Monday, March 7, 2011

Perfect Pitch: Creating YOUR Best Elevator Spech

Article first published as How to Give the Perfect Pitch on Technorati.

I’m in sales, so I’m always pitching something.  Whether it’s a brand, an idea, or a product or service, I’m comfortable with the process of creating a compelling pitch and persuading others to “buy in” with their support, budget, effort, or other resources.

As a job seeker, you should get equally comfortable with the notion that you’re selling yourself to potential employers, but also to any number of people along the way who can help you get connected to new opportunities, based on their perception of who you are, what you bring to the party, and where your passion lies.  Your ability to concisely articulate your unique value proposition might be the strongest weapon in your career arsenal and will exponentially improve your networking and job search results.   You can call this pitch a personal branding statement, elevator pitch, or individual value proposition, but whatever you call it, create one now.

So, grab some pencil and paper and start drafting the elements of your pitch.

1)     What’s your name?  Sounds obvious, right? You need to be clear about what name you want to use professionally.  Stay consistent.   This can be a challenge for those of us with maiden names, or for folks who prefer a shortened name or nickname.  Get clear on what you want to be called and use that name consistently.  Make sure that if you choose to use a nickname, it isn’t one that will negatively impact people’s perception of you. (For example, George W. Bush stopped encouraging people call him “Junior” and even Eminem dropped the name “Slim Shady”, right?)
2)     What do you do?  How do you see yourself?  What service or role do you do well or do you wish to do in your next role?  You can be creative here.  If you’re a salesperson for an HR outsourcing company, you can say that you help companies connect with experts to put HR best practices in place. If you’re a private chef, you could say that work with busy households to ensure that they always have delicious, healthful food available for family meals, snacks and special occasions.  You can also of course say what you are: nurse, teacher, or student. Be authentic!  Is your self-image tied to your title, or is it a specific facet of your job/career?  There’s no right answer here. You need to be accurate about your qualifications and core focus, but you can choose whether to say who you work for and what your title is, or focus more on what’s important to you about what you do and frame it in terms of where you want to go next.
3)     What’s your passion?  What truly compels you?  Is it an industry, platform, environmental concern, industry best practice, or some other focus?  If you’re passionate about some aspect of your current role or if a personal passion is driving a career change, you should communicate this. You’re much more interesting, credible, and persuasive if your passion shines through.  
4)     How do others benefit from working with you?  What unique value do you bring to the table?  What outcome or results can you help an organization achieve?  What accomplishment or trait do you possess that’s important for people to know about?  You don’t want to come across as a braggart, but you do need to toot your own horn!
5)     Where are you going? Do you have a clear vision or career aspiration?  Are you planning relocation or will you soon be earning additional certification or education?  If so, this needs to be part of your pitch, so that it’s forward-looking and enables the listener to help you.

Write ideas down for these categories.  Play around with options and narrow it down to your best answers to each question.  Now, take those concepts and create one paragraph that captures you.  Read it aloud.  Does it sound natural, like something you’d actually say?  If not, tweak it – you need to get really comfortable with this statement for conversational use. Make sure it’s not more than about 20 seconds – we’re a short attention span nation! Now, practice, practice, practice! Run it by your best friend, spouse, mentor, colleague or other confidant.  Get some feedback, then, retool and rehearse again.  Want some more ideas?  Look here:
Now that you have your Perfect Pitch, how should you use it?  Use it at networking events, in interviews, introductions, when you catch up with people from your past, or when you talk to a recruiter.  You can also use it to craft your career objective on your resume, or to create your Linked In profile statement (or any other Social Media profiles), and you can use a version of it in any cover letter you write.  Be sure you can both write and say it in a voice that is uniquely yours.

Now get to work, so you can get to work and tackle the 21st century job market! 

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