Selling oneself is extremely challenging for some, but learning to do it well and quickly is essential when building your network, not to mention interviewing. Taunee Besson, career transitions expert and President and Principal Consultant at Dallas-based Career Dimensions walks us through how to develop a brief sales pitch that best presents your strengths, value and career trajectory. — Maurice Gilbert
Are you familiar with the term “the two-minute commercial?” If you’ve been doing a lot of networking lately, you probably are. In our get-to-the-point American culture, cultivating contacts requires a quick-and-dirty self-introduction to tell fellow networkers about who you are and what you want ASAP. If you combine this with Americans’ compelling need to define each other according to our careers, it’s only natural that a job search contact’s first question would be, “So, exactly what do you want to do?”
While this penchant for categorizing each other may seem perilously close to stereotyping, it has its advantages. If contacts are going to define you according to how you define yourself, why not provide them with an ideal job description instead of the usual chronological regurgitation. By giving them a verbal picture of your chosen venue, you focus their collective energy on propelling you into a position ideally suited to your skills and values.
Sound too good to be true? It really works, but there is a catch. Before you roll your benchmark job description trippingly off your tongue, you have to be fully confident you know what it is. While, at first thought, developing a job description may seem to be a no-brainer, synthesizing the elements you want most in your career can be a frustrating, time-consuming process if you don’t know how to do it. Yet it’s worth the struggle because it prepares you to be an effective networker, maximizes your ability to sell yourself to the right employer and enhances your odds for long-term career satisfaction.
When creating a two-minute commercial to introduce your product (you) to your target market (the people who have job leads), you’ll need to identify the elements of your ideal job, then translate them into a clear, concise job description you can verbalize quickly. Your final version will look something like this:
“During my career I’ve been a senior manager in banking involved in activities such as creating, building, re-engineering and down-sizing departments, designing management information systems, supervising and negotiating deals, mentoring high potential employees and serving as an expert witness in contract litigation.
Most recently I’ve taken a sabbatical to get my Master of Management degree in Human Resources, which I’ve chosen to add to my original MBA in Finance. While I think it’s important to keep an eye on the bottom line, I am fully convinced that people are a company’s most valuable assets.
I am looking for a management role that will combine my background and interests in human resources, finance and law. Depending upon the size and growth stage of the company, it could be as an Executive Assistant to a CEO, a Chief Operating Officer, a Chief Administrative Officer, a CFO or an HR Director.
I see myself working most effectively in a small to mid-size company. What is most important to me is that I be able to create an environment that brings out the best in people. This requires a company to be efficient, creative, growth-oriented, financially successful and market-driven.”
The process used to develop the preceding two-minute commercial or self-introduction has several parts:
• A list of satisfying accomplishments, which might include paid work, education and volunteer work, hobbies and other life experiences
• Your most important functional and work content skills, personality traits, values, and desired organizational characteristics
• Potential job titles that meld the contribution you want to make with the culture most likely to support it
• A synthesis of all of the above points into a short job description that can easily be repeated “in an impromptu elevator conversation between the ground floor and where you get off”
To take this process step-by-step, begin with a list of your favorite accomplishments. If you enjoy your chosen career, you can probably pull plenty of satisfying achievements from your job history. If you don’t, you’ll have to think beyond your paid work experiences to include some projects or roles you’ve played as a volunteer, student or hobbyist. Some achievements underlying the example two-minute commercial are:
• Building a new division by melding the people and diverse cultures of three departments in three different parts of the country
• Coordinating a salary survey of 160 corporations to determine compensation parameters for profit and nonprofit institutions in a large metropolitan area
• Serving as an expert witness in a very complicated bankruptcy litigation
• Mentoring employees, whom other managers considered to be deadwood, to rekindle their enthusiasm and help them achieve their highest potential
After you have completed your accomplishments history, your second step will be identifying the specific elements that underlie your most satisfying experiences. They will include:
• Your Functional Skills, the innate abilities you’ve enhanced throughout the course of your life such as mentoring, planning, organizing, negotiating, public speaking, working with numbers, creating systems, supervising, serving as a liaison and using common sense.
• Your Special Knowledge, bodies of information you have learned in school, on the job or in your leisure time. Some of the knowledge mentioned in this two-minute commercial include: compensation packages, contract law, financial statements and MIS.
• Your Personality Traits. For instance, some people are born team members. Others thrive on competition. An honest inventory of your personality traits should play an important role in determining what you want to do and where you want to work.
• Your Values. Also, consider what kind of culture will be in tune with your career values such as (among others) achieving a high income, helping others, working independently, being creative, having opportunities to learn or gaining recognition in your field. If you’re a can-do entrepreneur, it’s unlikely you will find your niche in a large, bureaucratic organization.
• Geographical Concerns. Location is critical to some, irrelevant to others. Before you tell the world you won’t consider leaving New York or you’ll go anywhere the job may take you, think about the relative importance of proximity to family and friends, cultural opportunities, natural beauty, good shops and restaurants, cost of living, etc.
• Compensation. While you probably won’t mention salary, bonuses, benefits and perks in your two-minute commercial, you need to have them firmly in mind before you write a resume or schedule any employment interviews.
• Type and Level of Responsibility. Some professionals want to be on the front lines, close to the action. Others enjoy staff assignments in which they can move from one project to another. These days, large company veterans often decide they want to wear a variety of hats in smaller, fast-growing businesses. Others choose to work in high-profile departments in big organizations, where they can be “the expert.” Since you are planning to make a change anyway, take some time to carefully consider the type and size of company and the professional role that will genuinely suit you best.
Next, you’ll need to do some brainstorming to identify the job title(s) that combine both your particular experience and your ideal job description. This isn’t rocket science if you want to continue down your current path but with another organization. But it can be a real challenge if you are seriously considering a career change. Research, brainstorming with friends and working with a career planner can all be helpful in formulating a reasonable list when you vow never again to represent another litigious client or grade another banal term paper.
Finally, you’ll take your experience, ideal job description and job title(s) and blend them into a seamless paragraph or two that captures the essence of what you’ve done, who you are, and what you want in your next career move. This effort will probably take several drafts before you pronounce it totally satisfying, but like any life-defining process, it’s more than worth the effort.
Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979, which works with individual and corporate clients in career change; job search; executive, small business and life coaching; college major selection and talent management.
“One of the smartest minds in the career field,” according to Tony Lee (VP of CareerCast Operations at Adicio and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal’s Online Vertical Network), Besson began writing for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 80s. Having read several of her columns, Lee asked her to contribute regular articles to the Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly (NBEW) as well. Since then, she has been a triple award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and Senior Columnist for CareerCast.com, as well as WorkingWoman.com and Oxygen.com. At Lee’s request, Besson authored five editions of NBEW’s Premier Guide to Resumes and three of its Premier Guide to Cover Letters. She has also written articles and/or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money and Yahoo among others.
Taunee has worked on community nonprofit boards and committees for over 30 years including Girls Inc., Women’s Center of Dallas, Girl Scouts and Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Volunteers of America and Mortarboard, among others. She was a member of the Leadership Dallas in 1987 and Leadership America in 2003.Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.