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BY G. A. FINCH
An executive and fellow author I know had suggested that I write about “elevator pitches” in my book, The Savvy Executive: The Handbook Covering Employment Contracts, Compensation, Executive Skills, and Much More. It was a practical suggestion but I needed to set limits on the length of my book. I am making up for this omission by this blog post.
I personally have two elevator speeches that, admittedly, I do not use as often as I should.
For those readers who are not familiar with the concept of an “elevator speech,” it is having a ready-made quick response to someone who asks “What do you do for a living?” or “What business are you in?” The idea is that on an elevator you may have approximately 30 to 45 seconds to tell what you do before you get to the floor where you, or your interlocutor, or both of you have to get off and go your separate ways. The point is to inform the person asking about your business or profession in an interesting, memorable way so that a connection might be made. With an effective elevator speech, ideally, the person listening will feel compelled to either take time to ask you more questions or ask for your business card to follow up, assuming such person has a need for the services or goods that you have to offer.
The term “elevator speech” is a shorthand way of saying that you need to be able, in any setting, to tell someone what you do for a living in a way that is informative and engaging. For example if someone were to ask me at a reception “What do you do?,” and I respond “I am an attorney” or “I am an author” or “I am a partner at the Hoogendoorn & Talbot law firm,” then such a response does not tell them much of anything and I may have missed a business development opportunity.
So there is utility in having a succinct, pithy description of what you do for a living. In most situations, you will have more time than 45 seconds to talk about your work or business.
The elements of an effective elevator speech in my view:
- Illustrative of the kind of work you do
- Memorable enough to differentiate you
My two different lawyer-oriented elevator speeches depend on the audience and context:
1) “I represent executives and professionals who are being hired or fired, or advise companies or organizations that are hiring or firing executives.”
2) “I am a business attorney who makes it possible for executives and entrepreneurs to sleep well at night.”
My first elevator speech’s punch line is the notion that I represent clients when executives are being hired or fired. The subject matter itself catches people’s attention.
My second elevator speech’s punch line is the notion that my business counseling will fix problems and ease the legal stressors for my clients. Relief from stress is always an attractive proposition.
If I am asked for more information, then I will provide a brief description of my law firm (history, size, practice concentrations and location) and maybe an example of a matter that I have handled.
Here are two other elevator speech examples that two intrepid executives have volunteered and subjected to my few tweaks – I have made these executives and their companies anonymous:
A) “We enhance high performing management teams in middle market companies to create the greatest value for private equity investors. I do this at ‘Acme XYZ Company’ where I am managing partner and can bring a lot of resources to each relationship.”
B) “I am with ‘ACE ABC Partners.’ We do executive search and staffing for the insurance industry. We utilize our specialized expertise to find the right talent for our clients so they can remain focused on executing their strategic initiatives.”
You should try out different versions of your elevator speech and ascertain which one seems to elicit the most interest.
What’s your elevator pitch?
Copyright © 2019 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.
ARE YOU A BRAND?
When we think of brands, what comes to mind?
Are the Kardashians a brand? You think of them in a certain way and they are distinctive.
Is Donald Trump a brand? As an up and coming young real estate developer and entrepreneur, President Trump was branding himself even before the term “personal brand” was coined.
WHAT IS A BRAND?
- How you are viewed by others
- What qualities and attributes do they associate with you
- What kind of emotional connection or reaction do they have when they see you, your name, or your image
- What are their expectations about you
WHEN YOU THINK OF MCDONALD’S, WHAT COMES TO MIND?
- Inexpensive food
- Easy to Find
Its typical fare is flavorful with all of its salt, sugar, oils and fats that humans naturally crave. Customers know exactly kind of experience that they will get.
WHAT ABOUT TIFFANY & CO.?
- High quality
It makes you feel a certain way knowing that the ring you are wearing is from Tiffany.
YOU ARE SELLING YOURSELF EVERYDAY
- When you ask for something, you are trying to persuade
- When you ask someone to do something, you are trying to persuade
- When you ask someone not to do something, you are trying to persuade
- When you try to get someone to like you, you are trying to persuade
- When you try to get someone to buy something, you are trying to persuade
- When you ask someone to vote for you, you are trying to persuade
We sell every day, all day.
*Looking for a job is selling yourself*
How do you differentiate yourself from other applicants? You don’t necessarily have to be the best, but distinctive. You want to stand out. When all is said and done, an employer is buying you and your bundle of attributes.
EMPLOYERS LOOK AT YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
Employers evaluate you by your personal brand and then make a decision about you.
IT IS NOT ABOUT WHAT THE EMPLOYER CAN DO FOR YOU
- What do you bring to the employer’s table?
- How do you add value?
- Are you a team player?
- Are you conscientious?
- Are you punctual?
- Are you a hard worker?
- Do you follow through?
- Are you helpful?
- Do you have a good attitude?
Let me repeat it another way: When looking for a job, it is about what you can do for the employer. Please remember that the prospective employer does not “owe” you a job nor do you “deserve” a particular job. A job is first and foremost an economic relationship and transaction. The employer seeks the benefit of your services while you seek the benefit of compensation.
The Employer is not going to pay you for nothing or for little in return. The Employer seeks value. The initial assessment of your value is in your brand.
A RESUME IS AN ADVERTISEMENT FOR YOUR BRAND
Your resume is your mini billboard. It is to tell the employer customer who you are and what you have to offer and why the employer should buy your services.
EMPLOYERS WILL USUALLY SEE YOUR RESUME BEFORE THEY SEE YOU
- Resume is the first impression you make and may be your only opportunity
- Resume is gatekeeper for first interviews
- Resume counts a lot
- Must get resume right
SHOULD TELL A STORY
- Deep bucket of experience or expertise: For example – computer networks
- A Leader: For example – you held officer positions, led teams, executed initiatives, solved major problems, generated creative ideas, or organized events
- A service oriented person: For example – raised funds for charity, tutored kids or mentored individuals
Everyone has a story.
You want yours to be readily understandable and compelling.
ELEMENTS OF A RESUME
- Concise, not wordy
- Major accomplishments (not a ribbon in second grade for having the neatest desk)
- Use examples: “I supervised the acquisition and installation of a new computer network for my company.”
- Use active voice: “I prepared corporate tax returns” and not “the corporate tax returns were prepared by me.”
TAILOR RESUME TO EMPLOYER
- A resume to be a managing director at a management consultant firm is going to look a lot different than a resume to be a CFO for a technology firm
- One size does not fit all
Think carefully about who your employer audience is and what they want to know. Your having a boxed paragraph detailing your direct, relevant experience for the particular job is extremely effective.
- Triple check for typos, misspellings, punctuation and grammar; better yet, have another person copyedit your resume
- Formatting should be readable and neat
- Use good paper if mailed or hand delivered; it’s called bond paper (not copy paper); using bond paper is more elegant than copy paper and a sign of respect
- No smudges, smears or fingerprints
- If emailing resume, convert it to a PDF
- Use month/year for start and end dates for previous jobs: May/2016 to June/2017
- Always send cover letter with resume briefly highlighting why you want and are qualified for the job
- No photo
- Use key words in your resume that are obvious criteria in the job description so that your resume gets past automated screening
In sum, work to develop a brand and capsulize it in your resume.
Copyright © 2019 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.
G. A. Finch being interviewed by his law partner, Deborah B. Cole, at the University Club in Chicago for his book – The Savvy Executive: The Handbook Covering Employment Contracts, Compensation, Executive Skills, and Much More.
On May 20th, 5:00 p.m., at the University Club in Chicago, Deborah Cole will interview her law partner, G. A. Finch, about his new book, The Savvy Executive: The Handbook, Covering Employment Contracts, Compensation, Executive Skills and Much More.