I coached a client who had made wine in Paris, modeled for major magazines, and started and sold a tech company.
Most recently, to better round himself out, he went to business school.
So when he introduced himself, did he talk wines, high fashion, or life as a former CEO?
No, he called himself an MBA.
This eclectic, accomplished professional immediately lumps himself along with thousands of others by picking one of the most generic things on his resume.
The MBA was from a good school, yes. It was an interesting counterpart to his otherwise very technical background, check. So it deserves to be mentioned, sure.
But not first! It’s still much more plain vanilla than any of the other things he also had.
So, rule # 1 for your pitch is to lead with the memorable.
As a recruiter, I’ve interviewed tons of MBA’s (this guy wanted a financial services career, so no shortage of MBA’s there). But, I can count the number of successful entrepreneurs and/ or fashion models. Are you a black belt in karate, a former prima ballerina, fluent in multiple languages?
"Be memorable. Build on your strengths. Lead with results."
Don’t be afraid to be unique.
I’m not suggesting to not mention the MBA at all. It’s a key part of his added value because he has the finance and technology combination.
But it’s the combination that’s so interesting.
So, rule # 2 is to frame your qualities so that they build on each other. Absolutely mention the different degrees you’ve completed, industries where you’ve worked, and functional roles that you’ve held. But weave them into a coherent plot line so that each adds a welcome dimension, not just another factoid for me to remember. So you started and sold a tech company and have an MBA from Top School X – interesting combo!
Results still matter.
The wine stood out because it was Paris, the modeling was significant because he had worked at a top level, and the entrepreneurship added value because of his successful exit. (The MBA also fits in nicely because it’s from a top school.)
You can’t just mention every interesting thing you do, like fluency in Pig Latin, if there is no business context. When I listed out black belt, prima ballerina or language fluency as possible unique items, these are all levels of mastery. So, rule # 3 is to pick the qualities that have substantive results to back them up.
You want to intrigue but also amaze.
Your pitch is how you introduce yourself at networking events, informational interviews, on your cover letter, to your friend’s friends. It is how you answer that interview staple, “Tell me about yourself.” It defines your brand and therefore drives your search. The pitch is critical to positioning yourself for the right role at the right level. Be memorable. Build on your strengths. Lead with results.
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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career coach, writer, speaker, Gen Y expert and co-founder of SixFigureStart (www.sixfigurestart.com), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline most recently headed University Relations for Time Inc and has also recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, and others. Caroline is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs and posts at CNBC Executive Careers and Vault.com.
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