I momentarily thought about titling this article “Constructing Your Elevator Speech”, but I’ve heard that term so many times I could just scream. What everyone really wants to know is what to say to people at parties when they’re asked what kinds of positions they’re looking for.
First and foremost, you want it to always be casual. It should never feel too rehearsed, and the person you’re talking to should never get that frightened look in their eye that you’re trying to sell them a used car. You want to have an idea of how to talk about your experience in an interesting, and honestly, an entertaining way that will make you memorable to the listener and make them more open to helping you. This should NEVER feel like a hard-sell-begging-for-a-lead situation.
Second, you want to take a look at the types of things that you enjoy doing in your current—or even some prior jobs. What skills were you happiest doing? Management? Organization? Working with People? Working with Numbers? Solving Complex Problems? Think of it in some broad strokes rather than getting too narrow by mentioning specific positions. Paint a picture for someone of what you’re like to work with so they can envision you at work. All of us remember images better than words, so try to create an image in their mind of the things you do—even specifically. You can talk about some past accomplishments—maybe it’s a large project that you worked on, an account that you won, a difficult computer programming challenge that you figured out. Tell people what you do, and what fields you’re shooting for.
Another way to think about this is to approach it from the “what kinds of problems do you solve?” angle to help you think about some good examples to talk about.
Third, think about the industries you’re interested in. This should further paint a picture in the mind of your listener. It’s appropriate to even do some namedropping of companies that you’re trying to get into with the thought that they may know someone there like a relative or close friend who could help you.
What you don’t want to do is mention everything that you can possibly do in a job. You’re not reading your resume, you’re simply giving a brief—and I mean 30 seconds-brief—snapshot of the position you aspire to. Just the highlights.
Here’s an example:
“I’ve decided it’s time for me to look for a new job. I’ve gotten about as far as I can with this company and it’s time for me to move on. I’m looking for the opportunity to do less direct customer contact, and the ability to use all of the customer information I’ve learned over the years to help companies design new products, or even go into market research. My background is in Marketing, and I’ve got a head full of ideas about how people think and what kinds of questions they ask themselves before making a decision and why they decide on the product they do. I’ve thought about working for Diagio—that liquor manufacturer, or even Neilsen media research in their market research field. I’m known around the office as the “go to” person who can handle a variety of problems without getting ruffled—my current company will really miss me when I leave.”
Notice how I told a little story about why I was looking for the position I was looking for, what my background was in, and what companies I had thought about working for. Also dropped the subtle hint that I’m known as a Jack-of-all-trades around the office to give them a bit of a unique picture that everyone could relate to.