In an earlier post, I mentioned the importance of business cards. This is a point that can’t be overstated, so I want to touch on it again. Business cards are an essential part of your job search process. Not having a job is no excuse for not having a business card.
One of the most important steps to finding a new job is to network. Successful networking involves meeting new people, and meeting new people involves exchanging contact information. It is far more embarrassing to write your name and phone number on a napkin at a bar (for a potential employer) than to hand them a crisp, new, custom business card.
The card can be simple. If you’re out of work or thinking of switching careers, start with the following:
- Your name
- Your phone number
- Your e-mail address
You can also add your address, your website’s URL, or your job title (“marketing consultant” for example). Some people even create a personal logo, although I would caution you to not use too many graphics or too much color unless you have a design background. The last thing that you want is a completely homemade looking card.
Once you have an idea of what you want your card to look like, log onto one of the many sites where you can order business cards. A few that I have tried in the past are GotPrint.com, VistaPrint.com, and FedEx.com.
Even nice cards should cost you less than $50. This is more than worth the investment when it comes to finding your next job. Some sites (Vista Print in particular) offer an option to print cards for free. If you print free cards, Vista Print will put their website on the back or bottom of your card. I would encourage you to try to pull together the $50 to pay for premium cards at Vista Print or one of the other sites. They look more professional and minimize the chances that you’re going to look either inexperienced or desperate for a new job.
Once you have your business cards, TAKE THEM WITH YOU. Everywhere. Do not leave home without them. Ever. I keep business cards in my purse, my car, my wallet, my jacket, and any other place with a pocket. I don’t ever want to miss a networking opportunity, and if you are looking for a job, neither should you.
Last but not least, don’t forget to give your business cards away. Don’t be shy. That’s what they’re for. Most people will give you theirs in return. And if they don’t, it’s probably because they don’t have one and are too embarrassed to write their phone number on a napkin.
Once you’ve ordered your business cards, it’s time to move on to the next step: perfecting your pitch. Many of the job seekers I’ve worked with lately have never heard of this concept. The idea behind an elevator pitch is this– If you had the good fortune of riding in an elevator with someone important who could potentially help you (think the head of a company or a hiring manager), what would you say in the 30 to 60 seconds that it takes to ride an elevator?
An elevator pitch should be very clear and very brief (30 to 60 seconds), and should contain the following:
- Who are you
- What do you do
- Why would you be good at the job you want to do
Even if you aren’t talking to a hiring manager, use this same format when you talk to friends or networking contacts who may be able to help you. It gives them a picture of what you’re looking for, so that they can help you.
I recently met with a recent graduate from my Alma Mater of Pepperdine. He’s looking for a job, and although I don’t know him, I was willing to meet with him because of the connection. He was smart with a reasonably decent resume and was looking for help identifying jobs to apply for. So I asked, “What sort of job are you looking for?” The answer he gave is one that you never want to give: “I would like any kind of job. You know, in any area of business. Doing anything. I’m a really hard worker, and whatever it is, I can do it – and do it well.” In reality, this recent Pepperdine alum was no doubt trying to be open to experiences. He was trying to cast his net wide to gain as many potential opportunities as possible.
The problem with this approach however is that it gives the impression that you have no direction. You don’t know what you want, and frankly, you might be desperate. Your friends and contacts have no idea which way to point you, and it could be a bit risky for them too. After all, if they find a hot job lead for you, it will probably be related to their own work in some way. They might know the hiring manager personally, or it could be at the company that they work for. Either way, they are putting their own reputation on the line when they recommend you. In the end, by casting your net so wide, you will actually find less opportunities. Your network of contacts will not want to risk their credibility on someone who can’t explain what they want to do.
With that in mind, it’s time to perfect your pitch. Here are a few tips:
- Come up with a specific idea(s) of what you want to do. If you have 2 or 3 very different ideas, that’s okay. But then you will need to develop 2 or 3 pitches, and pick and choose which one to use when.
- Write down your pitch. Writing it down will help you to organize your thoughts and minimize rambling when the time does come to give your pitch. The entire thing should take up less than one sheet of paper. Typically, a typed double spaced piece of paper will take you about a minute to read. Keep it under this length.
- Ensure you are answering the three questions: a. who you are, b. what you do, and c. why you’d be perfect for this job
- Speak in straight forward, simple terms. This is not the time to display all the fancy words that you picked up while studying at that college of yours. Focus your time on answering the questions at hand, not showcasing your vocabulary.
- Be prepared to adjust your pitch. Remember, the idea behind a pitch is that you may randomly meet someone who could be helpful. This could be in an airport, at a party, or walking down the street. You never know. Be ready to change up the contents of your pitch to fit with the other person. For example, if you have 3 very different pitches, give the one that is the most closely related to the person you’re pitching to.
Being able to customize your pitch on the spot is something that comes with practice. Learning to pitch yourself is like learning to hit a golf ball or play the piano. The more you do it, the more natural it becomes.
When I was in graduate school, I took my own pitch practice to the extreme. My school was located near Los Angeles, and there happened to be a number of national conferences going on in LA that year. Each conference would host a career fair, and would charge a small fee (~$40) to attend the career fair (but not the conference). Each fair had about 300 employer booths. I would spend an entire day going from booth to booth, giving my pitch over and over to every recruiter. It took hours. It was exhausting. But in the end, I was prepared. I could pitch any type of employer on my background at the drop of a hat. I’m an introvert, so forcing myself to go through this exercise also helped to build up my stamina for talking to people about my career interests for long periods of time. This comes in handy when you later find yourself in an 8-hour interview.
If you don’t have the opportunity to attend a giant career fair, there’s still hope. My first suggestion is to start with an older relative or parent who doesn’t work in your industry. I started out my career in technology, so I would often pitch my ideas to my mother, who is a musician. Our fields were so vastly different that if she could understand my pitch, I knew that I had nailed it. You will not always pitch to someone who knows what you do. As a matter of fact, it’s rare. You’ll be talking to someone who knows someone. In my personal example, I was pitching to HR recruiters at the career fairs.
Once your initial practice runs are complete, it’s time to get out in front of people you don’t know. Look up networking events in your area on sites like LinkedIn and Meetup.com. Consider a wide variety of events such as young professional events, industry specific meetups, or cocktail parties. Attending different types of events will allow you to meet different types of people, in different industries, and from different age groups.
But before you go, be prepared. Don’t be shy about giving your pitch. It’s just like introducing yourself, but a bit more advanced. After some practice, it will feel more natural. In the meantime though, fake confidence if you have to.
And, don’t forget your business cards! What’s the use of giving your pitch if the person doesn’t know how to contact you afterward? It’s easy to say, “I’d love to give you one of my cards” or “Here’s one of my cards” or “Do you have a card?”
Anyway, you get the idea. Good luck, and remember – practice makes perfect!
One of the very first things that I recommend to the job seekers that I meet with is to get business cards- and to take them everywhere. So often, job seekers say they are in one of a few predicaments:
- “I’m between jobs, so I don’t have business cards.”
- “I’m in college / graduate school, so I don’t need business cards.”
- “I’m changing careers, so my current business card from work isn’t relevant.”
I have to tell you, none of these excuses are anything more than excuses. At the end of the day, when you’re looking for a job, potential employers need to know how to contact you. You never know when or where you might meet someone who may end up being your next boss, or your next great networking contact (who will introduce you to your next big job).
If you don’t have business cards, it’s time to get them. And the good news is, it’s easy. It only takes a few minutes to order them online, and then they arrive to your house a few days later.
Before you start, you’ll want to think about what to include on your business card. At a bare minimum, you need to include:
- Your name
- Your phone number – I recommend your cell phone, so that you can receive calls anytime
- Your e-mail address – Refer back to my previous post about which e-mail address to use and not use
Other elements you can also add:
- Your personal website URL, if you have one
- Your personal logo, if you have one
- A title that describes your desired line of work – Think of something along the lines of “Project Manager” or “Digital Marketing Consultant”
- Your address
If you’re the kind of person that has multiple types of jobs, or qualifications in multiple areas, you may want to consider a card that does not have your title. This will allow you to give the same card to different people, in different industries, and for different types of roles.
If you’re not a graphic artist, or experienced with PhotoShop, don’t try to design a logo on your own. If you have a friend who’s an artist, ask them for their help – or leave off the logo altogether. A simple business card is much better than a messy one.