Archive for June, 2009

Land your dream job 2- Develop your elevator pitch

June 30th, 2009

elevatorpitch2In the early 1990s, I was in charge of business development for a biotech firm. When describing the company, I said, “We provide high dose chemotherapy with peripheral blood stem cell support to patients with advanced stage multiple myeloma, lymphoma, AML, CML and breast cancer.” Talk about a conversation stopper.  When I changed my story to, “We provide hope to cancer patients,” I got the response that I wanted. “How do you do that?”

If you want to land your dream job, develop your story, commonly called the elevator pitch, and tell it to everyone. Make the story brief, clear and human—no rambling, no industry jargon and no technical details.

          Thomas J. Moyer, Ohio’s chief justice describes America’s story, “The American story is the story of people who reach beyond themselves.” Doesn’t that sum it all up? Did that create a vision of people who risked everything to cross oceans, who trekked across mountains, who journeyed to the moon and who are still reaching out and providing hope to the many corners of the world? Your story should incite an emotional response from your prospect. You want him to respond with, “Tell me more.”  

Size matters

How many times have you met someone at a business function, asked them what they did and five minutes later they were still talking? You had no clue what they did and you wondered if they knew. Here’s a situation where size truly does matter—and short wins. Develop your thirty second story. Twenty seconds would be better and fifteen seconds, outstanding.


It’s about the people

          Chief Justice Moyer’s American story is about people, not about a country. Make your story about people, not about a company, technology or a product. The human brain processes and stores information by association and you want to capture your prospective employers’ attention and ignite a positive emotional response. What if your prospective employer knows nothing of your previous company? What if his computer crashed that day? He isn’t going to be thinking highly of technology. But, people like people. And the truth is—every employers’ success hinges on the talents and motivations of the people that they employ.  


Jargon is junk

In 1998 at the height of the technology boom, I was recruiting a sales manager for a start-up technology firm. One candidate described his abilities,“I manage best of breed sales forces that offer result-driven paradigm shifts that increase bandwidth to global constituencies.”  Huh?

Jargon is  a contagious disease. We hear it, we use it, and we spread it.  When using jargon one of three things will happen and none of them are good. Your prospective employer will not understand you. Your prospective employer will think that he is stupid. Your prospective employer will think that you are stupid. Out of the box, human capital, and value-added are phrases that clutter business communications.  Stop using them now.

Recently I worked with a woman to develop her 15 second story.  She had an impressive career in operations in banking, health care and IT. But after diving deeper, we discovered she had many successful new product launches. Her new story that morphed into her tagline–the first line of her resume and the tag underneath her email signature–was, ”Turning business visionaries’ dreams into operational reality.” 

I challenge you to develop your clear, concise and human story. One that will intrigue the listener to ask for more—the story of your unique talents and how you will help them cut costs or drive revenue.



Michael Jackson’s genius stirs deep emotions across both genders around the globe

June 28th, 2009

Men and women of all ages, races and religions across the world are both mourning the death and celebrating the life of Michael Jackson who died Thursday at age 50.  His 1982 album, Thriller, is the the best selling album of all time.  How does one become the best seller of all time in any category? The only way to cross gender and culture preferences is to deeply connect to human emotions through one of a kind brilliance.

Reporters seem surprised by the outpouring of emotions and deeply personal responses to Jackson’s death by millions of people who never personally saw him, much less knew him. Why do so many feel a deep emotional connection to Michael Jackson?

Maya Angelou wisely asserted, ” They will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they never will forget how you made them feel.”  Jackson never ceased to arouse our feelings; to evoke our deepest emotions through the two most powerful connectors to the brain– music and novelty.  

Music is a universal human obsession, as fundamental to us as language. Music makes it easy for your brain synapses to “fire together and wire together” to form a memory. Hence that subversive jingle that you can’t get out of your head and why many Alzheimer’s patients no longer recall their children’s names or faces but can sing entire songs. Jackson not only wrote and performed music, he was the music. His songs were powerful stories, performed with precision and passion.  His body became the most powerful musical instrument in each composition; his every cell and pore seemed not to perform the song but to be the song.  One can just image that his pulse beat in rhythm to Billie Jean and Beat It.

Not only was Jackson’s music extraordinary, there was nothing normal,  common or ordinary about Michael Jackson on or off the stage. The human brain is wired to focus attention to anything novel or unique and ignore what is ordinary. Every move he made, every interview he gave, fascinated us. Michael made us feel:

  • Tenderness for the sweet, 11 year old boy from Gary, Indiana who during the racially tumultuous year of 1968, reminded us that love was as easy as ABC
  • Joy at his ability to get us off our own butts and try to moon walk to Billie Jean
  • Awe at the genius of  every performance
  • Hope for the world, when he co-wrote and performed with 39 other celebrities We Are the World, raising millions for famine relief in Africa
  • Sympathy when he was severely burned while filming a commercial
  • Horror as he held his infant over a balcony
  • Pity for an emotionally scared boy-man on Oprah
  • Wonder as to how someone blessed with so much talent and money could be so unhappy
  • Disgust at allegations of his sexual child molestations
  • Dismay at each new picture of his changing appearance and sadness that no amount of plastic surgery could hide the anguish in his eyes
  • Grief at his early death

Pure genius is universally revered. Men and women of all cultures are in awe when viewing a Michelangelo fresco, a Michael Jordon slam dunk or the Michael Jackson video in this blog.

Michael, may you have the peace that you could not find on earth.  We mourn that the boy who promised, “I’ll Be There,” will no longer be with us.

Land that dream job with the X and Y tips

June 24th, 2009

helpwated2In today’s economy there are no jobs for the average Joe or Jane.  But there are plenty of jobs for superstars. Competition is fierce and if you do not shine in every stage of the interview process, someone else will get your dream job.

A reader asked me to post The X and Y of Landing the Dream Job. Sales people know that they must be at the top of their game to close the deal. That means that they must know their prospect, how to best communicate with him or her to differentiate their product and how to add the most value.

If you are currently searching for a job as an engineer, a manager,  or even a zookeeper, you are a sales person and your product is you.

For the next few posts I will provide tips to get you in the door, to wow both males and females in interviews, negotiate your best compensation ever and land your dream job. I’ll incorporate The X and Y of Buy tips so that you can connect to both sexes. As an executive that often interviews others, I’ll let you in on the secrets of what wows me.

Let’s start with the basics.  All great sales people know that the three basis rules to closing the deal are:

1. It is not about you, it’s about your prospect. This means your must first concentrate on your prospective employer’s needs, not your needs. You gain deep knowledge about the employer, the department and the job.  Search the Internet, past media and the company’s marketing information. What is the employer’s growth strategy? How do they plan to bring more value to their stakeholders ( investors, employees, customers) in the next 12 months and three years. Find this out before the interview.

2. OK, now it is about you. You must know your innate strengths and weaknesses.  Set aside 45 minutes and take the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire. This questionnaire was developed by Martin Seligman, Professor of  Psychology at University of Pennsylvania , and measures your unique and innate strengths. You will actually get descriptions of each human strength and your personalized ranking from 1 to 24 in order of your strengths. This means that the last seven will be your weaknesses.  DO NOT work on your weaknesses, work on and promote your strengths. For example my #24 trait (meaning my biggest weakness) is prudence- being cautious and careful. I should not be an accountant (my college major), a structural engineer, or a safety manager. I would be miserable and fail.

Find a company and job where you can use your innate strengths every day. If you know your strengths and weaknesses you will forever avoid the great person-great job-bad match syndrome! I promise this will be 45 minutes well spent. Log on to, scroll down under Engagement Questionnaires and then click on the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire. You do have to log in but it is free.

3. Now that you know your prospective employer’s goals and initiatives and your unique strengths…brainstorm. Make a quick list of how you, armed with your unique talents, can add value–lower their costs or increase revenue .   Jot down key words, phrases, examples and ideas. Don’t judge, edit or over-think this.  Just write down every thing that comes to mind no matter how crazy!  Now walk away from it.  Go take a walk, relax and look at it again tomorrow morning. Then start editing and refining. 

Next post- how to develop your 30 second elevator pitch and your signature stories –ones that bring your unique strengths to life for your prospective employer.


Did Letterman cross the line with the Palin joke?

June 16th, 2009


David Letterman is funny, we all know that, right? So why was he apologizing–again–to Sarah Palin last night? 

Maybe it’s because what he and his staff writers thought was hilarious…wasn’t. At least it wasn’t to the women in his audience, let alone the women who were the butt of his joke. And there in lies the dilemma many of us have in reaching our target audience. What works for men, may totally miss the mark for women — and vice versa.

If you missed the story, Letterman’s June 8th monologue included a joke about Palin’s daughter being “knocked up” by Alex Rodriquez during the seventh inning stretch of a Yankees’ game.  Letterman said he thought that he was joking about Palin’s 18 year old daughter Bristol Palin, but the daughter at the Yankees game was 14 year old, Willow. Either way, it was offensive to women.


Letterman and his writers failed to recognize a key gender difference: men often bond by bantering, teasing and using derogatory nicknames; women don’t and never will. 


As discussed in The X and Y of Buy, you have to know your target audience if you want to close the sale. This is as true in advertising and TV as it is for closing a consulting contract or a major Cap X. 


Does that mean that women don’t have a sense of humor? Absolutely not! I haven’t talked to one woman (of either political persuasion) who didn’t think SNL’s Palin – Clinton spoofs this past fall were hysterical. But Letterman stepped over the line–the unwritten female line–between humor and personal unprovoked bullying. 


A few months ago, Rush Limbaugh seemed surprised by the gender difference in his audience — 72 percent of his listeners are men, only 28 percent are women. Most women view personal derogatory comments i.e most of Limbaugh’s diatribe and Letterman’s recent jab at Palin and her daughter as bullying.  


I am a fan of David Letterman, but he crossed the line.