As an engineer with 16+ years experience in the mechanical/energy engineering field, I can honestly say that the single most important course you can take and skill you can develop is . . .
Yes, you read that right.
Public speaking is one of the most important classes I took while I was an undergraduate mechanical engineering student. It really helped me gain a skill that has served me well over the years.
I already hear the push back . . . “but I don’t plan to speak to groups” . . . “it’s just not my thing so why bother”
Here’s the thing, when people think public speaking, they think Tony Robbins getting in front a whole crowd. They think about the Sunday morning speeches given by the pastor in church or perhaps a stand up comedian in front of a room full of people waiting to be entertained.
However, that is a very narrow view of public speaking. In my mind, any time you are talking and others are listening without any back and forth, you have moved from a conversation to public speaking.
Giving a company overview to two potential investors? Public Speaking.
Presenting your firm to potential employees at a job fair? Public Speaking.
Discussing your team’s latest project at a staff meeting? Public Speaking.
Therefore, this is a useful skill even if you never give a speech to large groups. During your career, you will have to present your projects, your company, and yourself to your team and/or clients. If you don’t have the ability to push your ideas forward and gain buy-in from others, then you are setting yourself up to often be a step behind.
Being able to publicly convey your ideas is one of the most powerful ways to gain that buy-in and flourish in your career.
When it comes to job or internship interviews, you will have the ability to present yourself better and will you to shine once you land the interview and once you get into the position.
I consider this to be one of the most important “peripheral skills” that has helped me have engineering success.
Ok, so now you realize the importance of public speaking, but is it really more important than other technical skills? I would answer a resounding “YES” to that question. There is often a way to set up your career to avoid certain technical skills that are not to your liking.
This does not mean that I think that public speaking is more important than technical skills in general. Rather, I think as a single skill it is more important than other single technical skills. Of course, you need to have sound engineering skills to land the job in the first place. However, to advance up the ladder and gain success in your engineering career you definitely need solid public speaking skills.
For example, I have avoided both calculus and chemistry and last used them when I took my professional engineering licensing exams. These two subjects are not really of interest to me and I am able to avoid them in my professional engineering career.
However, you CAN’T AVOID public speaking (as I defined it above) and that is what makes it the single greatest skill for your career.
Next Steps . . .
Still too nervous to get in front of others? Need some additional tips & advice to get yourself into public speaking?
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