When I was in college, back in my undergraduate days, I have to say that I was a pretty good student! In some classes that were important to my major or ones in which I happened to really like the subject, I might speak up or ask a question here or there. That said, I wasn’t particularly interested in speaking up in class just to do it. Like many students, I attended class to get valuable information that might be on tests, and that was about it.
Fast forward to graduate school, where I was super motivated to do well while getting an MBA. In this case, I usually soaked up as much information as I could in class. My approach started out the same as it was during undergrad days, but I was even more motivated. Yet, I still wasn’t consciously thinking of the need to speak up in class.
Then, I came to fully realize how the class grades would really be administered. 25% of the class grade was based on class participation!
At the time, I found it to be absolutely baffling. My entire life, grades were based on tests, homework, and projects. I’d never experienced a situation where grades could actually be determined by simply the quantity and quality of your comments in class. But here it was, clearly spelled out to us: speaking up is important. So do it.
It took me a long while to adjust to this, and at the time, I really thought it was ridiculous. Grades should be based on what you know, not based on how you talk! That was my mindset, but of course I had to go along with the setup and force myself to speak up in order to help my grade.
Let’s fast forward again to the working world. Years later, I get it. I now agree that academic success and grades shouldn’t be strictly based on how well you do homework or projects, or how hard you study for tests. Those things are very important, but it’s important to also be able to speak up and communicate your knowledge confidently, since that’s how things work in the real world.
This can be important in terms of public speaking skills and your career. But it matters in meetings too. If you’re in a meeting, and you don’t speak up, you’re simply not adding value. If you don’t say anything, it can be implied that you don’t know anything about the matter at hand. Or, you’re not interested.
It’s one of those things that I think can hold true in the workplace, and life in general. Sometimes, perception is reality. Fair or not, it’s the way it is!
I now get the value of the 25% weighting of the class grade coming from class participation. I didn’t get it back then, but years later I do now. Learn how to speak up in meetings, and make sure to do it!
My Questions for You
Do you think it’s important to be able to speak up and make your presence felt at work?
Have you seen instances of this helping someone, or the opposite – where someone didn’t speak up and it negatively impacted them?
Do you have any tips on how to succeed with this?