This event took place on March 3, 2016.
Whether you are looking for a position, hoping to consult or secure contract work or clients, or considering starting or expanding your own business, communicating effectively who you are and your value proposition (what you can provide to others) is critical. Developing your message, delivering it consistently, and using a diverse array of approaches and media is your best strategy. How to accomplish these goals was the topic of a workshop I presented at the IMF in March.
Developing your elevator speech
Marketing yourself requires that you first develop a succinct, interesting answer to the question “who are you?”—or as it is most commonly posed in Washington, DC—“what do you do?” You don’t have to describe what you are doing now. Describe what you can do, how, and why. Consider what is translatable about your past experience and of value in the Washington, DC, area. Reflect on the accomplishments that support your message.
While you may shape and refine your message for diverse audiences, what you wish to convey will remain constant: Experience. Credentials. Skills. Approach. Accomplishments. You can package all that for in-person delivery in a succinct elevator speech. An elevator speech is slang for a brief speech that outlines an idea for a product, service or project. With a prepared and practiced elevator speech, you can seize opportunities to advertise your services as they arise, including on line at a store, at a reception or dinner party, or at an informational interview. Time your elevator speech for delivery in the 20-60 seconds it typically takes for an elevator ride…although you may never actually present it in an elevator. Your goal is to arouse interest and, ultimately, connect with individuals who may be able to help you find your next professional opportunity, client, business funder or supporter, or referral source.
Consider some examples:
“I am a lawyer with ten years of experience handling international human rights cases. I’ve never lost a case. I research legal precedents, develop winning strategies, and collaborate with others to build cases that advance freedom and democracy.”
“I am a landscape designer who translates clients’ preferences into the creation of pleasing designs, using sustainable, native plants requiring minimal upkeep…within budget and on time.”
“I am a problem-solver, with 20 years of experience in government and corporate settings, who listens attentively, rapidly identifies potential solutions, and implements them, all while providing the human touch.”
“I am an experienced leader, consultant, and leadership coach. I support and challenge clients to discover their wisdom within to meet their goals through careful attention, powerful questions, respectful assessments, and focus on constructing new habits. I help clients enhance their communication, sharpen their leadership presence, ease conflict, focus on priorities, and otherwise heighten their effectiveness and satisfaction.”
The last one is mine. For yours, if you have a track record of implementing transformational change, say so. If you have enhanced revenue by 35%, or translate technical reports into easy-to-understand language, be prepared to cite these examples. Stress transferable skills like problem-solving, analysis, efficiency, team-building. Being multilingual demonstrates a great capacity for learning so it is worth citing. Americans often look for “quick learners” with “excellent communication skills,” “self-starters,” with “high energy” and “passion for results,” so consider using these terms. Are you an expert in an area that won’t translate in the U.S.? Emphasize that you learned quickly and taught others. If you developed strategy, note that you’re a “strategic thinker.” If you have been praised for your communication skills, note you’re an excellent communicator. If using such words feels immodest or make you uncomfortable, consider quoting a former boss, co-worker or client instead.
Once you have a draft of your elevator speech, edit until you have no more than 60 words. You will need to memorize your speech, so the shorter the better. Practice your delivery, then take it out for a “test drive.” The more you use it—and demonstrate genuine interest in others—the greater the likelihood that casual acquaintances become important members of your network, willing to act on your behalf. Work up to using it with human resource professionals and at informational interviews. And don’t forget to thank others for their help and offer your assistance in return.
Developing a marketing plan
A marketing plan maps out what you will do when to get your message out. Develop a LinkedIn page, with your elevator speech as the centerpiece? Create a website or blog or personal newsletter, where you describe yourself and your “offer?” Identify the publications or listservs your audience reads so you propose an article, post a comment, or write a letter to the editor, showcasing your expertise? Always describe yourself and what you offer, using elements of your elevator speech for consistent messaging. Schedule what you will do each week and when you will evaluate your results and refine your approach.
Research people who might help you on LinkedIn, such as connections of your connections, or staff listed on company or government agency websites. Introduce yourself to a minimum of three contacts weekly. Seek informational interviews. Join LinkedIn groups. Participate in discussions. Attend professionally related meetings or workshops and continue your outreach there.
Marketing is a numbers game: the more people you reach, the more you increase your odds of attaining your professional goals. Be prepared to modify your marketing plan and elevator speech based on results. Does extensive experience make you appear over-qualified? Does excessive detail turn off listeners? Are listeners fascinated by an accomplishment? Intrigued by international experience? Modify accordingly. And good luck!