Your Elevator Pitch should be about the Value you Bring

“I’m new to town and looking for opportunities.”  Eek!  That opening line is bound to shut some new connections down before they even get to know you. 

“I have 20 years of experience designing viewbooks for private schools and want to grow my network in the private school community.” This elevator pitch is a stronger opening. This statement shows the value that you provide, the challenges you can help others solve, and your reason for launching into your elevator pitch. 

The goal with an elevator pitch is to share enough about yourself briefly that people will think about you.  They will think about you if they hear that someone is hiring.  They will think of you if someone is talking about a project they need to complete at work.  They will think of you if they are talking to someone who does something similar to you. 

If you’re at a networking event, it’s apparent that you have a reason to be there.  People won’t be shocked to learn that you are looking for new clients, trying to connect more with influencers, or adding to your tribe of people like you.  And, they are at the networking event for a reason too.  Don’t be shy about why you are there and also learn why others are there.

After you have shared a strong opening line, get ready to share more with be prepared to answer some of these questions:

1 – Why did you come to this event tonight?  Here is a great chance to offer some more personal details.  “I moved to Denver a few months ago.  I have a strong network in my old city and want to build a strong network here.”  Maybe you are looking to build your network because you have clients that use you for branding work and now they need help with Powerpoint Design (which you don’t do), so you need a group of referrals. 

2 – How do you find your clients?

3 – What’s your process for solving <XX> challenge?

4 – When have you been most proud of work you’ve done?

These are authentic conversations that will help you build a solid network of people that will refer work to you, collaborate with you on future projects, or may even hire you. 

Adding Value Every Day

If you would ever thank one of my favorite Creative Directors for his contributions, he would always reply, “Just adding value.” And it was true. Every big idea or quick insight was adding incredible value to the project and our clients. He certainly taught me the concept of adding value at every opportunity. That quip seemed like an off-handed casual comment, but it was one of the best lessons I learned.

I challenge you to think about every project or team you are on. Take a minute to write down all the ways you add value to that team. Celebrate those!!

Now, take another minute to write down what the team needs to perform at a higher level. Are some of those ideas you can take on?

Here are some ways to add value to teams/projects:
– Share your notes from team meetings. Call out the highlights and decisions at the top and the action items at the bottom. (Organization)
– Thank someone for their specific contributions. (Gratitude)
– Share an article or podcast that has relevant information your project or a challenge the team is facing. (Inspiration)
Refocus the conversation around the decision at hand. (Efficiency)

Five People You Need in Your Network

There are five types of people you should have in your network.  These are people who will teach, connect, and support you.  Tell a look at your current network and see if you have at least three people of each type in your network.  If not, be intentional in to round out your network by the end of the summer with them. Also, remember strong networking is about both giving and benefiting (read this blog for more on that).

1 – Buyer/Client/Future Boss.  Whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or full-time employee.  Who are people that will contribute to your future income?  Is there someone rising the ranks at your current company – meet up with them, gain advice, add value to their current/future roles (through your network, experience, or skills).  Hitch your wagon to that star.  If you’re a freelancer, who is the hiring manager/freelance resource manager that is building out project teams at your dream agency? 

2 – Connectors.  Some people are magnets for awesome people.  Every time you talk to them, they say, “Do you know XXXX?  They are doing something that you would be interested in.”  These connectors know the growing businesses, the hiring managers, and thought leaders to follow.  Listen to them closely because their recommendations for a book, blog, or connection can be a catalyst in your career.  They are also great people to email and share an awesome project you just completed or share your goals for what’s next for you. 

3 – Mentors & Mentees.  Hopefully you have met some great people in your career that are a few steps ahead of you.  Be a sponge around these people: learn from their mistakes, understand the risks they have taken, and get inspired to push yourself.  The best mentors love helping those who are coming up behind them and reliving their professional journey.  Which means, you should also be mentoring those coming up behind you.  Do you have mentees that you are sharing your experiences and sage advice with?

4 – High-Five/SOS Tribe.  This tribe gets you.  You may be in the same or similar roles, work for the same company.  These are people that you can call and say, “This crazy specific huge accomplishment just happened!” and it will feel like they have jumped through the phone to give you a high five.  They get what it means to get an SOW fully executed or have a crucial conversation with a client, and they are there to support you in a big way.  These may also be people that you call for advice on a problem or a new way of doing something.  “This client just called and ask for a project-based quote vs. an hourly quote.  Have you done that before?  How do you respond?”  This tribe is a great source of advice and knowledge.

5 – Diverse Thinkers.  Is everyone in your network like you or do you have some people that are completely different from you?  Currently, I’m working on a project with someone who is so far on the opposite spectrum of leadership theories.  We talked for 45 minutes yesterday about theories I’ve never seen in practice.  Sometimes it feels like we’re on different planets, but I always take something away from our conversations and know that those nuggets will make me a better leadership coach. 

High-five if you have a well rounded network.  Keep growing.  Keep learning.  And keep paying it forward.

How much Freedom (or FU) Money do you have Saved?

Here you are, wanting to take a risk…
…start a business
…switch from full-time to freelance/gig employment
…travel without employment
…go back to school
…prioritize family over work
…or take a new career path.

The best thing you can do for yourself today is to start saving up that Freedom Money. A pot of money where you aren’t required to have a job or a specific salary before you can take a risk. Or the pot of money where you can (not literally) say FU to a job or a situation that isn’t fulfilling you.

Start today!!
1 – Trim your small expenses: dining out, buying new clothes, or those no-brainer Target purchases. Once you start reducing these nonessential expenses, you’ll see how much you don’t need them. When I was working full-time, it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend $200/month on clothes. Current me is shaking my head and finger at younger me. Now I own mostly classic pieces with a few fun pieces, and I rarely buy new clothes.

2 – Tackle the big expenses: rent, car lease, etc. Can you move to a cheaper apartment? Maybe there is one in your building that you can transfer to quickly. Or plan to find something less expensive at the end of your lease. Years ago, I wanted a two bedroom apartment to have a guest room for visitors. Instead, I found a one bedroom in a building that had a guest suite you could rent for $99/night. The one bedroom was $400/month cheaper than the two bedrooms. So even if I rented the guest suite for four nights per month, I was still ahead. In the year I lived there, I only rented the guest suite for two nights. Can you live with a cheaper car or no car at all? There are so many sharing apps that exist (car2go, Turo, B-Cycle Bikes, Bird scooters) or take Lyft or public transportation. Remember to factor in all the expenses associated with cars (loan payment, insurance, gas, maybe parking).

3 – Eliminate debt: credit card debt, car loans, student loans. There are two strategies, and both are good. You can pay off the smallest debts first; this strategy gives you a quicker sense of accomplishment as you can make more final payments sooner. The other strategy is to pay off the debts with the highest interest first; this will reduce the overall amount that you will pay, but you may not make a final payment quickly.

4 – Track everything and celebrate milestones: Saving isn’t exciting, and a big goal of $20k may take a bit to get to, so identify some milestones and rewards. Maybe at $1k, you get a nice dinner or bottle of wine, perhaps $5k is a clothing splurge.

Either way, anything you can save now will give you more freedom in your future. It will also reduce pressure to maintain a specific salary for your lifestyle and reduce financial anxiety.

Effective Communication while Networking

How can I help you? And how can you help me? Networking is a two-way street and having a great network should be a mutually beneficial relationship. It feels good to help others and it also feels good to receive support.

When articulating how you can help others and the help you need, it’s best to be specific. One of my favorite anecdotes goes like this.

If one of your friends has a baby, you may tell her, “Let me know how I can help. I will do anything.” But strangely, she never asks you to do anything.

However, if you were to say, “I would love to drop off dinner for you on Tuesday around 6 pm. How many people should I bring food for? Would be okay?” And she’ll often say, “Oh yes, thank you. That would be great.” Or “Thank you. Tuesday we already have dinner coming but next Thursday would be awesome.”

It’s easy to say “yes” when it’s a specific question. So, what does that look like for networking?

Potential ways you can help others:
– If they are job hunting, ask what they are looking for and offer to put them in touch with people you know at that company or in that industry. Or sharing a good networking group for them.
– If they are an entrepreneur, can you purchase a product/service from them or refer friends to them?
– If they are looking to expand their network, invite them to an upcoming networking event with you. It’s easier to show up knowing one person instead of going into an event full of strangers.

Potential ways you can ask for help:
– Asking for advice: “I’m search for a in . Would you have any advice for me to get my resume to the top of the pile?”
– Asking for a favor: “I see that you are connected to XXX at XXX. I recently applied for a job there, would you be willing to introduce me to them?”
Asking for support: “I’ve started my company. Social Media Engagement from follows, likes, and comments will help my content be seen by more people. Would you be willing to give me a follow and feedback on my posts?”

Three Career Lessons From My Mom

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I have to tell you my mom is awesome.  As much as she’s helped me personally; I owe my professional success to her.  Here are the top three lessons my mom taught me. 

1 – Always be hustling.  My mom always had a full-time job and a few side hustles.  When I was younger, I would help my mom set up her display table at the MaryKay parties she would host at our house.  She is still a MaryKay Consultant today and her inventory has taken over the closet in my childhood room. 

2 – Find a great partner.  My parents have been married for 42 years!  They have taken on the world together and have even owned a few businesses together.  They are a great team; each having strengths and complimenting each other’s weaknesses. 

3 – Be involved in your community.  I’m never going to top my mom on this one.  She is the queen of knowing the community.  From PTA President to running into someone she knows wherever she goes; my mom is well-connected.  She is always looking to help others with an introduction or opportunity.  And she also knows the right person to call to solve any problem. 

I still have so much more to learn from my mom and Mother’s Day is a great opportunity to pause and be grateful.  Thank you, Mom!  For these important lessons and so much more!

Improved Communications Skills should be a Goal that lasts your entire Career

One of my current clients has a goal to improve her communication skills. I hear this goal from almost every one of my clients in every stage of their career. It demonstrates self-awareness that even professionals at the top of their game want to be better communicators.

Being a better communicator can be broken down into multiple SMART goals throughout your career around presentation skills, active listening skills, emotional intelligence and more. Over the last six months, my client has increased her confidence contributing in meetings, tailors her emails to her different audiences, and even joined a group to improve her presentation skills.

As we talked each month, she was shocked to realize that even people she considers great communicators still have goals to improve their communication skills. Just knowing that almost every self-aware professional is working on their communication skills gave her the confidence to go outside her comfort zone and push herself.

The Reciprocity of Empathy will improve your Professional Development

Perception is Reality;” I was frustrated the first time I heard this quote. My manager was sitting down to talk to me about some negative feedback about my teamwork and attitude. It didn’t feel good because that negative feedback came from people that didn’t understand my intention. I have a strong work ethic, and I wanted what was best for the work. However, I sometimes forgot to consider other’s feelings and goals in my communications and comments with my peers. I wanted them to have empathy and understanding for me, but I wasn’t reciprocating.

This was a big revelation for me: that reciprocity of empathy. Here are some thought starters to think of others and some self-reflection for you.

Others:

  • What are their big motivators/goals?
  • Do they understand how their work contributes to the bigger goals?
  • How do they feel about work currently/in the future?
  • What can they do to make the team/work/process better? Do they have ideas they want to share?

You:

  • Have you clearly articulated the bigger picture/big goals?
  • Have you shared their purpose beyond their tasks? Can you help them see how their actions are contributions to the big goals? Are you acknowledging and celebrating those contributions?
  • Are you using the appropriate tone and language when giving direction/sharing the plan?
  • Are you allowing for time and space in conversations and relationships for others to share ideas/suggestions?
  • Are you acting in ways that support the culture you want: high-performing, collaborative, efficient, autonomous, effective, fun?

Be sure you are aligning your actions to your aspirations. Empathy can be a significant factor in improving your professional reputation. How do you want people to describe your professional reputation? Are your actions supporting that reputation? What’s missing? What can you improve? We are all evolving to be better peers, managers, and leaders. Keep working at it!

Prioritize Your Purpose; Not Your Tasks

Since 2009, 24% of professionals spent some time working from home according to the US Department of Labor; thanks to our connectivity through smartphones and an increase in flexible work schedules.  This connectivity also has burnout on the rise. Sometimes your job can seem like a loop of mundane tasks.  To reduce the chance of burnout, prioritize your purpose, not your tasks.  Your role is critical to the success of your team’s or company’s goals.   When you focus on your contributions to the greater team and goals, it’s easier to be excited and motivated about the work on your plate.

Here are two examples of how changing your mindset and language can help. 

I am a copywriter.  I write multiple articles each week for clients.  >>> I craft messages for clients to connect with their audience to be informed, inspired, and motivated. 

I am a salesperson; I work to hit my sales goals and thresholds.  >>> I connect our clients with valuable services/products to help them reach their goals.  I get to brag about our awesome team/product and help our company grow. 

Take a minute to think about your role and contributions.  Shift your mindset to focus on your purpose and not your tasks. 

Align your Actions with your Leadership Aspirations

Who is that leader you emulate? What does your leadership style look like when you are at your best? Which adjectives would you use to express the leader you want to be? How would you want others to describe your leadership? Think big: Sheryl Sandberg, MLK Jr., Bill & Melinda Gates, your parents, a mentor, your best boss ever.

Now think about all the work they invested in becoming that leader. They all successfully aligned their actions to their aspirations in authentic ways. They learned to walk the walk.

I’ve worked with leaders who shared in 1:1s that they care about their people but then on stage at an employee meeting, they felt they had to talk about themselves and almost justify why they have their job. We collaborated to figure out their aspirations and priorities, then aligned their actions and messages to push them to be the best leader they can be. It’s incredibly important and rewarding working. I love doing it.

What are your leadership aspirations? What is your action plan to get you there? Let’s connect to brainstorm actions that align with your aspiration and develop a robust action plan you can start with today.