A common mistake job searchers make is that they spend too much energy touting the greatness of previous employers.
“…third largest pet supply store in the nation”
“…leading importer of drink umbrellas”
Look: I don’t care. You probably had very little to do with the accomplishment, and the fact is, you are no longer employed by them. Which means that either you don’t fit into their “winning” culture, or they did something to you that you found distasteful enough to want to leave. Either way, it this information doesn’t help your cause.
This is true on the resume, and especially true when communicating face-to-face. When you look me in the eye and start talking about how great your previous employer is, I hear a lot of things… about you. For instance:
You lack confidence.
You lack self-awareness.
You don’t know what you can do for me.
You don’t see the value in the last job you did.
Why else would you be hiding behind someone else’s accomplishments?
Try this instead: write a personal elevator pitch.
Here are the rules:
The pitch has 3 parts: The hook, the value, and the close.
You have 5 seconds to hook me.
You have 20 seconds to demonstrate your value.
You need to be able to close me with total confidence: no flinching, giggling, looking away, or displaying any other tell.
And now the strategy:
The hook is what you can do for me. I don’t care that you’re looking for a job. I only care if you can help me. Heck, if you’re employed and can help me, I’ll consider stealing you away from your current employer. The hook is part job description, part differentiator. Don’t get cute—this is the conversation starter, and you don’t need people rolling their eyes at you before you even start. In dating parlance, the hook is your opening line.
Sticking with the dating theme, your “value” is your “rap,” and it answers the question: of everyone around who wants to come home with/come work for me, why should I say yes to you? (If you think that’s a crude analogy, I’ve got bad news for you: it’s as perfect an analogy as there is. Selling yourself to an employer is exactly the same as selling yourself to a date: if the sale is based on a lie, if it’s rushed, or if things start off “complicated,” the relationship probably won’t get off the ground stick, let alone stick.)
The close is the “ask.” Picture the next conversation and guide yourself toward it.What’s the next step: meet the people on the team? Submit your resume to someone? Negotiate salary? Pick up a project to prove yourself? Anticipate this and deliver a line that guides the conversation toward that end.
Simple concept… but wait until you see how tough it is to pull together.
Remember, the idea here is to sell yourself. You are trying to get yourself hired—you’re not looking to help your former employer land a new client!
There are three homework assignments for the lesson with increasing difficulty.
[EASY] Take a look at your resume. How many characters are devoted to trumpeting the accomplishments of the companies you’ve worked for? Delete these lines and replace them with information about yourself.
[HARD] Before you can deliver your elevator pitch, you need to get comfortable talking about yourself. You need to have confidence in yourself! Here’s a great way to get started—and I promise, it’s not as easy as it sounds: stand in front of a mirror. Watch your face as if you were conversing with yourself. Introduce yourself and speak for about 30 seconds about your strengths. Without stopping, fill 30 seconds with shortcomings (you know, the stuff that you’d change about yourself if you weren’t so good at hiding it from others). After a minute, state how much you want to get paid. Do this until you can get through the whole thing, including the last little piece, without flinching or breaking eye contact with yourself.
[VERY HARD] Write out a 30-second personal pitch according to the rules and strategies above and deliver it to yourself in the mirror until you are totally comfortable with it. Do not expect to get this in a day. Just get started today… this needs to become something you work on regularly.
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