Overcome Stuttering in the Workplace. 

As long as I can remember, I’ve had a stutter which has gradually gotten worse. No matter the setting or who I’m around, i’ve always felt like the odd person out especially in conversations I would like to be a part of. For instance, I can be out for drinks with my friends and the conversation can happen about pretty much anything. Everyone’s talking and putting in there and put on the subject and all I do is sit and listen. I would love nothing more than to contribute to the conversation and feel more at one with my friends. However, the fear of saying a word the wrong way overcomes me and I am forced to just smile, nod and listen. Let’s say we’re talking about baseball game happening. All my buddies are talking about a specific player and his/her stats. Because the way the players name is spelt (I struggle more with “B” and “M” letters) I will just sit there silently while everyone throws in a point of view. I might throw out a “yeah” or “oh yeah you’re right” but for the most part I’ll take in what’s said and do my trademark smile. Either way, it makes me come off as someone who is not knowledgeable on the subject even though I am. Honestly, I dare go further and say it makes me look stupid in the eyes of my friends. 

The more comfortable I am with someone, such as my fiancé and my family is when I find myself speaking more fluently. I’m not saying I’m not comfortable with my friends, but when we are together there’s many points of views of a subject and every chance to speak is like auditioning for American Idol.

 Let’s not even get started about ordering dinner at a restaurant. Countless times I’ve wanted to order something specifically but chosen not to simply because I’m going to stutter the menu item. So, a bacon cheeseburger suddenly becomes a cheeseburger, because “B’s” have always been a nemesis of mine. When I order food I prefer to do so when the attention of my party is on something totally unrelated. It’s my own personal incognito way to cheat embarrassment.

Personal life is something I can pretty much control. If I feel uncomfortable in the situation I can simply just walk away to “get air” or “have a smoke”. The same cannot be said about how my stuttering affects me professionally.

 I’ll say the most stressful aspect of having a speech impediment in a business setting are your coworkers thinking you aren’t confident or even “weird”. Situations have come where I’ve waited for my boss to leave the office so I can make my phone calls that have been patiently queuing in my mind. 

– “Hey Matt, did you call those references?” – “I’m working on it Jane!”

‘As Jane walks to the bathroom, Matt slyly calls Bill’s reference.’

In terms of meetings or other areas of planned public speaking I’ve been slightly better than average at speaking. I’ll usually work around those letters I know will stump me. The same can’t be said when someone I’ve just met asks me for my name. I have struggled with the name Matthew my whole life and there is simply nothing I can do about it. I’ll answer the phone or shake a hand, say who I am, and sometimes people notice. 

In my opinion, the best way to overcome stuttering for me at work is creating a less stressful atmosphere. What I mean is manage your workday. It doesn’t matter that your not the boss, you can still plan your day. This will give you more time to mentally prepare not only interviews, meetings and conferences, but phone calls as well. Here are some other tips that I do which might help you in a similar situation:

  • Remember that the person on the other line is a human being just like you. They are no different than you, so why stress over talking to someone who also has worries and issues of their own? 
  • Write down, or, type in big, bold letters the word you are struggling with. For example, if you are struggling with letters such as “M” or “B”, write down words that you normally use with those letters and keep them in front of your computer or someone visible when you answer your phone. I’ve come to learn and realize if I physically see the word in front of me I can prepare myself and therefore decrease the risk of stuttering the word. No one will notice and eventually you won’t need that visual. I graduated from not needing to see the word “new” on my desk.
  • Like before, mentally visualize the word. Are you starting to see the trend here how visuals come a long way? This is probably my favorite way to overcome a speech impediment at the office. Picture the word(s) on a chalkboard or even a big old fluffy cloud.
  • See a Speech Therapist! I say this highly because you’ll be surprised with the help they can do for you. A lot of people don’t like seeing professionals for help because they refuse to knowledge to the public that they have a speech impediment. However, this is an a problem and a therapist will help you see that. 
  • Get a good nights sleep. The more sleep you get, the less stressed and jittery you will be. 


No matter what industry you work in, you’ll find yourself overcoming some sort of fear. Police Officers and Firefighters do it every single day. Yes, that’s a different (much more extreme) type of fear than what I experience, but it’s something that I try my hardest to overcome every time I punch the clock. 

Even if my stuttering never 100% goes away, giving up and giving into the embarrassment will only lead to worse situations. When it’s all said and done, believe in yourself and nothing else. Understand you are in control of how your day plays out…If you allow yourself to do so.

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The Less Than 1%: 3 Ways to Stand Out as a Veteran

More so than ever, competition for any type of job is at an all time high. College degrees have now become the bare minimum to achieve a thread of success in an ever demanding work environment. As veterans, especially current Reservists and National Guardsmen, you have to sell yourself more so than the average candidate. You bring a level of knowledge, loyalty and integrity not seen in the everyday applicant. Remember, you are the less than 1% in this country, and it doesn’t stop when you ETS. Here’s 5 ways to prove why you are the future of the company you apply for. 


3. RELATE YOUR MILITARY JOB TO THE JOB YOUR APPLYING FOR.

Whether your an 11 Bravo (Infantry) or 42 Alpha (Human Resources), understand what you do in the military is not too far off from its respective civilian counterpart. For example, I’m a current Army Reservist with an MOS of 42A. Now don’t get me wrong, the systems and day-to-day activities of a Human Resources Specialist in the Army is vastly different than what I do in my civilian HR job. But the computer skills, training and development, personnel accountability definitely relates to what I do on the civilian side. This is something I highlight on my resume, which is what you should be doing to. Ditch the military specific lingo when listing your duties and highlights on your resume. Instead, show how your experiences from military service  benefit the company your applying to. 


2. DON’T JUST LIST YOUR AWARDS, EXPLAIN WHAT THEY MEAN! 

In the service, we all tease one another over just about anything. When I was awarded the Army Achievement Medal, I was proud of it and, I won’t lie, gloated more than I should have. I should have known my battle buddies who’ve been awarded The Purple Heart and Bronze Star would take advantage of me making myself an easy target. In the grand scheme of things, the Army Achievement Medal doesn’t come close to the nobility, sacrifice  and valor involved with being the recipient of a Silver Star or Medal of Honor. But there are reasons awards are well…awarded in the first place. I received my Army Achievement Medal for being in charge of the accountability of 8,000 soldiers while training at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. This involved utilizing a database that scanned each soldier in when they arrived for training and out when they left. Multiple Excel spreadsheets were used to account for the dozens and dozens of battalions training as well as keeping into account those soldiers sent home early from injurys. My command team praised me during training and I, and others, received a standing applause when the award was given at a ceremony. If I simply list “Army Achievement Medal” on my resume, how is any prospective employer going to know what I’m talking about. Instead, I show why I was awarded and how vital my role was to the success of the mission. The same goes for any award a soldier might receive during a career. The average hiring manager has no idea what we do and why should they? Listing your awards by name only won’t hurt your resume, but it won’t help either. Show them why this award speaks volumes to you as a person and successful individual.


1. LET YOUR MANAGER IN ON YOUR DRILL SCHEDULE (RESERVISTS/NATIONAL GUARDSMEN).

Let’s not beat around the bush, we have no reason not to give our employer a copy of a drill schedule. There’s no secret black ops missions taking us away from our 9-5 jobs. Obviously things come up such as NCOES (Miltary Schools) and deployments, but if your Training NCO is doing the right thing you will have ample time to notify your boss. I’ve actually interviewed applicants who mentioned they have a 3 week training in the middle of June and need to take off. That’s all fine and dandy, but when I ask for any type of documentation (drill schedule, orders, email) nothing shows up. When I attend my annual training every year there is some sort of paper trail. I know orders sometimes can be an issue to get a hand on, but how about requesting a commanders memo stating your attending training? I press on this because it’s attitudes like the soldier will no paper trail and random 3 week trainings that make employers hesitant to hire us. You are bringing the best of the best when you apply for a job. The military didn’t invest tens of thousands of dollars in you to just see you fail. You are set up with the skills and experiences the common person couldn’t comprehend. Use it!! Let your employer know you will be away once a month for 2-4 days and attend an annual training. Keep them informed on any possible schools you may attend such as Basic Leaders Course or MOS resclassing school. Obviously, don’t break OPSEC and give them mission-specific information, but keep them in the loop on dates. You don’t even, and shouldn’t need to give locations. Surprise your interviewer with a current drill schedule outlining the dates of training (black out the training events if you need to). I promise and promise again they will not only be impressed with this, but will trust you from the start.