Q & A: Laura Allen on How to Use a 15 Second Pitch to Market Yourself

March 4th, 2011 Comments off

Laura Allen once closed a $5.5 million deal that started with a cold call.  She is the co-founder of 15SecondPitch.com, a site which helps job seekers and entrepreneurs pitch themselves. She’s been interviewed by ABC News and The Wall Street Journal, now she sits down with us.

Why do job seekers need a pitch?

A pitch is a clear, concise, compelling way to explain who you are and what you do . You can say a lot in 15 seconds if you are focused, consistent and give it a little thought. It allows job seekers to talk about something they excel at, instead of talking about how they need a job.

You talk about the importance of being brief. Why?

Many years ago, people advocated for the value of an elevator pitch—a  sales pitch marketing your wares in two minutes. But we live in an ADHD society; most buildings aren’t tall enough for a two minute elevator ride.

Few people have the time or energy to listen to an elevator pitch. To get the attention of a c-level leader, you need to get your point across fast. You need to be able to say who you are, what you do, why you are the best at what you do, and what you offer in a space that could fit on the back of a business card.

A commanding quick pitch that is well received will get you 15 minutes later.  It will be remembered.

What if I’d rather say I have a unique skill set than say I’m the best? Does this matter.

People often say “why do I need to say that I’m the best at something, why can’t I talk about how what I offer that is different?” In reality, “why you are The Best at something is what makes you the most desirable AND employable!  People remember it.” You need them to remember you.

Where should I use my quick pitch?

You can use it anywhere—in an online summary in a social network, in an e-mail, on your Twitter or Facebook profile.  It’s a subtle way to market your skills, interests and what makes you unique.

What’s the biggest mistake people make in pitching themselves?

Using the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach. They talk about diverse interests and try to appeal to all. In the process, they appeal to none. Employers hire people to solve a specific problem. You need to focus on the skills that are relevant to the employer. If you have two interests, develop a separate custom pitch for each one. Don’t use a hybrid pitch.

How do I know the needs of my audience?

If you really want to know, ask the other person what they need first.  Be interested.  Listen well. I was at a networking event recently where a woman was in a panic because she had been underemployed for several years.  Two women attempted to share several job ideas with her. She was so busy talking about her fears and anxieties that she did not hear the advice given to her.  She interrupted these two well-meaning women so many times that they both gave up trying to help her.  Share your deepest fears with your closest friends; not with strangers at a networking event.

When you hear what others need, you know better how to refine your pitch to show how you align with their needs. If you don’t fit with the needs, drop a name or refer a person who can help. When you give an opportunity away, you share good karma—and show maturity.

What’s a question that I should ask that I haven’t asked. And what is your answer.

Can you give me an example of a good pitch?
Several years ago, I met a fellow named Ken at a networking event. When I asked him what he did, he said, “business development for the entertainment industry.” He had long hair but a nice suit. After a few questions, I learned more.

When he reintroduced himself as a Kellogg MBA and Comic book fan who had put together a billion dollar deal for the Lord of the Rings, he became much more interesting to the same people who had yawned before.

Can you give me actionable advice in 140 characters or less?

Identify what you do best and how you can fill a need. Make this your pitch and prepare it before you need it.

Editor’s Note: Check out the free pitch wizard at 15secondpitch.com. You’ll walk away with a draft pitch in under five minutes.

77% of hiring managers use social media to check out job applicants.

March 3rd, 2011 Comments off

Uh oh.

Better keep your Facebook clean and use StartWire to keep your job search confidential!

Q & A: Tim Tyrell-Smith on Networking with a Purpose

March 2nd, 2011 Comments off

Tim Tyrell-Smith
Tim Tyrell-Smith is the author of 30 Ideas of Successful Job Search, and the founder of TimsStrategy.com. He is a former marketing VP for Horizon Foods, and writes for U.S. News & World Reports online feature, “On Careers.”

What’s the biggest networking mistake that you see job seekers make?

A big mistake I see job seekers make is networking without specific job search objectives.  You need to be able to answer a simple question:  “What Are You Looking For?” Don’t give vague answers or suggest multiple industry or job title targets.  Be specific.  Offer data that your network can use to remember you.  Make sure your objectives are listed out on your networking bio and business cards as a tangible reminder.  Make it easy for people to help you.

You say networking without a purpose is just socializing, is a written agenda necessary among friends or at social gatherings?

It depends on why you are out networking.  If your purpose is simply to meet new people and make friends, that’s fine.  But if your objective is to find a job or build a consulting business, you need to work with a plan.  The goal is to be less impulsive and more strategic. 

I ask job seekers at events three questions: 

  1. What are you doing here?
  2. Who are you here to meet?
  3. How does this event fit with your goals for the week?   

My goal is to provoke new thinking about why people make certain decisions about events and how they can better plan so that they walk away from an event with smart new connections, new leads and more information about target companies.  Not just a stack of business cards.

Any suggestions to build credibility for a job if you’ve never worked in a field or don’t have any contacts?

First of all, trying to change jobs or industries is never easy.  And this economy has made it very difficult.  Because without specific “ready to run” experience, you are a risky hire. Here are two options:

  1. Get experience now that allows you to appear less risky.  Examples include an internship, a new certification, a consulting gig or even a significant volunteer experience.  All of these will at least give the hiring manager a reason to look at your resume without squinting.
  2. Get a job in your current field or industry and work to transition over time.  Take on cross-functional roles and begin networking internally.  Prove yourself and build credibility.  Then you can strategically pursue that new role with people that already know you.

Do you see a difference in networking for a job and when you’re in a job?

The basic successful habits of networking are the same.  Help others, be personable, smile and be memorable.  But it is a lot easier to network when you are working.  For some there is an added confidence in having a platform (a company behind you).  And there are some very smart and talented job seekers out there who are desperately looking for employed contacts.  

As an employed person, you have knowledge and information you can share, use to help others and use to meet motivated new connections.  Many employed people live under a rock and don’t crawl out much.  Find one event per month minimum to attend.  And offer an hour or two each month to help people via informational interviews.

Are there any questions I haven’t asked that I should be asking? What’s the question, and what’s your answer?

How do you get the most out of a networking event? Here are my suggestions.

  1. Prepare – find out who will be there and arrange a pre-meeting if someone is a key potential contact.
  2. Get there early – it is easier to network in a smaller crowd.  
  3. Resist the urge to sit down – instead, find people to meet up until the speaker starts talking.
  4. Ask for help – Don’t let pride prevent you from telling people that you need help with something.
  5. Connect with organizer – meeting organizers know a lot of people and can connect you with key people in your industry or field.
  6. Stay late – often you can get a few minutes with the speaker or potentially offer to buy a key person a cup of coffee on the way out.
  7. Follow up – Find out how you can get in touch with key people after the event. Ask if they’d be open to connecting on LinkedIn.  Suggest a coffee meeting a few days later.

Parting Words: What’s your “use it now” actionable—advice for job seekers (in 140 characters or less):

Write a regular monthly e-mail update to your network. Remind them of your specific job search objectives and give them a reason to stay engaged in your job search.

Thankful to get a rejection letter.

February 25th, 2011 Comments off

Wow.  The service standard in recruiting is set so low. Just read the first few paragraphs of this article about how a job seekers was HAPPY to get a rejection letter. Seems that passes as world class.

The StartWire DEV team is working on a solution issue as we speak. The alpha is live and it’s amazing. 

Want to work for a start-up with some cash: Series A/B/C Hiring List

February 17th, 2011 Comments off

Throw this into Google.

site:techcrunch.com “series b”

You can also substitute a,c,d for b. What do you get? Companies featured in one of the leading technology blogs who are annocuing their raise (Series A, B, C, D). So not only do they have cash…but they are kinda hot.

Want to work for them? First, you need to be smart. But being creative and forward also helps.  Read the article. Find the founders online…and meet them, greet them, and impress them.

PS. If you know someone at Techcrunch. Tell them to write about StartWire

A 1st step to closing the black hole…and a call for beta testers.

February 15th, 2011 Comments off

Good article here by Alison Doyle on how to avoid the resume black hole. It outlines some great techniques and general best practices for job search.

That said, the StartWire DEV team has been working hard on this issue and we’ve got a technology solution that our alpha testers think is pretty cool. Beta will launch in March. If anyone is interested in being in the beta team, drop me a line @ chris.forman {at} startdatelabs.com.

Top 10 fastest growing buzz words in job posting and how they can help get your resume noticed.

February 13th, 2011 Comments off

The team over at Indeed do some really cool and valuable stuff for job seekers. Their list of the 10 fastest growing job trends is a case in point.

Recently they analyzed their giant job posting dataset to define the fastest growing job posting ‘buzzwords’.  Why is this more than neat…but really valuable? Recruiters search by keywords when they use resume databases. If the buzz words below are the ‘hot’ new terms showing up in job postings…you can bet they will be used to ‘find’ resumes. If you are looking for a new job…and have used any of these technologies, platforms, or methodologies…your chance of getting your resume reviewed will be dramatically increased if you get these specific terms on your CV.

Indeed’s Fastest Growing Job Trends 

  • HTML5
  • Mobile app
  • Android
  • Twitter
  • jQuery
  • Facebook
  • Social Media
  • iPhone
  • Cloud Computing
  • Virtualization

But the best job search advice we can give is to check our StartWire – where friends and experts help you find work!

Does your boss know you’re job hunting?

February 5th, 2011 Comments off

Great article on Fortune about this really important subject (always like hearing from Susan Joyce!). Too bad they didn’t mention StartWire. Solving this problem is what we do…private, social collaboration for job search!

– Chris

Better jobs thru better search strings!

February 4th, 2011 Comments off

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One of the great features of StartWire is the ability to ask world-class job search experts for tips and techniques to rock your job search.  We’ve been buried with great, deep, & thoughtful questions.

Interestingly, a question that keeps getting asked is how to structure a job search query on job boards to find a jobs that actually match what you are looking for.  

At AIRS, one of the things Tim & I taught recruiters how to do was use Boolean logic & search engines to find great candidates.  The same principles work great for job seekers looking to search job databases like StartWire, CareerBuilder, & Indeed.
Check this out.

Let’s say you are looking for a job as a Sales Manager.  Most job seekers simply enter the words Sales Manager into the keyword box and hit GO. The problem is that the search engine at your favorite job board will search for jobs that have the words Sales and Manager…but not necessarily together.  The result is jobs that aren’t very targeted.

But if you put “Sales Manager” in quotes, your results are transformed.  You have results where the phrase Sales Manger is present. Even better, sites like StartWire support advanced commands like title:”sales manager” that allow you to not only specify a specific phrase…but WHERE on the job posting it should appear.

Hope this helps.  To learn more, find great jobs, and get access to some of the best job search minds in the US (all for FREE), join StartWire!

– Chris

job search tips