My Elevator Speech Needs Work

Lessons Learned from a Recent Job Search

Well, I started my new job last month. I interviewed for 9 different jobs before finding the place that felt right, paid right, and also (very important) wanted me to work for them. In that time, I found no magic secret that can necessarily get you a job in less time, but I did learn some lessons that could give you a jump start in your next search.

Tell People That You’re Searching — With Intention

My first major step searching for a new job was to tell just about everyone I ever knew or randomly saw on the street that I was looking. This strategy wasted an inordinate amount of time. I arranged coffee after coffee and lunch after lunch and happy hour after happy hour just to say, “Yeah, I’m looking for something different. If you know of anything, send it my way.”

That’s not really an ask. Be intentional about who you tell and have an idea about what that person can do for you. Before you schedule a half hour or an hour of job-searching time, do your due diligence on LinkedIn, or check to see if your friend’s company has an appealing opening. I never put much work into leveraging my network, and that cost me.

Add Outcomes to Your Resume

The eternal struggle: keep your resume from looking like a list of job responsibilities. Most of the resumes my friends or family send me build a narrative around day-to-day activities. “Manage this program,” “Upkeep this website,” “Supervise these staff people.” All good things. All things you want to include. But I don’t know from that description if you’re good at any of those things. Counselors or mentors always encouraged me to include numbers or successes to tell a more compelling story, but sometimes incorporating those into my one or two line description felt silly.

About six months ago, a friend asked why I didn't just add a section to my resume labeled “Outcomes.” I had no good answer to that question. It makes so much sense. Now, under each job title, I list three or four bullet points explaining my duties, then a completely separate line that says “OUTCOMES.” Here’s a designated place to talk about successful projects, exemplary reviews, exceeding expectations, etc. Want to catch the eye of a recruiter? Brag yourself up, and point them directly at your proudest accomplishments.

All Interviews Are Practice Interviews

All I had from my previous job search was an outdated copy of my resume and a few scribbles about the companies who interviewed me. When I landed my first interview this time around, I felt completely unprepared. Sure, I researched the organization, rehearsed answers, and prepared a list of questions to ask. But I suspected I really didn't know what I was doing. Turns out, I was correct. The non-profit CEO asked me to describe myself and I led with “I’m just a regular guy, I guess.” Needless to say, I should have done better.

In all likelihood, you will interview for multiple jobs before finding the one you want and can get. And within a few years, you’ll start that process over again. Treat every interview like a practice interview. Take notes. Write down the questions they ask. Reflect afterwards about the answers you gave and how you can give better answers in the next round. And most importantly, start a file. In the event that sometime between now and turning 65 I need a different job, at least I have detailed notes, go-to stories, and a series of questions I saw repeatedly from multiple human resource departments. That’s better than starting with nothing.

The Five Sentence Elevator Speech

The elevator speech concept always seemed dumb to me, and the “30 seconds about yourself” format didn't really help. I never, ever, ever kept my answer under 30 seconds, and I never really standardized my content. I always rambled, and I always tried to answer every interview question they would ask as soon as they said “So, tell me about yourself.” Why did I think that would be helpful? I have no idea.

So after a few interview failures, I decided to think more critically about the elevator speech. How could I deliver the necessary information, appear like a fully formed human being, and constructively steer the conversation? You can’t. It’s impossible to do that in 30 seconds. But you can get close in 5 pre-written, well-rehearsed sentences. I promise.

·You need a headline, the A-Number-One most important thing for the interviewer to know about you — “I am a political junkie with high-level experience on three statewide and two national campaigns.”

·Describe your experience starting with your current position then working backwards: “I currently serve as the Communications Director for House Representative Williams who won his district by 12%.”

· “Prior to that, I directed social media and trained volunteers for State Senator Smith’s 2009 campaign.”

·Then something you do outside work — “In my free time, I volunteer as a media consultant for the Humane Society.”

· And finally, a personal tidbit — “I’ve lived in Maryland my whole life, and it’s been a pleasure to serve this great state through public service.”

Good Luck!

You can’t control everything in your job search, but these tips serve the following purpose: You've gotten your foot in the door, positioned yourself to get an interview, prepared for the interview, and answered the first question you’re guaranteed to hear. Best of luck with you next search.