Monday, July 22, 2013

Tell them you want to be president

Escaping a bad elevator pitch.
As an editor at Reader's Digest for 16 years, and a writer at The AP before that, I always perk up when I hear someone suggesting that, with words, less is more.

So I ended up at a job networking meeting listening to Tucker Mays explain how to create a one-sentence job objective. He is an executive coach and co-founder of OptiMarket, a Connecticut firm that helps job seekers get it done.

It is possible to express in one sentence, and I guess one breath, the title of the job you want, the kind of company you want it in, the four skills you have for that job, and how great the company will be if it has the wisdom to hire you. This is the classic elevator pitch, and you need to nail it.

What I want to focus on is this: most people are vague about the kind of job they want, because they don't want to close off any opportunities. In other words, they want to be president, but, heck, they'd settle, right? Wouldn't we all.

Mays says that if you're qualified to be president of a company, go for it. Don't settle. If there are lesser jobs out there, you'll hear about them. But let people know what you really want. When I was hired by The AP in New Orleans, I looked around and announced that I was going to be a feature writer in New York. Soon people just knew that's what I was going to do, and I did.

There's a tactic every used car salesman knows: offer the most expensive item first. Then, reluctantly, settle for something cheaper if the buyer insists. The buyer will feel better that way.

This lesson can be broadly applied. When you're writing at work, you want people to respond to your words. Have you thought about exactly how? Well, now's the time. To get them to react, you have to be specific. You have to focus. You have to spell out what you want them to do. You have to tell them you want to be president.

Mays said one other thing that stuck with me. "You're old enough to know what you want."

Ah. They aren't handing out any more days. Time to go for it. If not now, when?

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