The Career Doctor™

by Dr. Jacqueline Hornor Plumez

Looking for a first job? Thinking of changing careers? Facing a lay-off? The Career Doctor™ is a Larchmont psychologist specializing in career counseling. If you'd like to ask a question of your own, use the anonymous , and she might answer you here. Read more about the Career Doctor here. Contact in ation is here.


Dear Career Doctor:

I am currently in high school and I am thinking about becoming a lawyer. I have excellent logical thinking and very good writing skills, however I am very nervous about getting up and speaking to a group. I have no problem talking with friends and make a good impression meeting new people. (I am very quick-witted and can see both sides of an argument.) But I lack confidence speaking at public gatherings. I am of the opinion that to be a good speaker you should know what you are talking about. So after law school will I become a good speaker automatically having acquired substantial legal knowledge? If your answer is no, how can I improve my oral presentations?


Dear Tarun:

Knowing your subject well does give a person confidence, but you probably know your high school subjects well and still have problems. It is possible that all the years ahead of you in school where you will have to talk in class and make presentations will give you the practice and confidence you need. If not, know that public speaking phobias are very curable.

You have hit a subject that is dear to my heart, since I had a public speaking phobia for years and now am very comfortable giving talks to large groups. And it's not just you and me with this fear: almost 90% of people have some of public speaking phobia. If you watch, you will notice that even the most confident looking speakers usually have shaky hands when they begin to speak.

So here are some ideas about getting over your fears.

1. Join a public speaking group like Toastmasters. This can give you practice and experience in a supportive environment.

2. Always imagine yourself enjoying speaking and smiling at the audience, NOT being nervous.

3. If you feel like you could use some medication for public speaking anxiety, you might ask your physician about inderal. It is a high blood pressure medication that many per ers use to block those nasty symptoms like blushing, trembling and shaky voice. (Sometimes it is also prescribed for extreme test anxiety.) If your doctor approves, you would take an inderal tablet only before a speech, not regularly, Unlike anti-anxiety medications, it doesn't dull your mind.

4. If these ideas don't work, you can consult a psychologist who will use a technique called relaxation and desensitization that is specifically designed to cure phobias. If you think your situation is not severe enough to consult a psychologist, you can try to use a of the technique yourself. Here's how it works:

Learn to relax yourself (there are commercial relaxation tapes and techniques available), or psychologists like me can create relaxation tapes specifically for the anxieties of their patients. When you have learned to relax yourself, you begin to imagine getting up in public and enjoying speaking. Then you begin to try it in real life.. But here is the most important part: start very, very small and only when you are comfortable with the small stuff, would you begin speaking in a slightly more stressful situations. For example, to cure my own public speaking phobia, I started just saying a few things about topics I knew well to groups of friends. Only when I was comfortable with that, did I increase (slowly) the number of people I spoke to and the length of what I had to say. In this step-by-step way I slowly progressed from being comfortable to speaking in front of a few people to now when I can talk in front of several thousand.

The Career Doctor



The Career Doctor™ is Larchmont psychologist and career counselor, Dr. Jacqueline Hornor Plumez.

Her office is at 90 Beechtree Drive in Larchmont, 914-834-1982.

For more in ation go to