This blog is long overdue because I have been pulled in so many exciting directions with my Leadership Greater Washington workshops and events, plus the training and coaching I have been doing through Reitkopp Recruiting. Without fail, my most useful blogs have involved the mechanics or tools that help individuals with their career advancement. A pitch is simple, straightforward, and powerful when done right. The person who delivers a strong one, makes it look easy, but anything that’s good takes prep and work. You can’t skip the planning stages. Come along for the ride.
If you don’t know by know, I like to talk although I am also a good listener. A reoccurring theme has been played out in several recent conversations. It doesn’t matter if you are fresh from college, rising in the ranks, mid stream career shifters, or retirees identifying second careers, we all need to know how to answer the question, “So what do you do?” or “What would you like to be doing?” American’s always talk about careers, especially here in DC. What I hear pretty often is, “I’m not sure what I want to do, so what do I say?”
Here’s my response, you don’t have to know specifically what you want to do, but you do have to be able to express what you can do and where you have applied it, plus close with what contributions you can make to any organization.
Lead on MacDuff
Typically, when I am interviewing someone, the conversation starts slowly with a description of various jobs. Some people describe minute details, others skim so fast if you pause you miss something. When I listen to their stories, you’d be able to hear my fingers on the keys because I always take notes. People see me take notes even at a book talk or lecture because it helps me concentrate and not forget the nuances. I also find that it helps me filter out the noise and find the gems.
My role, when I work with individuals, is to sort through all the details and identify what they are good at doing. This tends to be the things that interest them most. The Gallup Organization gives everyone it hires the CliftonStrengthFinder created by Dr. Don Clifton. His son, Jim Clifton, CEO at Gallup said, “He advised people to build around their strengths rather than fix their weaknesses”.
“Soaring with your Strengths” was the phrase they coined and wrote a book about describing the philosophy. I’m not implying that we shouldn’t learn about things we don’t know, but I do think it’s important to identify what we excel at doing and what we enjoy because we spend over 70 or 80% of our waking hours on our job.
The way to find the greatest satisfaction in our careers is to find a good cultural fit with an organization where we embrace their mission. This means you need to create a good pitch. If you can’t tell people who you are and what you do, how will they find you?
The first time I blogged about pitches was to craft one for an opening statement on your resume. It’s important to build a powerful, consistent, marketing pitch that you use consistently across your all marketing materials. Yes, you are marketing yourself on your resume, on LinkedIn or on any other social media. You also need a version you are able to share verbally in person.
My version of an “elevator pitch” or “30 second pitch” is it’s your opportunity to share with someone what you are good at doing, where you have been successful and to translate what you have done into how you add value for an organization. Each piece is important but that final sentence packs the punch.
Let’s break this out with an example from my experience.
Concept in Action
Your opening line needs to be dynamic and in the best journalistic style, how do you grab your audience, share enough information to keep them reading or listening?
Here’s a version of what I might say to someone if we started chatting and that infamous question came up.
As a headhunter, I’ve spent the last 25 plus years, matching talented social scientists to research companies where they have a lasting impact on the success of the organization.
Next you need to give more substance, flavor and dimension.
Listening to the specific “pain points” of my client companies, and hearing about the quantitative capabilities of scientists, is like putting together a puzzle. Not only do I screen for ability, but I am able to understand the importance of finding a cultural fit.
Always close but don’t forget to share what you bring to the table that differentiates you.
It’s amazing to see the 100s of people I have placed in roles continue to excel in their careers. As I watch the organizations I’ve matched with talent, their successes demonstrate that I truly understand not only the technical skills, but how to find the right people for the right firms, again and again.
What Are You Waiting For?!
Brainstorm, write it all down, sift through the details, the experiences, and settings. Be able to share that opening statement that grabs your listener’s attention. Paint the picture of your setting where you thrive and can best contribute. Then close with the statement that translates what you have done into how you add value. You will find yourself gaining a clearer picture about what you enjoy doing and where you do it well, and how you can bring this to your next employer. Don’t wait, sit down and craft your pitch now!