ed muses upon

2011/07/26

Staying Focused: Perspective

One-point perspective. Tennoji Park, Osaka, Japan.

Image via Wikipedia

“I’m good at offering people advice that works well for them. I just can’t seem to do that for myself.”

Does this sound like someone you know? For that matter, does it sound like you?

This happens to me fairly often and I bet it’s a sufficiently common phenomenon that the odds are good that if you’re reading this, it might sound like someone you know, if not you.

Or maybe this situation sounds familiar. A friend has asked you to review their résumé and see if you can offer some insight. Maybe it’s someone you’ve known for years, maybe it’s someone relatively new to you that you’ve met through networking, but we’ve all been there: someone wants your input on their résumé. And you probably saw a few things that you could suggest.

Perhaps they’re still using an objective, when summaries are now in vogue. Or perhaps it’s something really substantial, like the résumé is lacking in accomplishments, so each position consists only of a list of duties. It could be something as simple as including the LinkedIn public profile URL with the rest of the contact details. Whatever the case: you were able to help your friend make some edits that were helpful and left the résumé stronger than when you first saw it.

I think we’ve all been there.

When I went through outplacement some years ago, a group exercise in which I participated was reviewing one another’s résumés. It was a thought-provoking and instructive exercise. What I learned through that experience was how much easier it is to write about someone else rather than ourselves.

In my experience, I find that quite often, job seekers are reticent to speak confidently about what we have accomplished in the past, and perhaps as importantly, what we expect to achieve in the future.

So let me pose a question: if it’s easier to offer advice to others and it’s easier to write about someone else than about ourselves, how do we improve our résumés?

There are several possible answers, but I can’t help thinking that if it’s easier to talk about someone else, why not leverage that tendency? Why not get together a few friends and get their input?

Part of my branding strategy involves the word “wordsmith”—anyone who’s heard my elevator speech has heard this. Some time ago, a recruiter I know expressed some concerns about the fact that, as a recruiter, he will never do a search for a “wordsmith”. People who want someone with a way with words will never try to find someone that way: they will look for a writer or a copy editor. And if I didn’t use those terms, I would be harming my candidacy.

It took him telling me this to understand. I need to step outside of myself and be sure that how I present myself to others—whether online or otherwise—is understandable. It was an important lesson to learn—and underscores the importance of stepping outside of ourselves. Without his input, I would never have thought to broaden my branding.

That was just one person’s input. Imagine what more any of us could learn if we had more input from people whose views we trust?

At the end of the day: perspective may just help you stay focused on what really matters in your job search process: branding that helps you land your next opportunity.

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2010/05/18

Staying Focused: Best Practices & Your Elevator Speech

I participate in many conversations about elevator speeches in various networking groups. A question often raised in these conversations is how to convey our key information succinctly and memorably. The elevator speech needs to achieve both of those objectives, but the optimal verbiage to accomplish both can be elusive. So I want to share a summary of the best practices I have encountered thus far about crafting the elevator speech.

It’s a Commercial:

The elevator speech needs to be brief, between 30 and 60 seconds according to most sources. These time constraints underscore the aptness of the other name for an elevator speech: the 30 second commercial. And just as a commercial’s purpose is to make you pick up a product in a store several days later, yours should intrigue the reader or listener enough to ask follow-up questions.

Authenticity:

Many sources about elevator speeches stress that it must sound natural, an honest reflection of your passion for the work and the way you speak. This is important for one very simple reason. If you pique someone’s interest and they ask follow-up questions, an abrupt shift from the highly polished 30 second commercial to a something much less polished may harm your credibility with the listener. While your elevator speech may be so finely crafted that it resembles the work of William Shakespeare, if you don’t usually speak in Elizabethan English using iambic pentameter, using it is probably not the best idea.

Uniqueness:

We each possess a unique set of skills, aptitudes, work experience, and qualifications which make us great candidates. From that rich background should flow the success stories of your work history. Perhaps an idea you had saved your employer millions of dollars. Maybe you landed a significant client—or retained a major client that was considering moving on. Or did you streamline a process so that it required 25% less time, thereby freeing colleagues to spend time addressing other pressing matters? In like fashion, your success stories should underscore the unique combination of talents you represent. While you likely will have time for only one success story when you give your elevator speech, it’s important to have several on hand, because the conversation may lend itself to including a different success story in one circumstance than another.

Adaptability:

Your elevator speech, no matter how polished, natural, or engaging, is never really “done”. As you encounter new situations or new advice that resonates with you, it will continue evolving, a mirror reflecting those experiences and that advice. You would be very unlikely to deliver your elevator speech in a networking group the same way you would in an interview.

And this is a good thing! This need for constant change serves as a valuable reminder that, as with any other best practices, relentless commitment to excellence is the single most important part of the equation.

And at the end of the day, best practices in crafting your elevator speech helps you stay focused on the big picture: landing your next job.

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