. 

Practice disclosure. If you have a stuttering coach, therapist, mentor, or maybe a career coach - practice disclosure with that person. If the job interview is tomorrow then just go live in the Free From Stutter Facebook group and practice it there. If you have time, join the Free From Stutter speaking club and practice it in a real face-to-face group environment.

Finding the right time to disclose at the job interview with Nikolaos

You want to actually do it. That’s one of the practices I do with my students for sure! It’s better to physically do it once in a real setting than do it a hundred times in your imagination or talking to the mirror.

3. Rejection is a filter

What we are really afraid of is rejection. What if they say “No” because of my stutter? What if they say “No” because of something else?

Well, come back to points 1 and 2 and get in touch with your value once again.  

The truth is we are going to get a bunch of “NOs.” That’s how life works. No matter if you stutter or not. The real game-changer is how you react to those “NOs.” What meaning you’re going to attach to them. 

And there’s only one right meaning.

Rejection is a filter that gets you to “your” people, “your” place, and “your” job. 

Rejection is a healthy and helpful tool! Without rejection on a job interview, there’s a sure way you're going to get to a “wrong” place. 

One of the most important assignments we do with my students is approaching strangers and asking a couple of questions about stuttering. Here you see the magic of this filter. You get one, two, three, or five “NOs” and then you get a “Yes” and you are amazed how connected and aligned you are with that person. You have a truly great conversation. 

Approaching strangers role-play with Vildan

Now, imagine if the first person was forced to say “Yes” and he/she didn’t really want to talk to you, like “Come on! Say it finally and let me go!” Would you like it? Would you enjoy it? Of course, you wouldn't!

So, prepare for rejection. See rejection as a healthy and helpful tool. Experience rejection, feel great about it, and move on!

4. Choose, Explore & Learn

Don’t forget that you choose the same way as they choose. Ask relevant questions, be clear on your role, responsibilities, and other terms. Feel that you are the active part. 

Be sure, there are only two outcomes. Either success or a lesson. It’s your job to see the lesson. Maybe it’s just not the right fit for you (rejection as a great tool), but maybe there’s something to improve in your presentation. See this as an exercise. See this as an assignment. 

And if you go like, “Oh, no, I’m so scared! Maybe I don’t go there?” Imagine that you’ve just paid $1,000 for the chance to participate in this show. How does that feel? “Oh, I really paid a thousand bucks? Hmm... then it must be valuable. Sure! I’ll go for it!” All of a sudden this experience becomes more valuable for you. 

In reality, it is that valuable! Even though I recommend practicing the disclosure and your presentation (and maybe you did), in reality, we mostly learn from these real job interviews, real-life experiences. So, see this simply as an assignment to build your confidence. 

To sum up:

1) go with the value mindset,

2) disclose proactively,

3) see rejection as a great thing,

4) see this whole thing as an amazing learning experience.

And remember, you can still have this $1,000 dollar experience for free! How cool is that! 

If you are a person who stutters, 

and you're not quite satisfied with how you feel at the moment of speaking interaction 

I invite you to my free video training - 4 Steps To Freedom From Stuttering. 

And for more interaction,

join the Free From Stutter Facebook group.

Please, don't stay isolated! It's crucial to feel you’re part of the community!

If you have thoughts or observations, anything that comes to your mind - let me know in the comments! 

Thank you so much! See you soon! 

Read and Watch Next:

Relaxation for stuttering

Top 10 speech exercises for stuttering

Stuttering and saying your name