The More There Is, the Less You See

The riddle of the elevator pitch.

I really love a good riddle! Here's one for you:

The more there is of me, the less you see. What am I?

While you ponder this riddle for a moment, I want to ask you another question.

How should someone you just met describe you?

Conventional wisdom says that everyone needs to have an "elevator pitch" or "value proposition" that is 1 minute long. In general, it includes who you are, what your top skills are, and what your goal or objective is. My elevator pitch goes something like this:

My name is Lynn Carroll. I'm an experienced higher education professional and career coach. I've worked in alumni relations, fundraising, and career development for twelve years, and my coaching practice focuses on helping clients find authenticity in their career. I'm interested in working with career launchers as well as mid-career professionals, and I have a particular knack for helping introverts, people of color, women in the STEM fields and LGBTQ folks articulate their unique strengths and discover the next step in their professional journey. I'm an engaging presenter and am passionate about giving talks on career-related topics, including salary negotiation. I would appreciate referrals to any friends or colleagues who are considering a career transition. If you are part of a group that would be interested in hosting a presentation, I'd be glad to explore that possibility as well. Would you like my card, so we can stay in touch?

Nailed it in 57 seconds, 3 seconds to spare! Boom! *mic drop*

Now, if you close your eyes, can you remember at least 3 of my client target groups? How about 2 of the areas I've worked in for the past ten years – or was it twelve?

You may recall quite a few of these facts as you read this blog post, but imagine you're in a crowded room. People jostle you as you balance a glass of wine and plate precariously in your left hand, so you were able to shake my hand with your right. Add in background music,  and uncomfortable shoes, and I'll bet you take in less than 20 of the carefully rehearsed words I just said. 

What will you remember?

Now imagine you've moved on to chat with others. Later you see an acquaintance who says, "I think I may recognize that woman." Pointing at me, "What does she do?" How much of my pitch can you remember now?! This is a potential referral, someone who might be looking for a career coach or a speaker, but you can't remember enough of what I said in my pitch to give a coherent answer. "I think she's in STEM or career counseling, maybe?"

I'm not saying to throw the elevator pitch out entirely; if you're given the chance to introduce yourself to a panel of interviewers, the longer spiel comes in handy. But if you're meeting someone for the first time, doesn't one solid minute all about ME seem a bit... self-absorbed? Yep. It sure does. Even 30 seconds might be too much.

I'm not going to bemoan how distracted we are in today's culture, or compare the human attention to that of a goldfish, or recommend you practice a gimmicky tagline. (Hey-Oh! I'm Lynn, career coach for inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys! Take my card... *wink*)

Start a conversation instead of giving a pitch.

Keep in mind how you'd like to be described by the person you're talking to. I'm hoping people would describe me as sincere, warm, and genuine. I'd like them remember that I help clients with their careers. Here's an example of how I might introduce myself instead of giving an elevator pitch:

"My name is Lynn Carroll, and I'm a career coach. I love learning how different people came to the job they have now. What has your career path been like?"

During the exchange that follows, I might mention my interest in women in STEM, or bring up my interest in giving presentations if the conversation leads in that direction. I'll keep my ears open for ways I can be helpful to the person I've met or to their network. I'll continue to ask questions and listen well, inviting a meaningful exchange of ideas for collaboration. In the meantime, I've already accomplished my goals: I appeared genuine (I asked about them rather than talking about myself), made it easy to remember what I do (career coach), and came across as sincere

If this person is asked about me a few minutes later, I'm sure they won't remember everything I said during our conversation, but they'll most likely recall what I do and use positive adjectives to describe me. That's better than recalling a few fragments of an elevator pitch! The amount of content you shared may be less than 1 minute, but it's likely that more meaningful information will be retained and recalled later.

Now, back to the riddle. The more there is of me, the less you see. What am I?

 ssǝuʞɹɐp :ɹǝʍsu∀

If you know of someone considering a career transition who would benefit from speaking with a career coach, feel free to refer them to me! You can sign up for my email list as well, and I'd love it if you followed me on Twitter. Thanks so much!