I was recently introduced to an unemployed 50 year old finance executive. We just happened to be entering the elevator together at the same time as a key investor in a major hedge fund. While we descended to the lobby, I introduced them. The investor asked the unemployed exec what he did for a living and his response was: I’m unemployed and I’m looking for a finance position. Then there was dead silence for another 12 floors. A moment later we were in the lobby and I took the exec aside and I said, “Do you realize that you blew your elevator pitch”?
I invited the exec to my office and asked him what he would have said if he were better prepared. He simply couldn’t come up with a memorable sound bite. He sounded tongue tied and anxious.
It’s very difficult to keep your spirits and head up high when you’ve been unemployed for 7 months and you’re in financial stress. I’m sympathetic to his position and see this every day. The older we get the harder it becomes to succinctly summarize what we do, how well we do it and what it means to an employer. It’s almost as if we have a very thick crust that’s been building over time and keeps our professional value from coming through.
I suggested that he could have said the following:
- I’m in transition and I’m looking to leverage a reputation as an investment banker who has a knack for connecting people to opportunities and money in the high tech sector.
- Would you have any interest in hearing more about what I’ve done to enhance the fortunes of companies? Perhaps you can recommend some people I could network with?
The exec looked at me and said, “I got it.”
Here’s the lesson. Have your message prepared. It should be a powerful statement of who you are and what you bring to the table. It should also include an “action item” for what you want to achieve with that person. Then, you must practice and commit it to memory so it can be called upon as soon as any “door” opens. Otherwise it can get lost in the elevator.
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