I Toast, Therefore I Am

Feb. 10, 2020

A few observations about professional development and how learning new skills outside of work can make you a better employee and a better leader. 

In a few short weeks, I'm about to take the stage in hopes of winning a contest and a title. No, I'm not parading around in an evening gown to become Ms. DuPage County 2020. Though equally daunting, I'm getting up in front of a crowd and doing what most people find completely terrifying: Public Speaking. 

I'm donning my brave face and the adages about picturing people in their underwear in order to win a speech contest being put on by my local Toastmasters group. 

Always Be Learning 

Despite what my friends say about my need to always doing something, the long and the short of it are that I'm constantly in learning mode.

  • When I wanted to learn web development 20-plus years ago, I taught myself how to code.
  • When I wanted to become more physically fit and empowered, I started training in (and then obtaining black belts in) Karate.
  • When I wanted to tap into my creative side, I started taking art classes, dance classes, and now improv classes.
  • When I wanted to understand website metrics better, I learned and became certified in Google Analytics. 

Glengarry Glen Ross may have had "Always Be Closing," but Erin Hallstrom has "Always Be Learning." 

Natural Born Storyteller

My mother would tell you I've been a storyteller since the moment I started talking. My vivid imagination combined with a knack with words served me well in childhood and into high school. When I had a broken jaw in high school and my mouth was wired shut for 6 weeks (recommendation rating: 0 out of 10 stars), I started writing... a lot. The writing evolved into a career; however, my ability to speak with confidence was left back in high school. 

I joined Toastmasters a couple years ago in hopes of re-igniting that passion for the spoken word. I didn't want to join a debate team or start throwing rhymes at speaker Jams, but I did want to sound articulate whether I was talking to my boss, on a podcast, or in front of an audience. 

Little did I know the doors my adventure into Toastmastering would open for me. 

I Toast, Therefore I Am

The very first time I got up on the stage for my first speech, an Erin I'd never knew before came out. I had command of the room and I sounded confident. Nary an 'um' or an 'ah' left my mouth. It felt invigorating and exciting to sound so simultaneously passionate and calm. 

I followed the series of learning modules and speaking techniques the folks in charge laid out for me and before I knew it, I was signing up to compete against other speakers. I also became a mentor to newer club members as well as a leader within our club and our region for being able to speak about and train others in social media and marketing. 

Skills Lab

Learning or developing a new skill, no matter what it's been, has always had a side effect of helping me in my career. As I trained on becoming socially fearless, I also learned how to speak with purpose. I've become a mentor to younger professionals wanting to speak more confidently. Even now, I get a little giddy by the opportunities to speak in front of groups, which sounds foreign to most people. 

All of the personal and professional development opportunities have helped me become the confident communicator and leader/mentor I am today. 

Your Turn: Chime In

What personal and professional development opportunities have you undertaken in your career that have helped you where you're at now? Drop me a line and let's talk.