I was in a networking meeting this morning with HR people who are job-hunting, and I had a chance to do an exercise with them that you might find useful.
The focus is on crafting your Elevator Speech. That’s the little 30-second spiel that you give to describe who you are, what you’re looking for, and how you might help someone else in the job context. If you don’t have one – or several – I’d suggest that this can be one of the most valuable things you can do. If nothing else, it clarifies in YOUR mind where you want to go. As you might know, I’m also a big fan of the power of verbalizing your intentions as a means to help you push forward.
The problem with many elevator speeches is that they start out with “Here’s where I’ve come from….” When you’ve just lost your job, often it’s a struggle to make that positive and give it energy. How does this strike you? “I’m an engineer who was just laid off after 25 years with XYZ Corp.”
That sucks all the life out of the rest of the speech. At this point, as a listener, I’m so depressed that I don’t even want to hear what follows.
What I had these people do was to take their current Elevator Speech and deconstruct the words and phrases into three categories:
- Referring to the past
- Describing to the present
- Projecting the future
Most people found that the bulk of their words talked about the past, about roles that they had performed.
My challenge to them was to change their way of thinking in these four steps:
1. Create an opening statement which ONLY talks about the future. Dare to dream, sure. Imagine that future contribution which will result in a feature article in the local newspaper. Or the cover of a relevant magazine, if you dare.
2. Find a word or phrase which captures why you are excited about this future. Ask yourself: Why are you passionate about this? What turns you on? Why would it be so cool that you couldn’t possibly let the opportunity pass?
3. Capture some phrases which demonstrate where your experience came from to create this future. What did you do, for whom, with what results? Don’t mention anything that’s not relevant to your desired future. Don’t limit yourself to work experience.
4. Describe your current state with some words which show how you took your past experiences, and now have the necessary skills and assets, to propel you toward your future.
This is actually a bit harder than it looks, so I’d challenge you to sit down and do this as an exercise. You can get useful value in 15 minutes, but only if you’re taking it seriously and writing your ideas down. As long as you just ponder the answers, they won’t be concrete enough for you to make progress.
Does this result in a newly written Elevator Speech? Not necessarily. The primary purpose is to open up your way of thinking, and to help generate some ideas and new energy.