Tell me … what do you do, who you do it for, why you do it and what can you do for me?
And tell me quickly.
Such is the challenge of the elevator pitch – a personal marketing spiel seldom delivered in elevators, but a staple of networking.
A skillful elevator pitch can be the foundation upon which new professional relationships are built. A not-so-skillfull pitch will make sure you are forgotten — or, even worse, leave a bad impression with a potentially valuable contact.
“The perfect elevator pitch should take no more than 30 seconds and incorporate your number of years of experience, areas of expertise, key skills and some key projects or brands that you have been associated with,” says Jessica Bedford of niche recruiting firm Artisan Creative. “If there is anything that makes you stand out, work that into your pitch as well.”
Yes, easier said than done – but doable, nonetheless.
Trying to squeeze business opportunity out of this economy is an arduous task at best. And as job numbers remain shakier than the Pacific Rim, the term “it’s who you know” is more relevant than ever for career development.
“Networking is something you should continually be doing,” says Ronn Torossian, CEO of the New York City-based 5W Public Relations firm. “It’s kind of like dating. Until you’re married, you always have to be dating. And when you’re married, you’re working on your relationship.”
That means networking can’t be something you put on a to-do list and check off once a month, and it needn’t be scheduled. “I was sitting next to this woman while having a pedicure and we started talking,” recalls Ross Ellis, CEO of Love Our Children USA, a national nonprofit working to break the cycle of violence against children and a New York City real estate agent with Halstead Property. One thing led to another, and soon Ellis had a speaking engagement for her charity: “She was a teacher and I asked her if she had a lot of bullying in her school.”
Sounds simple, but rub new contacts the wrong way and your network will shrink, not expand. Here’s how to become an expert networker, without ever being annoying, or worse, looking desperate:
Building soft skills and deep personal relationships is a mystery to most of us. And what we don’t understand, we’re skeptical of.
That’s why we’re almost all skeptical of “networking” and “building relationships.” We all hear phrases like “The majority of jobs are found through personal contacts.” But how does that actually work? How do you go from knowing your friends to turning that into jobs?
We don’t understand how this works, so we create false dichotomies like…
- “Whatever, networking is for douches”
- “I’m not good at selling myself”
- “I’d rather get a job based on WHAT I know instead of WHO I know”
The 5 Barriers to Becoming a Master Connector
I learned the critical importance of networking, and discovered my natural aversion to it, early in my career. I was a new college graduate working in the strategic planning division of a $10 billion company, and our business unit had been invited to a retirement party for one of the top executives. The gentleman retiring was someone I’d looked up to during my brief tenure, and I wanted him to know he’d made an impact on me.
While I wanted to attend the party, as an introvert I usually avoided these types of events because they made me uncomfortable. Knowing there would be a lot of senior executives at this party made me even more fearful. In the end, I tamped down my fears and went. When I arrived I found a relatively empty room save for the executive’s friends and close colleagues. That night, because of the small turnout, I had the pleasure and advantage of engaging in one-on-one conversations with some of the company’s top executives, an experience that would prove crucially important in advancing my career.
That evening I learned the importance of networking and realized I had to figure out how to engage in business events in ways that were comfortable for me. I went on to discover an array of strategies introverts can use, ultimately writing “The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership”.
Executive recruiters share words of wisdom about networking, finding a job, interviewing, improving your résumé, and climbing the corporate ladder
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