How To Make Your Personal Pitch Be The Powerful Story Of You
Answering the question, “Who are you and what do you bring to the table?,” is some of the most important work I do with clients, whether they’re looking for the next stage of their career or navigating the shoals of their organization.
Think of the answer as the telling of your story. Bullet lists or strings of business cliches are not that good at triggering the powerful response you want. The person who can hire you is, well — a human being — so get her wrapped up in your awesome story and she will be yours.
Your LinkedIn profile is one perfect place to tell your own exciting story. In the first 100 words of your narrative, you have to come across as the answer to the prayers of hiring managers: exactly who they need to solve the problem they are laboring to solve.
“Thank goodness I found this person! This is better than I could have hoped for!” These are the first words you’d like to come tumbling from the lips of your contact as soon as they see your profile, and once again as soon as you’ve stepped out of the interview room.
What To Share And Not Share About Your Accomplishments
So how do you make this happen? First of all, you have to be unique. If there are others just like you, then it gets murky, and you can get lost in the pile. While others may have had the same job title, no one else had your specific achievements.
Show off your special value by summarizing, powerfully and succinctly, the great things you’ve made happen: the successes and innovations that would not have happened if you weren’t around. Note that we are talking about your results first, and not your education and past employers. That can come later as supporting evidence, along with all the other proof points.
Review your whole career to get these nuggets of achievement. Go back and come up with a couple of your best moments from every gig you’ve had, from every year perhaps. Don’t discount successes just because they were a few years back. Shorthand these into brief statements and figure out what they say about you.
Base your story around these specific triumphs, and let them paint a picture of the way you operate and think. Triage them so that the best ones survive, and stitch them together so they make the best story. One way might be to use your examples to show how your ability to innovate has developed over time — 0r how other parts of your story have developed: your curiosity, your talent at bringing teams together, or your understanding of the consumer, for instance. Perhaps pick a couple of relevant and valuable skills and use them as the glue that binds the specifics together into a coherent narrative.
Don’t get the reader tangled up with the dates of when these things happened. If it was excellent, and if it demonstrates an important skill, attitude or way of thinking, then it has a place. But do avoid dwelling on that time you invented the buggy whip.
Ask yourself what is going to impress the hiring manager more: a few brilliant pieces of work, or 20 years of showing up? If you insist on bragging about how long you’ve been doing it, think very hard before you talk about more than seven years back. Consider what it says about you and whether it’s helping.
How You Tell Your Story
Give thought to the style in which you tell this story, whether it’s for LinkedIn, a cover letter, or a personal pitch. Tell it in a way that reflects your own personality. I suggest you write it in the first person. After all, it’s your story, and clearly you are the one telling it. Let your voice, your energy, excitement and thoughtfulness shine through. Show wit and flair in the way you write. A passive voice will not get your reader excited. Writing it in business-speak will just cause your reader to doze off or confuse it with all the other biz-speak cover letters and resumes out there.
So be kind. Entertain your reader. Make the writing lively. Keep sentences short and easy to digest. Have pity on someone who may be reading hundreds of these in a day and struggles to distinguish them one from the other.
Being the answer to their prayers requires an understanding of what their prayers might be. So doing your homework is critical. And your focus is also important. Being the answer to all problems is likely to get you nowhere. Instead, be the best answer to the problem you’d most like to solve, the challenge you’d most like to meet.
I mentioned LinkedIn earlier. It is a critical piece of your career communication nowadays, and it’s a good framework to start you thinking. Once you have your story — brief and beautiful, powerful and personable — then use it wherever you can. Cut and paste it into emails and cover letters. Say it out loud to people in elevators. (Really? Who does that?)
Surprisingly perhaps, the most important audience for your story will turn out to be you yourself. This story will be something you can look at and say, “Yes, that’s absolutely me. It shows what I’ve done and who I am. It makes clear to me where I want to go and what I want to do next — and why I am going to succeed. Now I know just how to proceed.”
This article by Michael Pollock was first published sans gif on Forbes.com