How Can Speech Therapy Help Your Career?Heather Gross, M.S., CCC-SLP
Many of us value the chance to grow and advance in our careers. At the same time, we’re looking for work-life balance, and–if we’re lucky–a real connection with our coworkers.
The pandemic made these values clearer than ever. Millions of people changed jobs in search of greater flexibility, a raise, or a career in a whole new industry. Data for the Great Resignation (or, as some call it, The Great Realization) shows that a record 4.5 million American workers left their jobs in November 2021!
It’s not always easy finding and starting over in a new job. And it can be even more challenging for people with speech and communication issues. They may struggle with public speaking, speech clarity, or even discrimination in the workplace. And they may avoid opportunities for career growth as a result.
This is where speech therapy comes in! Whether you’d like to treat a stutter, interview more successfully, or strengthen your speaking and presenting skills, a speech-language pathologist can help you do it. There are many reasons adults seek the expertise of a speech therapist, and professional speech and communication skills is one of them.
Communication is key in the workplace
Professional communication skills are important for workplace success. They’re often a big factor in hiring and promotion. Communication skills may include the following:
Interpersonal communication skills
Sharing feedback in an effective way
Public speaking skills
Communicating with a positive attitude
Communicating with confidence
When someone struggles in any of these areas, it may become a barrier to success on the job.
As a speech-language pathologist who works with adults, I’ve helped many people with their speech and communication skills. Almost all my clients who seek help with workplace communication say that their speech difficulties have negatively affected their career growth. But there is good news: These skills can be strengthened, giving you greater communication confidence in the workplace!
How can a speech therapist help improve professional communication skills?
There are several areas where a speech therapist can help:
Public speaking: Whether it’s giving a presentation to coworkers or clients, or simply sharing your opinion in a meeting, millions of people share a fear of public speaking. It can be the stuff of nightmares! A speech therapist can teach you how to improve your public speaking skills, giving you the tools to stand in front of an audience with assurance and poise.
Interview skills: Getting past the interview phase is often tough for people with speech difficulties. They may feel self-conscious about the way they sound, impacting their ability to answer questions effectively. A speech therapist can help you improve the clarity of your speech and prepare for your interviews. We want you to bring your best, most confident self to this opportunity!
Accent modification: Your accent is part of who you are. However, while it’s not a speech disorder in itself, an accent can sometimes make it difficult to speak with other people or be understood. And, while discrimination based on your accent is illegal, studies have shown that people who speak English as a second language are generally passed over for top managerial jobs. If you feel your accent is interfering with your ability to communicate, you might consider accent modification therapy. A speech therapist can help you target specific pronunciation goals to reduce communication breakdowns at work.
Vocal clarity: Have you ever had a tough time projecting your voice? Are people not always able to hear you? A speech therapist can help you find vocal power in a healthy way so that you can maintain your voice throughout the day. This can be especially helpful for people such as teachers, salespeople, health care providers, fitness instructors, and others who often use their voice at work.
Fluency: People who stutter are often misunderstood as being too anxious to speak. However, stuttering isn’t related to nerves, intelligence, or capability. In fact, a person who stutters often develops greater empathy and active listening skills from their experiences of being interrupted and spoken for. Speech therapy helps people who stutter build fluency, self-confidence, and self-advocacy skills so that they can communicate more effectively.
Communication confidence: Confidence is projected not only by what you say, but in your body language, facial expressions, vocabulary, and vocal inflections. A speech therapist can help you focus on these areas to build overall confidence in the workplace.
What can you expect in a speech therapy session?
During the first session, your speech therapist will work with you to develop goals that are tailored to your needs. Then, in each session, you’ll take specific steps toward those goals. Your speech therapist will help you practice functional speech skills that you can easily adapt and carry over to your work environment.
Say you’d like to improve your public speaking. A typical session may cover techniques such as grounding, breathing, speaking rate, volume, outlining ideas, and confidence building. The session would include functional practice, such as giving a speech in front of the speech therapist, with feedback and guidance provided.
Maybe you’d like to strengthen your interviewing skills. Your session may focus on introducing yourself with clarity and confidence, practicing your mission statement, and answering the most common interview questions, or questions specific to your industry. The speech therapist may conduct a mock interview with you in a supportive environment so that you feel comfortable and prepared for the real thing.
No matter what your goals, your speech therapist will give you home exercises to complete between sessions so you learn to use your new skills in everyday life. This is an essential part of the speech therapy process! You’ll see results more quickly the more you practice.
Whether you’d like to start a new job or advance in the one you have, working with a speech therapist can help you improve your communication skills, find your voice, and create the career you want!