Pitch the Elevator Speech for Something Better

9356478507_907e1a3fa2_nNetworking, everyone is doing it.  Networking can either be exhilarating because you have an opportunity to meet new people or networking can be a drudgery that saps your energy and leaves you ready to run for the door.  At one time, early in my career, the thought of entering a room full of strangers sent chills down my spine.  Wherever I went, I wanted a friend, colleague, or even a slight acquaintance to accompany me so that I didn’t have to face meeting new people alone.  Later, as I advanced in my career, the fear of strangers dissipated, and I truly enjoyed the networking scene.  Now, I look for every opportunity to attend events, workshops, and any place I can connect with people.  But the fact that I am introvert, beginning a conversation with a total stranger, does not come easy.  The words do not just blurt out, I am not in the center of a crowd, or telling jokes and making everyone around me weep with laughter.  Instead, I am the person who will start a conversation about the weather, a safe, non-invasive topic that will certainly solicit some feedback and if I happen to stumble upon an extrovert, my job of talking is just about done, except for responding to the classic network question, “And what do you do?”  If you listen closely, the question seems to echo in the room and the responses are typically related to jobs, positions, and company.  After hearing this question over and over again, I couldn’t help but reflect on a much more profound question, is what you do and who you are the same?  Are you doing work that is aligned with your strengths and provides meaning and purpose to your life?  In other words, is what you tell people a reflection of your true self?  Quite possibly, what you do may be in contrast to who you are.

The Typical Approach

In reality, the question, “and what do you do?” is more than a simple inquiry of introduction.  What you do demands a declaration of your job, your role, and your place of importance in a company. It’s all fine and dandy and an easy question to answer when you are doing work you enjoy and work that provides satisfaction.   But suppose, you are stuck in a career that no longer excites you, let go from a job that you devoted most of your life, or trapped in the “I don’t know what I want to do” syndrome, your perception of the question changes from an introduction to what do I say and how can I sell myself when I am not sure what I do, let alone who I am?

More than likely, you have prepared a well, crafted elevator speech that contains as many adjectives as you could muster into 30 seconds and hopefully, you have memorized every line so that your words flow.  There you said it– but you feel as if you are describing someone else, not you.  You are no longer the person doing the job that once defined you and at this point, you are feeling a level of discomfort.

However, the problem with the question, “and what do you do” is that you have been conditioned to respond with who you are at work instead of who you are as person. Because you have spent much of your career as the person doing the job, once disconnected from the job, physically or mentally, who you are and what you do is not easy to recognize and your confidence in describing you as a person, not in a role, is shaky.

A Better Approach

With this in mind, a better approach to responding to the “and what do you do” question is to pitch the elevator speech and replace with a purpose statement because who you are and how you make a difference in the world is perpetual and does not change, unlike a job. A purpose statement is not about your job or your position in a company.  Instead a purpose statement is about you, your work not employment, and what gives your life meaning.  You are a person of character, value, and strengths regardless of your role.

Of course, crafting a purpose statement requires some time and dedicated work as you reflect on your life, push aside outdated beliefs about yourself, and envision your ideal life.  The outcome of developing a purpose statement is worth the time and effort because you understand yourself on a deeper level, truly know your strengths, and tap into the core of what excites and energizes you. Suddenly the question, “And what do you do” takes on a new meaning because your response is not about who you are on the job.  Your response is about your purpose, your calling, and your work and what you do is truly who you are.

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Where is My Passion?

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What an odd question, where is my passion?   I tried not to look puzzled as I was concluding my presentation about eliminating the fear of leaving your comfort zone.   A voice in the back of the room filled with job seekers and career changers was responding to my request to share their thoughts about following their passion.   I remained quiet at first because I did not want to come across as sarcastic.  My first thought, and what I wanted to say, was try Google maps, a tool that I use often to navigate my route, as I get lost easily.  Or maybe check your purse because. if you are like me, keys have a way of vanishing in the black hole of my handbag.   Because I offered a variety of action steps that identify strengths, deeper purpose, and, of course, a hint into discovering your passion, I expected someone to share their difficulty with expressing what they are truly passionate about.  Read the rest of this entry »

Leading with Chocolate

Want to build strong relationships, gain recognition, and influence people?  Try some chocolate.   I will admit that I really like, okay love, chocolate.  I know I am not chocolatealone with my love of chocolate.  In fact, Americans consume about 3 billion pounds of chocolate a year, almost half of the world’s chocolate consumption.    I always keep a bowl of chocolates handy for a midafternoon slump, a guilty pleasure, or to savor the taste for just a little while.  The candy bowl of chocolates became my trademark, my brand so to speak, when I was in banking and what began as a way to share my love of chocolate with my customers and employees soon became more than just a sweet treat.  Chocolate became the magnet for sharing, listening, and motivating.

Chocolate is not a matter of life and death – it’s more important than that! Read the rest of this entry »

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Four Clues To Discover If You Are A Really Big Idea Leader

I can’t help it.  I never stop thinking of ideas.  Ideas come in a flash when I least expect them and I need to write them down because I never know when a stroke of genious will hit and become the next big idea.  I have post-it notes everywhere, on my desk, on the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, even the dashboard of my car.  Eventually, the post-it notes lose their stickiness and fall off, or stick to my shoe, or I discover my dog chewing post-it notes in the corner of the room (telltale signs of colored paper all around the room).  Of course, since generating ideas come naturally to me, I assumed that everyone is an idea generator and if encouraged, motivated, and supported could produce the next really big idea leading to innovation.   To my surprise, my assumption was wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

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Never Give Up -Such Bad Advice

As a rule, I do not watch television, mostly because I am just too busy and I find most programs to be boring and repetitive.  But for some reason, on a Saturday afternoon, in between vacuuming and dusting, I was drawn to a program about emergency rooms and the daily routine of the medical staff  working in an environment of high stress , life- saving decisions, and care and compassion.  In this episode, an emergency room doctor continued to administer treatment to a cardiac arrest patient for over 45 minutes and even though the medical team was exhausted, the doctor did not want to give up.  The doctor shared her life experience of losing both parents to heart disease and understanding the devastating impact on a family when the loss is so sudden and unexpected.  What led her to continue treatment beyond a reasonable time is because she did not want to break the news to the patient’s family that she failed to save his life.  Finally, wet with perspiration, breathing heavy, and drained, the doctor stopped all lifesaving procedures and announced the patient’s time of death.  In that very moment, something miraculous happened, the patient had a slight pulse and… well, then I went back to my Saturday ritual of cleaning hoping that my doctor would hold the same mindset to never give up if the need ever arises.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Does this vision make my BUT look too big?

imagesCAAGL4CA elephantA vision is great.  A vision beams you to the future and a vision challenges you to greatness.  With high energy and exuberant enthusiasm you set your sights to reaching a goal and nothing can stop you.  The finish line is just at the end of a rainbow and you can see it.  But then something happens. You take a hard look at reality and realize that your present state is nowhere near your visionary state.  As you count the number of obstacles you would need to tackle first, energy fades, enthusiasm dwindles, and the vision is just too far out of reach.

What’s the next thing to do?  If you are like me, you probably decide to dummy down your vision, a nice comfortable little vision that is much easier to achieve.  Read the rest of this entry »