When you are on an interview, you want to appear to be comfortable and confident but not too comfortable. You do not want to slip into your regular “speaking” – so if you curse a lot in your real life, you want to be extra cautious that crude language does not slip through during your interview. Once, I had a speaker come to some of my classes at a local college and he was great – and he also sounded like an extra from Goodfella’s – but he crafted that persona and used it to help him make sales in his competitive industry.
He told the class the story about how he had been up against Harvard educated people who had done polo and stuff as a sport and he was just always out of his element until he began to embrace the differences and say to potential clients, “I am the real deal – this is who I am and I can help you do XYZ the best” and even with his Brooklyn-ese accent, it became part of his charm.
I think for all of us in the tri-state area, our language and how we speak is something that will always mark us as different and you see it in the world of NYC in any industry, the higher you get in a company, the less you hear of the NY accent. So if you want your career to continue to grow beyond the entry level world, you need to consider how you pronounce your words and what words you use.
For some people, the accent can be what sets us apart and/or can make us appear genuine in a world of upper crust society but for most of us you want to always present yourself as more than you came from as being refined and poised. It is hard to do that when you are saying, “Whaddya mean?” or something to that effect.
I said in a recent VLOG post that I used to sound exactly like Mona Lisa Vito from My Cousin Vinny and it was actually something that brought a lot of joy to many people whom I worked with while in College – in fact, we used to lock all the doors in the Admissions/Registrar’s offices, close the windows and let me entertain the ladies by doing the monologue from the movie - I have spent many afternoons saying, “And my biological clock is ticking like THIS…” even before I knew I had a biological clock.
For me, the accent was killed by living overseas and learning Italian. Learning that language changed the tenor and tone of my voice – unfortunately, it did nothing for my singing as I am still tone deaf as anything but it changed all else. I now speak slower – something that started because I was often translating from English in my mind to Italian out my mouth. But even now, it helped me to slow down and speak more slowly. The only time my accent is noticeable is when I have a cold because then I cannot hear myself and it slips back.
For other people, you can consider learning a few words in another language (maybe some of your family members speak other languages and you can learn from them) or you can just be especially vigilant by taping your voice speaking and then playing it back and listening to it – and then re-taping yourself trying to hide or mimic the accent.
So as you prepare for your next step, think about how you sound and what you say. Present yourself as being poised, professional and ready for your next step by avoiding sounding too “street” and being as ready as you can to step into any role – beyond entry level.
What do you think about these tips? I will be covering this and more in the Spring at Wagner College - find out more below. What do you do to prepare your speaking voice for an interview? Happy Hunting!
Lisa Vento Nielsen