Posts Tagged ‘networking’

The elevator pitch, sometimes known as the 30-second infomercial, is one of the most important tools in your job search along with your resume, self-esteem and breath mints.

The elevator pitch is your (short) spiel about yourself professionally; how you market yourself verbally. That doesn’t mean you just spit it out to anyone and everyone you meet, including people in an actual elevator. The guy on the stretcher next to you in the emergency room, where you’ve landed after tripping over your dog’s foot and banging your nose on the coffee table, may not want to hear it. You do, however, want to say it when it’s appropriate, like when you’re asked the question in an interview, “Tell me about yourself.” Or in the formal portion of a networking event when you’re asked to stand up and introduce yourself for a minute or less. Or when you’re chatting with someone and you give them the first sentence or two of your “pitch” and they ask for more details. You want it to sound conversational, and you want to tailor it to your audience – if you’re a techie and you’re talking to other techies, you can use techie terms, whereas non-techies won’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

So what do you say in the elevator speech? Well, here’s the pitch (hey, felt like I was a Red Sox commentator for a minute there.  Anyway).  The pitch is essentially made up of four parts:

  • I am… as in, your name. I’m going to assume you don’t have any trouble with that one.
  • I do…a job title that accurately describes what you want to do; how you want to market your area of expertise. Or if a job title would leave too much room for perplexity, some detail that clarifies what you want to focus on. For example, “I run a pet waste elimination company” kinda says what you do, but it’s not as clear as, “I run a company that scoops your dog’s poop.”
  • I help…a little more detail about how your skills would benefit a company, your clients, and/or the world at large. To add to the example above, “We come to your house and clean your pet’s waste from the yard, and sprinkle fragrant organic herb particles that get rid of the odor, so your yard smells great.”
  • I need…Not as in, “I need a job,” but the idea is to say what you’re looking for, and where: “I’m looking to expand my business to pet-owners in the North Shore area.” Or more specifically for those looking for a job in a company, “I’m looking to use my blah blah skills in a small or medium-sized pet-related business.”

Make sure to put it all in a positive light; don’t just say, “I’m unemployed.” Even in your description of what you have to offer, it’s better to say, “…so your yard smells great….” than, “…so your yard doesn’t smell like shit.”

You (hopefully) know a lot of what to do when you and your last job have parted ways. Network, volunteer, join groups, do a targeted search, blah blah blah. Here are some things NOT to do when you’re not working:

  • Stay in bed (alone) until 2:00 p.m. If you’re not alone, then by all means go for it. Well, maybe not every day. You wouldn’t have enough energy left to do a job search. But staying in bed half the day alone is kinda like drinking alone – it’s more depressing and dysfunctional than fun. You don’t have to get up at six a.m. if you’re not a morning person and you don’t have any early appointments that day, but before 10:00 is probably a good idea (can you guess I’m not a morning person??).
  • Watch TV in the middle of the day. It may be tempting to catch up on Jerry Springer and see whose life sucks more than yours, but that’s not a habit you want to get into.
  • Spend hours looking at online job boards and applying for listed job openings. Yes, it’s easy (well, relatively speaking). Yes, it makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something when you actually apply for jobs that are listed. But you know where that usually gets you, don’t you? That’s right, you’ll be sucked into the Job Seeker Vortex of the Apocalypse. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • Eat all day. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that one.
  • Spend a lot of time rearranging your underwear drawer. You may think, “Oh good, now I have time to do all the pesky household stuff I never have time for.” By all means, clean the house and use the opportunity to catch up on some of that other stuff, but don’t use it to avoid job search activities. If you’re spending more time alphabetizing your toiletries than doing job search stuff, you’re in trouble.
  • Staying up late every night. This goes along with the first one, of course, cuz if you’re out drinking or just up watching Nick at Nite, it’ll be hard to get up at a reasonable time. I fell into this trap when I wasn’t working – at one point, I was going to bed at 3  a.m. and getting up at 1:00 in the afternoon. Needless to say, I didn’t get a hell of a lot done.
  • Spend most of your time hanging out with friends. I don’t mean you shouldn’t see your friends, because they’re very important. But don’t go to a Hitchcock film in the middle of the day with your buddy and call it networking.
  • Spend hours on one cover letter. Maybe the first one for a particular type of job may take longer, and you always want to target your cover letters and take time to make them as likely as possible to elicit responses (and of course proofread!), but there is such a thing as going overboard. Mildly obsessive is okay, pathological is not.
  • Spend hours every day fooling around with your resume. Yes, it’s important to tailor it to the job you’re targeting, and it always is a work in progress to a certain point, but again you can take it too far. Don’t pick at it like a scab ’til it bleeds all over your laptop.
  • Go to one networking group event after another that has absolutely nothing to do with you. I must have said this before, but I’ll say it again – although networking is the most important way to spend your job-search time, and it’s good to open up to new interests, it doesn’t pay to compulsively and gratuitously attend events on topics you could care less about. If you’re into God, guns and ammo, don’t join the Society For Atheist Tree-Huggers.

There are lots of different ways to network effectively, and a few ways not to network if you don’t want to bug the hell out of people. Bugging the hell out of people is generally not an effective strategy.

Seven Networking Dos

1.   Make a list of contacts, including relatives, friends, ex-co-workers and supervisors, ex-spouses (well, maybe not them), other professionally-related people you know such as vendors you regularly worked with, people with whom you’re in some kind of interest or community group, ex-classmates, instructors, etc.

2.  Connect or reconnect with these folks around something you have in common.

3.   Get out there. Attend events, take classes. Go to professional networking events related to your field, networking events not related to your field, fundraisers, events related to your interests, parties, barbeques, bar mitzvahs, bachelor parties, etc., etc., etc. The more opportunities you have to chat with friends, acquaintances, and strangers, the better. As long as you don’t get too schnockered.

4.  If you haven’t already, join professional organizations related to your field if they’re not too pricey for your current financial situation.

5.  Whether it’s with someone you know intimately or a total stranger, in person or online, always make it a “mutual benefit” encounter. It’s not just about you and your job search. What can you do for them? Come on, you can think of something.

6.   Develop a positive online presence. Yes, I said “positive.” More on that below in the “Don’ts” section. Build a professional presence related to your field, and/or another topic you have a lot of knowledge about. Get on LinkedIn and Twitter. Join online professional/interest groups, post articles, (intelligently) comment on others’ blogs.

7.   Remember you have tons of talents and knowledge to offer, and you can be a valuable resource to others even if you don’t happen to be working right now. So strut your stuff a little. Not in an obnoxious way, rather in a confident “I-have-the-goods” kind of way.

And Now For the 7 Networking Don’ts:

1.   Don’t harass people. It may sound obvious (at least, I hope so), but no one will want to help you with anything, much less be within fifty feet of you, if you pester them. Connect and follow up, yes, but don’t call people every day, don’t try to contact them more than two or three times at the most (not in the same hour); generally don’t be an inconsiderate asshole.

2.   Don’t be ignorant of the online impression you may be making. Facebook photos of you with your pants on your head and blog comments in support of snuff films won’t help you. Don’t know what snuff films are? Good for you.

3.   Don’t walk up to someone at an event and say, “I heard you’re the Financial Manager at Vandalay Industries. Here’s my resume. Could you spare a couple of hours to take me to dinner so we can talk about my background? Thanks a bunch.” Of course, I know you’re not one of THOSE people. Are you? If so, stop it.

4.   Don’t join groups just for the hell of it. Yes, I know we’re all human and all of us have SOMETHING in common and all that crap. You’re much more likely to find people to connect with and have stuff to say if you have a reason to be a part of that particular group other than to network for networking’s sake. If you’re an outdoor, sports-y person, don’t take a needlepoint class in hopes of finding people who can give you job leads.

5.   Don’t try to reconnect with people who probably would prefer not to hear from you. Ex-boyfriends who cheated on you (or vice-versa) wouldn’t likely be good people to attempt to network with.

6.   Don’t put anything online unless you’ve proofread it first. Spelling and grammatical errors won’t win you any brownie points.

7.   I said it before, and I’ll say it again – Don’t make it all about you. Show your interest in the other person and whatever they’ve got going on. Offer to give them info, contacts, resources, massage, whatever. Well, only the massage if you know them really well. You don’t want to give the wrong idea. But you know what I’m saying.

I cautioned in an earlier post against spewing your resume. Beyond not spewing to any and every employer, you also don’t want to be the obedient little jobseeker and just trot out all your info online for the HR pod people. Trot, trot.

No, you want to make a list of places you’d give your big toe to work for, hunt around online to find the contact info for the manager/director of whatever department makes sense in terms of your field, hunt around some more to find info on the company’s goals, problems, etc., and then contact the aforementioned person to let them know how you, with your many superpowers, can help them banish the beast.

Notice I didn’t say send your resume to that person only if you see a job posted that you’re interested in. You actually have a better shot if there isn’t one. Yep, that’s what I said. If there is a job posted, everyone within a hundred miles will crawl out from under their rock to send their resume for that one job. But if you send the superpower letter for a possible opportunity that would be a fit, you can ask to set up an informational meeting to discuss the above further, without asking that person to interview you for a particular position.

Why would you want to bother, if there isn’t a job listed in which you’re interested? Well, there may very well be a job that became available ten minutes ago, that hasn’t been posted yet. Or someone is about to give notice next week. Or maybe the person who updates their website is sitting with his finger up his ass.

How do you find the manager’s name and other relevant company info? LinkedIn, baby. Do a search for the company. Also, Google the company name and the position you’re looking to connect to a person, and you can usually find it. Use your network (of course, you have one. Don’t you???) to see if you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows what you need to know.

By the way, when I say “superpowers,” you know I don’t mean it literally, right? It’s much more effective to show a prospective employer how your experience and talents match what they need, rather than brag about how great you are. How great you are will come out anyway, but in a much more real way. Just like with sex, it usually works out better in the long run if you don’t fake it.

Staying positive and motivated can be tough when you’re counting the days ’til your next unemployment check. It’s scary and stressful, and generally sucks. Here are some suggestions to make it suck less:

  • Hang around people who have jobs. This may sound easier than it is in the current job market, since everyone and their Great-Grandma Mabel has been laid off, but contrary to popular belief there are actually still people who are working. You may wonder why the hell this will help you. There are 2 reasons. First, someone who is working is more likely to be around other people who are also working, and possibly have job leads. Second, though it’s not a bad thing to occasionally vent your frustration, you don’t want to wallow in it for too long, which is easy to do with your fellow unemployees (yes, I know it’s not a word. So sue me.). That doesn’t mean you should just diss your unemployed friends, or that job search groups aren’t helpful. They are, as long as they don’t become bitch-and-snivel sessions. Which brings me to my next point.
  • Banish people from your life who make you feel like crap. This is a good rule of thumb in general, but we’ll focus on how it relates to your job search. Assholes who bring you down, tell you you’ll never get a job, you can’t do this or that, discourage you, generally concentrate on the negative and tell you the roof will cave in are not people to hang with. Unless they’re roofers who actually know that, in fact, your roof will cave in, in which case you probably want to get the hell out of the house.
  • Do stuff. Volunteer, take a part-time job, join groups that relate to something you’re interested in. You’ll be less likely to lie around depressed, watching One Life to Live and Andy Griffith reruns. You’ll also get your social fix, have the chance to network and possibly find job leads, have something constructive to put on your resume for your unemployed time besides fixing the leaky faucet in the bathroom, keep your skills up, and maybe gain new skills that’ll help you get a job.
  • Do good stuff for yourself. Exercise. Gets those endorphins going, helps you be healthy and feel good. Take a bath (no, not because you stink. Well, maybe you do, but how would I know that?). It’s a free way to relax and pamper yourself. You can even indulge in scents and bubbles — even if you’re a guy (of course if you are, I’d keep it to myself if I were you). Eat healthy, but give yourself a treat once in awhile. Do deep breathing or meditation or whatever you’re into to relax.
  • Do whatever’s worked in the past that makes you feel better and stay motivated. You would know that better than me. Refrain from doing the stuff that hasn’t worked or made you feel worse, since that would be stupid.

Here’s some stuff not to do when shmoozing with employers:

10.   Pull a copy of your resume out of your bra and hand it to the recruiter.

9.     Chomp on gum and pull it out of your mouth in one long string.

8.     Show up at a job fair in sweats.

7.     Give the employer details about your efforts to get your juvie record sealed.

6.     Talk to a would-be employer at a networking event with your mouth full, and spit food in her face.

5.     Wear a lime-green polka-dot tie to a meeting at a finance company.

4.     Peer into the HR person’s desk drawer and pocket a roll of mints when they leave the room.

3.     Blast Marilyn Manson on your MP3 player while waiting to be interviewed.

2.    Tell the recruiter about how much you hated your last job.

1.    Carry your career portfolio in a plastic Victoria’s Secret bag.

And in case you’re wondering, I have actually witnessed most of these firsthand. Yes, really.

There is a time and place for whining. Like if you’re the siren on the roof of an ambulance when it’s rushing to the hospital with some shmuck who just got bonked on the head with one of those blue thingys that occasionally fall out of airplane toilets.

The time and place for whining is not in a job interview.  It’s not when you’re networking with people who may possibly know someone who knows someone who may provide a job lead or some helpful information. It’s not at your cousin’s 4th of July barbecue when your Aunt Melody with the hairy armpits asks you how your job search is going. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that there are few situations in which whining isn’t frowned on, and job search whining is one of the worst.

What exactly constitutes job search whining? Well, I’ll tell you. Here are some of the most whiny job search phrases, guaranteed to make someone want to smack you:

  • There are no jobs out there for me.
  • No one will hire me – I’m too old.
  • No one will hire me – I’m too young.
  • Nobody’s hiring.
  • You have to know someone to get a job – it’s not fair.

Now, I know the job market is still tight, though it is starting to come back.  And yes, age discrimination does exist, and employers want people who have experience. And “knowing someone,” otherwise known as networking, is more likely to work as a job search strategy than just spitting resumes indiscriminately out into the black void. Even during a recession, though, there are available jobs; people do get hired every day. And guess who the ones being hired are? The people who aren’t whining.