ELEVATOR SPEECH

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.shutterstock_734738725

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:

  • Short
  • 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.

 

BRANDING, RESUMES AND GETTING HIRED

SELLING YOURSELF

ARE YOU A BRAND?

Coca ColaWhen we think of brands, what comes to mind?McDonalds

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.President-Trump-Official-Portrait-620x620

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
  • Fast
  • Predictable
  • Easy to Find
  •  CleanMcDonalds Meal

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.?

  • Expensive
  • High quality
  • Distinctive
  • AuthenticTiffany Ring

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.

HIRE MEWoman being interviewed

*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

Flying Woman

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

Billboard

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.

CAVEATS

  1. Triple check for typos, misspellings, punctuation and grammar; better yet, have another person copyedit your resume
  2. Formatting should be readable and neat
  3. 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
  4. No smudges, smears or fingerprints
  5. If emailing resume, convert it to a PDF
  6. Use month/year for start and end dates for previous jobs: May/2016 to June/2017
  7. Always send cover letter with resume briefly highlighting why you want and are qualified for the job
  8. No photo
  9. 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.

RECIPROCAL COACHING

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By G. A. Finch

Have you ever set personal business, career or self-improvement goals, and you look up weeks and sometimes months later not having made progress on them?  You realize that you have been distracted and diverted by other challenges and tasks and your goals are in the doldrums.  Career, family and extracurricular demands get in the way.  Life happens.paper-3224643__480

You read, hear and know that you must set specific goals for yourself to get traction on your life’s ambitions.  You know further that it is preferable to have them in writing and with deadlines.  You know what to do, but it is not happening.

Try bi-lateral coaching.  Find a person you trust to be your coaching buddy.  You hold each other’s feet to the fire.  You meet to discuss your goals and why you have not met them.  You, of course, write them down with specific dates of completion.  You check in (preferably in person)  once a week with your coaching buddy and you tell each other what you have accomplished or not. Your goals may evolve over time.rottweiler-1785760__480

What is the effect of a coaching buddy?  Your knowing that you have to report to another human being on your progress toward your goals is a powerful motivator to get things done to achieve those goals.  It is called accountability.  What gets measured and reported gets done.  It is an inexpensive way to keep you motivated and on track.MH900071046

I am doing it now and it has helped to keep me focused and more on task.  I do not want to come up short when I report in to my coaching buddy, and, vice versa, nor does he.   It is a simple solution.  You do not need a drill sergeant or an expensive executive coach to kick you in the pants or encourage you – you just need someone to whom you made a commitment not to disappoint (other than yourself). For long range career development and holistic career counseling, an executive coach may be useful and needed.  For goal setting and execution, a coaching buddy is an effective tool you ought to try.

 

Copyright © 2018 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.

LEADING BY READING

By G. A. Finch

It may sound trite but it is generally true that “leaders are readers.”  That is not to say that an uneducated person cannot be a leader in his or her own way; nevertheless, reading has its advantages. We have read or heard that Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, among many other successful business people, are/were avid readers. Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson read books as far into old age as they physically could and prized their personal libraries. Benjamin Franklin valued books so much that he created the first lending library in America, and we know what a wise and accomplished man he was.

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More recent presidents, like William Jefferson Clinton and Barack Obama, are known to like to pick up a book.  Whatever your politics may be, Clinton and Obama sound erudite, do they not?  Their knowledge enables them to sound more persuasive and sound more credible, does it not?  An effective executive seeks to become well read by reading often and reading a variety of genres.

Comparable to reading, but not as much as a deep-seated learning and not, I believe, as satisfying, would be listening to audio books and podcasts and watching substantive videos.  In reading, you have time to ponder, contemplate, linger over and ultimately process the content.  One’s listening to audio or watching videos constitutes a more passive brain activity than the act of reading.  It is, of course, better than no learning activity.

The most cerebral people I know voraciously read books and periodicals.  They are well versed on many topics and subjects and are able to connect them, contrast them, 12386-an-stack-of-old-books-isolated-on-a-white-background-pvcompare them, analogize them, extrapolate from them and meaningfully unpack them.

The act of reading or listening to books is the intention and commitment to learn new things and to be in a continuously learning mode –   kind of like a continuing liberal arts education.  Especially now, the  intention-and-commitment-to-learn mode has become imperative given that the rate of expansion of knowledge and innovation seems to double whether in hours, weeks, months or years depending on the field.

My base technology knowledge as a 15-year old was rather primitive and quaint compared to my 15-year-old son who knows how to put together a computer from off-the-shelf components and to program a robot.  He reads articles and blogs on the internet and watches YouTube videos when he wants to learn how to do something.  That is useful learning.  However, he and my teenage daughter and most other teenagers I know do not do enough reading of books, let alone wide and deep reading of books.  I fear their writing and critical thinking skills and broad base knowledge could suffer.  My base general knowledge as a teenager was far greater than theirs is.  I attribute this gap to the fact that I had read many more books by their ages.13728-a-smart-girl-with-glasses-holding-a-book-pv

By reading, you learn how to write better by seeing word usage, different vocabulary, grammar, punctuation and syntax and hearing in the mind’s ear the writer’s voice.   As I alluded earlier about being well versed, by reading you also know more about different topics to inform your professional or social conversations with others.  It can make your conversations more interesting.  Moreover, by reading you bring to bear more knowledge to understand and solve problems and ask the right questions in your work whether it be professional or volunteer work.  When you face industry disruption, must be a change agent, or need to reinvent your business or yourself, your store of knowledge from reading will come in handy!

For those for whom reading does not come readily because of lack of habit or interest, or busyness, the trick is to approach it like starting any new program (like physical exercise or learning a new language): begin lightly with 15 minutes a day and incrementally work your way up to a robust hour.  You may just remember or find what you have been missing all these years: the joys of reading.  You will certainly grow smarter.  Oh, and by the way, if you have trouble falling  asleep at night, start reading a book; it is quicker and healthier than a sleeping pill.

 

Copyright © 2017 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.

EXECUTIVES’ JOB INTERVIEW READINESS: G. A. FINCH CHATS WITH COMMUNICATIONS COACH CORINNE VARGAS ABOUT INTERVIEWING

Job interviews are so fundamental to professional advancement.  Every executive has had a few times, if not many times, when the executive did not get the offer.  The executive may feel that the executive “blew” the interview.  The executive may be thinking: Was I too nervous?  Was I too rambling in my responses?  Did I not ask the right questions?  Was my body language off putting?  Was my voice too squeaky?

The executive will analyze the perceived failed interview a thousand different ways.  What is more frustrating is that many executives extensively prepare for interviews by researching the company and its people, anticipating kinds of questions, and practicing scripted answers.    They were prepared, or so they thought.

What most executives do not know about or consider is an interview coach.  Even at the pinnacle of their talents, world class athletes hire coaches to improve their “skills.”  Why wouldn’t you get help on how to nail a job interview?

My blog guest, Corinne Vargas, is just such a person who can help you “up your interview game.”  She is the founder of CVC Consulting, a firm that offers, among other services, coaching for professional and business interviews.

FINCH:   Corinne, we know that a successful interview has a huge impact on whether an executive makes it to the next round and hopefully receives a job offer.  Why do you think it does not occur to most executives that it is worth the investment to hire someone to hone their interviewing skills?

VARGAS:  In my experience, the investment is often not the barrier to hiring a coach. Instead, I have found many executives do not consider interview coaching and support for two reasons: 1) they are eager to start the process of finding a new position and feel they want to tackle it as quickly as possible, which often means alone, OR 2) do not know coaching is available for tailored situations. Unfortunately, many clients find coaches after attempting to tackle the process on their own and in various states of rejection, frustration, and desperation.

However, post-coaching, clients often express the lessened anxiety and frustration they felt during the process compared to going it alone. They explain having a coach “on their side” to help them through various steps in the process proved invaluable. Skilled coaches can help clients though different steps or aspects of the process including interview question preparation, nervous and anxious manifestations, content presentation, transition story framing and storytelling in the interview context. Coached clients frequently state feeling more control over the process and a higher level of confidence and preparedness, ultimately bolstering a better representation of personal brand and better outcomes.

Fire someone with witness

My advice to an executive in transition or looking to transition, is that it is worth the time to at least explore a coach as it can save time, frustration, and help you achieve your goals with more confidence, focus, and many times speed. If an executive decides to explore the option, they should look for an interview coach who provides focused, tailored coaching sessions offering perspective and actionable feedback.

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POTTY MOUTH IN THE WORKPLACE

By G. A. FINCH

Does boorish behavior matter? As part of our daily work routine, we all experience instances where co-workers, bosses, clients, customers, and vendors use profanity, recount indelicate stories, tell off-color jokes, or over share personal information. It seems that decorum and verbal restraint are neither required nor in vogue anymore. Verbal boundaries have all but disappeared.angry-boss-cursing-grimacing-5343683

Does anybody else miss polite conversation in the work world that used to be the norm? I am not a prude and have myself used profanity on occasion in work-related situations. I would like to think that the few times I use profanity, it is to emphasize a point or to provide colorful context to a story or an experience; maybe my perceived degree of use is a distinction without a difference and I am rationalizing my own verbal indiscretions no matter how limited they may be.angry-cursing-phone-concept-20381448
I know that I am turned off by an excessive use of profanity or habitual tellers of dirty or ethnic jokes. I also get uncomfortable when a work-related person over shares personal information or unusual circumstances, when it is clearly not appropriate to the circumstance or the relationship.  The initial entertainment value of an over sharing story begins to lose its appeal pretty quickly, especially from repeat offenders.  What may have seemed funny or salacious can then make us cringe.

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Despite the increasing coarseness of our popular culture, I think there is something to be said for etiquette – it makes people more comfortable and it reduces the likelihood of offending people. I think those executives and professionals who use no or little profanity, who do not over share, and who resist off-color humor do set themselves apart in a positive way. Crude behavior does have consequences.

NETWORKING – UUUUUGH!

 

BY G. A. FINCH

 
I hate the term “networking”. It is a hackneyed phrase and suggests a mercenary and self-promoting activity. Most people feel networking means going to events, making small talk, collecting business cards, and promising to follow-up. Other people would include informational interviews and requests for lunch or coffee as “networking.” Although there is a certain randomness and hit or miss, scattershot quality in these approaches, it can be more effective and serene than that.

 
Purposeful and Natural

 
What some people call networking, I call flying your flag and meeting people. Flying your flag is seeing and being seen to let people know you exist or remind them of your presence. It is like the old famous philosophical question in solipsism: If the tree falls in the forest and makes a crashing sound and no one is around to hear it crash, does the tree make a sound? Go ponder that. Similarly, if you do not get out and about and no one sees you, how do they really know you exist? In other words, out of sight, out of mind. A certain portion of your going out and about for business reasons should be limited, strategic, and purposeful. The rest should be just a part of your daily life.

 
Not only do you want to meet new people, but you want to maintain connections with people who you already know or have met. I was recently at an event where four people from the same office came together, talked together, and left together. What was that all about? I know they had families and other commitments, so why did they waste their precious time talking to each other and not promoting their organizations or making connections for themselves? It would have been more useful for them to have skipped the event and gone about their personal activities.

 

 

 

Business Lunch
Being There and Luck Finds You

 
Sometimes opportunity presents itself because you happen to be at the right place at the right time. I know a guy that when he sees me will tell people that I am responsible for his job because I had invited him as a guest to an event at which he connected with a person who got him his job and I do not even remember that particular event. However, to his point, I, too, have, on occasion, benefited serendipitously from attending an event – e.g., like my college reunion, during which a classmate, upon learning of an area of my professional expertise and writing experience, placed me on an editorial board of an industry magazine. Another time, as a favor, I was teaching a public speaking workshop, and an observer, unbeknownst to me, quietly recommended me as an attorney to a CEO who then called me out of the blue to represent him in his employment contract. You never know from where opportunity will come.

 
Some forums are better than others. Some forums are not obvious business or professional development opportunities, but abound in potential. You can develop solid relationships from your kids’ school and extracurricular events and neighborhood related activities like block and holiday parties.

 
An executive’s going to an officially described “networking” event, I believe, is a waste of time and diminishes the executive’s brand. It smacks of being a used car salesman trying to make a sale (no offense to used car salesmen).

 
Now we all know of certain trade or business organizations whose major benefit is meeting people to possibly do business, but they are smart enough not to use the term “networking” – people know that everyone present is there to represent or promote his or her company, firm or business and they do so unabashedly but graciously.

 
Divide Your Efforts

 
Through trial and error, you can discern which groups, associations, or clubs seem to offer the greatest yield in terms of business, professional or personal opportunities and information. As you have only so many hours in a day and numerous personal and work commitments, you should narrow your focus to three to four organizations that you enjoy and that prove to be productive. As for the remainder of your efforts, they should be a natural part of your  social sphere like church, school, social clubs, and kids’ activities. They should be natural and effortless by simply participating, being friendly, being helpful and letting people know what you can do, only if you are asked.

 

 

 

 

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Love Thy Neighbor

 
Finally, be open and willing to help people when asked with no expectation of any benefit to you. Without being preachy, this is kind of a variant of the commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” The best way to love your neighbor is to help him. Even when it is inconvenient and time-consuming, it is always good for your soul to give and benefit another. Your “get” will take care of itself from some other, unexpected source, even if it just feeling great in helping another. Having said that, you do not want to indulge a repeat favor taker (user) who never offers to help anyone else – not a good use of your time, resources, energy and emotions. That was my long way of saying that networking should be more about being helpful to others than about seeking to help oneself. Capiche?

 

Copyright © 2015 by G. A. Finch, All rights reserved.