To Be Differentiated, Create a Unique Elevator Speech

January 25, 2012

Could you effectively sell yourself to a prospective employer if you were alone with him or her for 30 seconds in an elevator?

Can you talk about yourself without using the same, worn clichés used by every other job seeker? Can you say something about your brand that others cannot say about theirs?

An effective elevator pitch should be:

  1. Relevant. Talk about the impact you can have on their success.
  2. Differentiating. Don’t say things about yourself that everyone else can say about themselves.
  3. Conversational. Your message should not sound like some formal, memorized script. With practice, your elevator speech can come from the heart and roll off your tongue in a very conversational manner.

Seth Godin, one of my favorite authors and bloggers, says this about elevator speeches:

No one ever bought anything in an elevator

The purpose of an elevator pitch isn’t to close the sale.

The goal isn’t even to give a short, accurate, Wikipedia-standard description of you or your project.

And the idea of using vacuous, vague words to craft a bland mission statement is dumb.

No, the purpose of an elevator pitch is to describe a situation or solution so compelling that the person you’re with wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over.

Spend the time necessary to prepare your own elevator speech. It will take time and practice, but you want to be ready when the elevator door closes and you have 30 seconds to say something about your unique, differentiated brand.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH


To Be Differentiated, Know Your Competition

January 24, 2012

If you’re looking for a job, you face strong competition from others who are also looking for jobs.

To succeed, you must stand out from the rest of the pack. You’ve got to be different. You cannot blend in and look like everyone else.

The first step in differentiating yourself is to know who your competitors are. You’ll want to learn as much as you can about others who are applying for the same jobs you are seeking. You must study your competition.

One way to to do this is look at their profiles on LinkedIn. Take the list of keywords that describe you and then search for others in LinkedIn who use those same words.

Notice which profiles pop up. Pick several individuals and observe how they describe themselves. Study their profiles—their career summaries, specialties, experience and skills. Notice which words and phrases they use to describe themselves.

Pay attention to their writing style. Do they talk in the first or third person? Do they sound conversational? Are they interesting? Look for examples of individuals who have effectively converted their features into benefits?

You can differentiate yourself from others only when you 1) know yourself and 2) know your competition. When you understand who your competitors are and how you are differentiated from them, you are ready to begin selling your brand in a competitive job market.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH


How to Differentiate Yourself in a Competitive Job Market

January 23, 2012

In a job search, if you are not differentiated you are not marketable.

A few years ago I was hiring for an open position on my marketing and communications team. Although I was bombarded with 200 applications, I personally considered the merits of every single candidate.

Very quickly, though, my eyes glazed over. Everyone looked alike. They all seemed to be saying the same thing. They even used the same clichés to describe themselves. Everyone claims to be:

  •  Creative.
  •  An excellent communicator.
  •  A problem solver.
  •  Highly motivated.
  •  Results oriented.
  •  Hard working.

Everyone, it seemed, described himself or herself in the exact same way. Had I changed the names at the top of each resume, it wouldn’t have mattered. Quite frankly, I felt as if I’d walked into a Baskin-Robbins store where the only flavor was vanilla. Everyone, it seemed, had bought the same book on writing cover letters and they even selected the same buzz phrases to use.

A prospective employer has no reason to hire you if you can’t differentiate yourself in a job search. Three ways to be different and stand out from the rest of the pack are:

  1. Know your competition. It goes without saying, but you will never differentiate yourself from others unless you know who they are.
  2. Create a unique elevator pitch. In 30 seconds, you must be able to describe yourself to a prospective employer so he or she takes an interest and wants to learn more about you.
  3. Blend your personal and professional lives. An effective brand is never one dimensional. You are a unique and multifaceted person, and your brand is a rich combination of a) who you are professionally, b) who you are personally and c) what you think and how you see the world around you.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH

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To Be Relevant, Focus on Your Cover Letter

January 20, 2012

A resume is probably the most overrated tool in a job search. Yet it is the thing most people obsess on.

Here’s the harsh reality:  your resume by itself will not get you a job. In fact, it probably will not even land you a job interview.

Think of your resume as a reference manual and your cover letter as a sales brochure. The owner’s manual in the glove box of a new car won’t sell the car. Likewise your resume won’t effectively sell you.

A reference manual contains the features, or the basic facts describing a product. Your resume is your reference manual which contains the facts of your brand—where you have worked, the job titles you’ve held, the education or training you’ve received and other such items.

Your cover letter, on the other hand, is the sales brochure written to capture the interest of a hiring manager. Properly written, your cover letter will make your resume relevant to the specific needs of a prospective employer.

Your cover letter should talk about the benefits you offer, not your features. A one-page letter should paint a picture that helps a potential employer visualize the benefits of having you as part of the team.

You’ve probably obsessed long enough on your resume. It’s time to create a compelling cover letter that will really sell the brand hidden beneath the features listed on your resume.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH


To Be Relevant, Convert Features into Benefits

January 19, 2012

Good sales people know the difference between features and benefits. Knowing the difference often separates those who make the sale from those who concede defeat to a competitor.

Likewise, effective job seekers know the difference. Sadly, though, most people looking for a job focus only on their features when they should be talking about the benefits they offer.

So what’s the crucial difference?

  1. Features Tell. Features are the plain facts, the list of items on your resume that describe you. Features are bits of basic information about who you are—your previous job titles, the responsibilities you carried and the education or training you received.
  2. Benefits Sell. Benefits are features that have been converted into relevant information. They describe why a feature is important.

To convert a feature into a benefit, begin by asking So what? For each feature, ask: So what? Why is this information important? How is it relevant? Why should anyone care about that?

Converting a feature into a benefit can seem overwhelming, but it’s simply reframing a conversation so you are talking from the perspective of an employer.

Never throw out a feature and then leave it to a prospective employer to make the right assumptions about why it is important. You must describe how the feature will actually benefit him or her. As you’re talking about benefits, you’re actually making promises. In effect, you are telling a prospective employer, “Here what I can do for you.” That gets attention.

Think about how you are selling yourself. Do you consciously convert features into benefits?

While your resume probably focuses more on features, your cover letter provides an opportunity to bring to life the benefits of your personal brand.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH


To Be Relevant, Know Your Brand

January 18, 2012

Before you sell something, you must thoroughly understand the product you are selling. Likewise, in a job search, you must know your brand (yourself) before you can sell yourself to a prospective employer.

Begin by creating a clear picture of who you are, where you’re going and the impact you can have in the workplace. This requires quiet, thoughtful contemplation, so don’t rush the process.

Several years ago when I lost my job as a marketing professional, I began my job search by spending quality time in a re-branding process. Though I love everything digital, I deliberately went “analog” for this planning exercise. I took a journal and a fountain pen to a local coffee shop. Journaling is a magical practice for tapping into a deeper creative consciousness.

There in the coffee shop, over several sessions, my brand came into focus as I wrestled with answers to questions that were easy to ask but surprisingly difficult to answer.

Questions I Asked Myself

The foundation for my introspection was laid by a series of questions such as:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Where have I been?
  3. What have I done?
  4. Where am I going?
  5. What can I do?
  6. Why would someone hire me?
  7. How am I different than other candidates?

Wresting with these questions proved to be invigorating and I gained the momentum necessary to find an incredible career opportunity.

In your job search, you may be tempted to hurry through the planning stages. If you do, I predict you’ll flounder later.

Keywords Describing My Brand

As part of my planning process, I also brainstormed a list of  keywords that defined my brand. I made a lengthy list of what I perceived my brand to be. I pulled keywords from my resume and cover letter. I also listed the phrases others used when describing me, my performance and my reputation.

Make a list of at least 25 keywords that define your brand. Go for quantity and make the list as lengthy as possible. In a later post I’ll describe how to focus this list so you can differentiate yourself from your competitors. For now, though, be creative without unnecessary editing or critiquing.

In the early phases of a job search, my advice is to become very conversant on the basics of your brand—who you are, where you’re going and what you’re looking for.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH



How to Be Relevant in a Competitive Job Market

January 17, 2012

In a job search, if you are not relevant you are obsolete.

Technology, ideas and even workers lose their relevance when they fail to provide value to the end user.

As a job seeker, you become relevant to prospective employers when you remember it’s all about them, not you. You may be proud of your degree, your experience or your community activities. Potential employers, however, will not share your enthusiasm unless they can somehow see how your credentials will make them more successful in their jobs.

Assume that a potential employer is selfish. He or she is not looking to do you a favor by rescuing you from the vast sea of unemployed swimmers. No, your next employer will only be interested in hiring you if you can contribute to his success.

Being relevant means that your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, interview answers and all communications focus on what you can do for THEM, not what they can do for you. Like it or not, it’s all about them, not you.

Three ways to be more relevant are:

  1. Know your brand. You must thoroughly understand yourself—the “product” you are trying to sell.
  2. Convert features into benefits. Remember, it’s all about them, so phrase everything in the context of why they should care about the information you share.
  3. Focus on your cover letter. This is your “sales brochure” where you talk to potential employers about their world, their success and how you you can help them win.
Remember, you are relevant to a potential employer only when you focus on what they need, not on what you want.

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These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH

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Personal Branding — How to Stand Out in a Competitive Job Market

January 16, 2012

If you’re looking for a job, you face fierce competition. How can you stand out from the rest of the pack? What can you do? I have three words of advice. You must be:

  1. Relevant. If you’re not relevant, you are obsolete.
  2. Different. If you are not differentiated, you are not marketable.
  3. Findable. If you are not findable, you do not exist.

That was the premise of two workshops on personal branding I led this month for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were mostly attended by university students who will soon be entering the turbulent job market. Hundreds of students, along with their faculty representatives, came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals.

Following is the structure of the workshop, and also the sequence of the upcoming blog posts where I will elaborate on my suggestions for personal branding.

1. How to Be Relevant in a Competitive Job Market

A. Know Your Brand

B. Convert Features into Benefits

C. Focus on Your Cover Letter

2. How to Differentiate Yourself in a Competitive Job Market

A. Know Your Competition

B. Create a Unique Elevator Speech

C. Blend Personal and Professional

3. How to Be Findable in a Competitive Job Market

A. Want to Be Found

B. Expand Your Digital Footprint

C. Share Your Content Online

I enjoy leading workshops and writing blog posts, not so much because of the wisdom I might impart, but rather because of the conversations that ensue. I learn from others.

Collectively we are all smarter than any of us individually, so I welcome your thoughts on any of these topics. Tell me what you think.


Things I’ll Look for When Selecting the Next Member of My Marketing Team

March 1, 2011

Hypothetically, let’s assume I’m looking to hire a new member of my marketing team. In reality, my public relations manager will be leaving in a couple of weeks, so I actually am making plans on how I’ll fill the void created by her departure.

Wait, though, before faxing me your resume. (Do people still do that? I hope not.) I have been asked to delay recruiting until the expense budget comes into better focus. The hiring process is frozen, but while we await the spring thaw, let’s return to my hypothetical situation.

As I think about the importance of building a strong marketing team, I have already updated the job description. The social media revolution mandates new expectations that are reflected in several bullet points on the revised list of job duties. Of course, I’ll also be looking for someone who meets a minimum threshold of necessary skills, talents and experience.

Above and beyond that, though, I will almost certainly select someone who:

  1. Has an impressive digital footprint. Before calling someone in for an interview, you can bet I will Google his or her name. There are so many people looking for jobs that I cannot imagine interviewing someone who does not have an impressive amount of information readily available on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, a personal blog, an online portfolio, or some other searchable platform.
  2. Is well branded. I want to know what a person stands for, both personally and professionally. A good brand makes promises and I need to have some idea of what I can expect from anyone who expresses an interest in being part of my team.
  3. Is differentiated. Does this person stand out from the rest of the pack? Quite frankly, I won’t even notice someone who blends into the vast, beige-colored landscape populated by thousands of job seekers whose clichè-ridden resumes were shaped by the same cookie cutter. (See my previous blog post about using Facebook as a tool to differentiate yourself in a job search.)
  4. Is savvy with traditional media. The ideal person will have a good understanding of traditional media—TV, radio and newspapers. He or she will also have experience in proactively pitching good story ideas and in building strong relationships with people inside the news media.
  5. Is savvy with social media. The right person will have moved far beyond the initial process of setting up profiles on various social media platforms. He or she will have demonstrated an ability to a) listen using social media tools, b) have sustained conversations in social media and c) create content valued by others who are swimming in the deeper end of the social media pool.

Three years ago when I most recently hired someone, the criteria were somewhat different. At that time I relied heavily upon two lists. One described my expectations for individual responsibility and the other focused on team performance. Though I’ve added criteria, both lists are still relevant today. So, here’s my question:

If, hypothetically, you are looking for a marketing job, how would you measure up?


10 Tips for Interviewing Success

April 7, 2010

Last week I was invited by a colleague to participate in the final round of interviews for a key position on her team. As I talked with the five finalists, I observed certain characteristics among those who interviewed exceptionally well. Afterward I jotted down a few notes that might be helpful to others who are preparing for a job interview.

First, be aware that by the time you are scheduled for an interview you have already cleared several hurdles. Apparently you said something in your cover letter to differentiate yourself from the herd of other applicants. The content of your resume indicates that you’ve met the essential criteria listed in the job description. Without question, the person interviewing you has already Googled your name to find any additional information contained in your digital footprint.

Congratulations! You’re on base and in scoring position. You haven’t yet crossed home plate, though, so here are my coaching tips. To emerge the winner, here are several items to remember:

  1. Be yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable “in your own skin” during the interview, that might be an indication that you won’t be comfortable in the job itself.
  2. Exchange enough information so both parties can make a rational decision about whether this will be a good match. Don’t think of the interview as “selling” yourself. Think of it as a first date where you’re just talking to see if there’s potential for a long-term relationship.
  3. Tell stories. Make them interesting. Make them brief. Read the rest of this entry »

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