Thursday, July 9, 2009

10 Steps to Pitch Yourself and Elevate Your Career

Imagine this scenario: You're in a lift. The doors open and someone walks in. You glance at the newcomer and – it's Dato' Lim Kok Wing! Dato' Tony Fernandes! Bill Gates! (Insert the name of a CEO you've always wanted to work for!) This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and you've got one elevator ride - just 30 seconds or even less – to introduce yourself and impress Dato' Lim, Dato' Tony or Bill enough to hire you.

Unlikely, you say? Think again! Throughout your career, you will be presented with many chances to quickly impress someone who could change your life. Whether these opportunities happen at networking events, at conferences, or even in an elevator, make sure you've prepared with an "elevator pitch."

"Elevator pitch" is a term coined by venture capitalists to describe a brief but concise sales pitch to get an investor to fund a new product or service (30 seconds is the average length of an elevator ride in an average building). As a jobseeker, an elevator pitch is like a TV commercial for yourself - it sums up why you're awesome and the employer should hire you.

The key point of your elevator pitch is not to ask the person to do something for you – it's to tell that person what you can do for him or her.

Prep Your Pitch
A good elevator pitch should sound impromptu, but you'll need to prepare it in advance to get it that way. If you're stuck on how to condense your 10-year career into 30 seconds, or on how to stretch your lack of work experience, keep in mind the following six questions that your elevator pitch must answer:

1)Who are you?
2) What do you do?
3) What can you do for me?
4) Why should I hire you?
5) How can I contact you?

Write Down Your Accomplishments
Start by writing down your top five work or academic accomplishments. If you don't have much work experience or are still studying, start with your highest educational qualification or most recent job, and state what your career goal is.

Describe Them
Describe each accomplishment. State what the situation was, what you did, and the results.

Narrow Down
Narrow down each accomplishment to a single statement. Use action verbs like I achieved..., I led..., I created..., I developed...

Analyze That
Analyse what you've written. Do your top accomplishments reflect a theme or specialty? Are you all about growth, customer focus, sales excellence, product innovation, etc.? Take those statements that share the same theme, and again, combine them into a single statement.

Highlight Yourself
Pick the statement that says the most about you and what you want to be, and make it the highlight of your pitch, right after your introduction. Don't use industry jargon, as chances are the person you're talking to may not be familiar with your field. If you confuse them, you won't impress them.

Closing Pitch
Close out your pitch with a clear request for a time to follow up.

Read Out Loud
Read your pitch out loud in a natural tone of voice and speed (don't rush!) and time yourself to make sure it is under 30 seconds. Edit out unnecessary words if you have to, read again, and revise again until it sounds right.

Practise, Practise, Practise
Rehearse so that you don't sound like you rehearsed. Practise saying your elevator pitch out loud, first to yourself. When you're comfortable with it, practise it on family and friends, and ask them for feedback on the content and your performance.

Master Your Key Points
Focus on mastering the key points of your elevator pitch, rather than memorizing a fixed script. That way, it's easier to customize it to suit the situation and the person you're talking to, and you'll sound more natural too.

Deliver with Confidence
Deliver your pitch in a confident manner. Look the other person in the eye, smile (but don't grin), and offer a firm handshake – always be the first to do so to demonstrate your initiative.

Nowadays, it's not enough to just hand over your business card or your resume – you need to accompany it with a short and professional, but memorable, self-introduction. Take the upcoming JobsDB Career Fair for example – with over a hundred exhibitor booths and thousands of visitors expected, you'll have only a very short time to make a positive impression on recruiters so that when they review the hundreds of resumes they've received, yours will stand out.

Your elevator pitch can also double as your "Tell me a little about yourself" answer during a job interview. If you are looking for a job, repeating your elevator pitch to yourself at the start of every day can be a quick but encouraging reminder of why you are the best at what you do.

And one fine day, when Dato' Lim, Dato’ Tony or Bill walks into your elevator, you'll be confident and prepared!