Making Networking Work
Networking can pay big dividends if you have the proper pitch.
Most professional job seekers know they should invest a lot of time
and energy in networking in order to hook up with potential career
opportunities. For some, the process is stimulating and satisfying
because it produces results. For others, it is nothing more than a
frustrating waste of time.
The way to take maximum advantage of networking opportunities is to develop what career consultant Laura Allen dubbed the “15-Second Pitch” — a concise and compelling way to summarize who you are and what you want to do. Allen is cofounder of 15SecondPitch.com.
“Very few people are born salesmen,” said Allen in her humorous and engaging presentation at a Career Resource Forum for Johnson School alumni held at the Cornell Club in New York in November. “But if we master this, then we write our own ticket,” she asserted, explaining that if we do not grab the attention of the people we address right away, we have lost them for good.
The forum, jointly sponsored by Alumni Affairs and the Career Management Center, attracted 50 alumni, who listened to Allen’s advice and then broke into small groups to craft their own personal 15-second pitches and get feedback from their cohorts.
Allen pinpointed four elements of a successful 15-second pitch. The first step is to introduce yourself, using your full name and your title or tagline. The second is to say what you do, being as specific as possible.
“Avoid the ‘kitchen sink’ pitch. Don’t tell your entire career history,” Allen cautioned. “Focus on one thing and be specific.” She advised preparing separate pitches for different things that you want to do, or “a pitch for every niche.”
The third element of the successful pitch is to say why you are the best person for the job or the go-to person in your field. Allen noted that lot of people, especially women, are uncomfortable with this step because they don’t like to brag. But she maintained that you have to include this step or else you are not giving your potential contacts a reason to remember you or return your phone calls.
The fourth and last element is to indicate what action you would like people to take next. Be direct — and be more specific than “Um...let me know if you hear anything,” Allen advised.
Once you’ve crafted and polished your pitch, send it out to 10 friends, Allen suggested. She predicted that several friends will realize they had forgotten about your particular accomplishments; this fresh reminder will prompt them to put you in touch with the right person.
“Send that pitch out and then they can send it along,” urged Allen, noting that this is a more effective strategy than sending out a resume.