Introducing Yourself with a Perfect Pitch

What do you do for a living and where do you work?  You’ve probably been asked those two simple questions innumerable times during job interviews, varied professional events, and social, alumni and family gatherings.  But have you ever carefully prepared compelling answers to those questions?

If not, consider doing so.  Why?  Because no matter what your job is and no matter who you discuss it with, you can either describe your work in ho-hum, forgettable terms or in zesty, impressive terms that may help you open professional and social doors–or at least spark interesting conversations.

For example, when you meet new people at networking events, you could introduce yourself by stating your name, job title and employer.  Though acceptable, such an introduction is also about as revealing as the standard “name, rank and serial number” statement issued by POWs to their captors under the Geneva Convention.  Alternatively, if circumstances permit, you could provide an enlightening, high-impact description about your work that would provide grist for a lively exchange.

Here is an example of an engaging, conversational work description:  I’m a science writer at the National Research Foundation, which funds most U.S academic research on science and technology—much of it turns out to be game-changing.  For example, the Foundation even funded the research that led to crime-busting DNA fingerprinting.  I translate Foundation research into reader-friendly multi-media materials for the public.  I enjoy working for a research organization because it’s like being in school—but I get paid to learn instead of taking out loans to learn.  Today, I wrote the script for a video about increasing giant population explosions of jellyfish called “Jellyfish Gone Wild!”    

Tips on describing your job:

  • Open with an attention-grabbing fact or statistic.
  • Stay positive and enthusiastic. No whining or complaining to strangers!
  • Explain why your work is important and matters.
  • Tailor your pitch to your audience by emphasizing what aspects of your work would interest your audience most.  For example, during job interviews explain how your job(s) has prepared you to excel on your target job. Describe examples of completed projects that parallel the demands of your target job and provide tangible, objective evidence of your success.  Explain how you strategically conquered obstacles and challenges, met deadlines and stretched/maximized resources.
  • Tell (short) stories when possible and appropriate. Why? Because stories that are conceptually united by a dramatic narrative are verbal Velcro that sticks to the listener’s brain; they are memorable. Maintain a list of dynamic work-related stories involving varied types of management/supervisory challenges and successes and humorous anecdotes for use in diverse professional and personal contexts.
  • Use easy-to-understand language. Purge acronyms and technical terms.  In most cases, assume no previous knowledge about your field, employer or projects. The easier your pitch is to understand and the more it targets your audience’s interests, the longer it will maintain your audience’s attention.
  • Stay positive and enthusiastic. No whining or complaining to strangers!
  • In conversational settings, encourage dialogue by asking about the other person’s work.  For example, ask him/her what achievements stand out as personal highlights of his career, so far.
  • Bring your business cards wherever you go.

What are the tips you would share? Let us know in the comments.

By Lily Whiteman, author of How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job

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