One Skill You Can't Leave College Without

Happy Monday ya'll! We're just over a week away from Thanksgiving here in the U.S. But before you head home, I want to drop some essential knowledge on you. In college we're so focused on the assignment of the day that it's rare for us to develop skills that ALL individuals need when entering the job market.

planning your talk
planning your talk

As I mentioned in a previous post, you need to hone in on your skills because those are what is going to land you your dream job - not your degree, your grades, or your extracurricular activities. It's also why I spend a good chunk of time with clients assessing their skills before even starting the conversation on "the job" or resume prep.

When I was interviewing for my first job out of college I had to go through three straight hours of group interviewing. First I met with my would-be peers, then the leadership team, and finally I had to give a mock presentation. For a 22-year-old that was intimidating! I got the job, thank goodness, but that was only the beginning.

Throughout my career this one skill has aided me in numerous professional situations and catapulted my success. What's this one essential skill?


Even though I'm an ongoing person - always have been - I haven't been comfortable getting up in front of a group of people. Over the years I've spoken to small groups of 5 to an auditorium of over 2,000 guests. I rarely had trouble deciding WHAT to talk about or even HOW to structure my speech. My fear was more deep-rooted than that. It was - how would I match up to the audience's expectations.

Expectations are a funny thing. Being a perfectionist is a funny thing. It has caused me to compare my talks to Ted Talks. You want to know why that is so off point?

Ted Talks take 6-9 months to refine with the aid of a speaking coach. Ain't nobody got time for that!!

Which means - unless you're spending this much time preparing, this is a totally unreasonable comparison. Here are 5 things you can do to up your public speaking game right now:

  1. Take a public speaking class - yes, it will be uncomfortable at first, but it will allow you to practice and get feedback in a safe and (mostly) non-judgmental environment.
  2. Know your stuff - the very best way to give an effective talk is to know your material in and out. That way you don't have to worry about memorizing anything. It turns a presentation into a conversation.
  3. Know your audience - you have to pay attention to who you're speaking to before you prep your talk. Maybe they don't know the topic on an intimate level or they're more serious/lighthearted than those you usually speak to. Know who they are and why they're coming to listen to you in order to match your talk to their needs.
  4. Pick one message you want them to leave with - if your audience leaves with just one point, what is this? Hit on this point a few times in your talk.
  5. Practice as much as you can - seek out any opportunity to talk in a public setting. This can be introducing another speaking, giving a presentation, or serving as a graduation speaker (still one of the highlights of my academic career). The more you do it, the more you'll love it.


Whether you're a finance, English, or international affairs major, please do yourself a favor and develop your public speaking skills before you graduate. You will appear more knowledgeable, mature, and experienced than you may feel. Most importantly, you'll be able to share information easily and make connections naturally than 1:1 interactions can't match.

Looking for a little boost in your confidence before your talk? Check out this Being Boss episode all about cultivating confidence. It's good...but don't blame me when you become hooked to this podcast!