Thursday, October 18, 2007

And Here's The Pitch...

Before I lead into today's article, let me apologize for having not posted in over a week. I could blame it on the Red Sox losing lately, like many of my fellow Massachusetts counterparts, but I will instead take sole responsibility. Kevin Millar of the 2004 World Series Red Sox had a catch phrase, "Buck Up", and that is exactly what I am going to do.

Today's posting like many before, come from and Laura Allen. I know I make a ton of plugs for TheLadders, but the resources they provide are well worth the praise. And while I have not personally met Laura Allen, her article below is well worth similar praise.

Trying to describe our careers and what we do can often be difficult for individuals to summarize into a brief "elevator pitch." Most of my attempts result in a response of: "So you're a headhunter?" Laura, a pitch specialist, provides insight and advice as to how to create a personalized pitch that will work for you. For those of you preparing to make a career change, this article may be timely as your pitch could make or break whether you land that next dream job. As always, I encourage feedback and please let me know if there is specific material you would like to see included in the blog. Enjoy -

By Laura Allen

"So, what do you do?" It’s the often the first question you’re asked when networking and it’s certainly not easy to answer when you’re looking for a new job. Even if you’re currently employed, it can be difficult to explain what you do for a living. If you’re uncomfortable pitching yourself and your skills, you’re not alone!

Here are some tips to help you pitch your way into a new position!

Skip the "Kitchen Sink" Pitch
Many job seekers make the mistake of using what I call the "kitchen sink" pitch. They tell you their entire life history and exactly what they can do right now. They’ll tell you they’re experts in everything from advertising to marketing to financial planning and they could even answer phones or wait tables if they had to.

The trouble with this approach is that no one wants to hire a generalist. They want to hire an expert who can fill the specific position they have open. So, focus on your expertise and the skills needed for the job that you really want.

Focus Your Energy
When job seeking, you’re faced with the paradox of choice: there are a lot of great jobs out there that might be good for you. So, like many job seekers, you might float from one great-sounding job description to the next. But the key is to figure out that one thing that you absolutely need in your next position and build that into your pitch.

Holly, a client I recently worked with, was certain of two things: that she wanted to move back to Japan and needed a high level, challenging position to support this move. So, she told everyone she met, "I am going to Japan" -- yes, phrased in the present tense. Then, every conversation she had was focused on Japan and she was able to easily mention how her excellent interpersonal skills would be the perfect fit for a company in Japan. She landed a job as a fundraiser for a major university with a campus in Japan.

Sam, on the other hand, had already found his perfect $100k+ job posted online, though the company name wasn’t listed. After a little industry research, Sam discovered the hiring company, and most importantly he found out his former Sunday school teacher was employed there. Sam landed the job by telling his teacher why he’d be a great candidate for the specific position. She agreed and immediately made an introduction for him. He was invited to come in for an interview the next day and joined the company as its CFO within 30 days of seeing the ad posted online.

You never know when an opportunity is going to present itself in the virtual or real world, so be sure you have your pitch ready.

Answer the "Top Four Questions"
By answering these four questions, you’ll be able to create an elevator pitch you can deliver in just 15 seconds. After all, every second counts when you see that perfect job advertised online or you hear about it at a networking event.

Remember, pitching yourself is all about putting your best foot forward and letting your audience know why you make a remarkable candidate.

1. Who are you?Introduce yourself using your first and last name. This simple step is the most important. When you’re asked "So, what do you do?" at a networking event, you want to be sure that they remember your name!

2. What do you do?Be as specific as possible. Don’t try to be too clever in your answer because it can be confusing. Instead, keep your explanation simple, while at the same time covering all of the necessary details. If people don’t know or can’t explain exactly what you do, they can never refer job leads to you or recommend you to others. For example, instead of saying that you’re a photographer, you could say, "I’m a professional photographer with 20 years of experience who specializes in high end fashion."

3. What makes you the best at what you do?You only get one chance to make that first impression, so be bold! Stand out in a positive way. Let them know what makes you better than all of the other candidates out there. To continue with our photographer example, you could say something like, "My clients include Versace and Kenneth Cole" (assuming, of course, that’s true!).

4. What’s your call to action?What is your ideal next step after this meeting? Most job seekers have a very vague call to action. They end their conversation with something like "let me know if you hear of anything." That’s not so compelling. You’re much better off saying something like, "I’d like to invite you out to lunch to learn more about how you got into this industry." Though it might sound a little clich?, the "let’s do lunch" concept still works.

Test Drive Your Pitch
You might not love this idea, but you need to take your new 15 second pitch out for a test drive. Practice makes perfect. So, go to as many networking events as you can. I like the "speed networking events" because they’re fast-paced and you meet a lot of different people. They also force you to be very concise about who you are and what you do. When you’re delivering your pitch to people, take note of what seems to get people excited, but also where they get confused. These are the areas that you’ll need to refine until they are perfect.

Laura Allen is a co-founder of and has been written about in Adweek, The Financial Times, Crain’s New York Business, and The Wall Street Journal. In addition to teaching 15SecondPitchTM workshops and speaking in various business venues, Laura assists private clients. Her 15SecondPitchTM is here.

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