This week I sat down with one of my clients who has 14 years of experience working at Starbucks Corporation. As we were talking about her networking strategy, she told me a story about a coworker:

“I organized an event at Starbucks where Howard Schultz gave a speech. The next day a colleague of mine came running to me and said she made a ‘career-limiting’ move. When I asked her what happened, she said that she ran into Howard in the elevator the next day and said, “That was a great speech!” Howard asked her, which part did she like the best and she stuttered and said ‘the part about the cup.’ ”

This colleague let nervousness get the better of her at a time when she could have made a good first impression. She hadn’t prepared for the possibility that she could be in this situation. So, what should she have done instead?

If you’ve followed the advice of many career books and advisors, you might be thinking she should have had her “elevator pitch” ready.

The elevator pitch is a 30 – 60 second statement you use when you meet someone to tell them who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for.

While developing your personal branding statement is great, the delivery method is flawed. It’s why introverts aren’t comfortable going to networking events where dozens, if not hundreds, of professionals are trying to sell themselves to each other. Not all of us can toot our own horn without feeling uncomfortable.

I give an exercise in my seminars to job seekers to practice their elevator pitch. Once their two minutes are up, I ask for feedback. Rarely do I have someone admit that they’re comfortable selling themselves to a total stranger. I then ease their tension by saying “Don’t ever, ever do this again!” When you pitch a total stranger at a networking event, here’s what happens: You sound like a telemarketer. The person receiving the pitch feels uncomfortable, put on the spot and their defense shield is raised. People don’t like being sold to – especially in Seattle – so don’t try it this way.

So, if you meet Howard Schultz in an elevator, be cordial, polite, and relax. You don’t have to sell yourself — which comes across as aggressive or needy — but do look for an opportunity to make a meaningful impression if you can. In this example, talking about Howard’s speech was a good instinct. When you meet a company VIP, it might help calm your nerves to think of him or her as just another colleague with whom you can build a relationship. Then later, you can set up some time to discuss a topic you’re mutually interested in.

Live Seminars in December

The Career Search Excellence seminar is packed with only the hottest tips and tricks for professionals seeking a new opportunity – giving you a competitive edge over the competition. The seminar is free (sponsored) and there are three dates to choose from in December.
  • December 5 (Bellevue, WA)
  • December 8 (Bellevue, WA)
  • December 10 (Bellevue, WA)
Register Now (It's free.)
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