If you’re looking for a new gig, you’ve probably studied every tip out there. You’ve read the books, articles, and lengthy Twitter threads about how to get a job, from A to Z. The literature is enormous and valuable.
But there is one thing we don’t talk enough about, and that’s your message: Your key point, your “why,” your main idea. It’s the message that enables you to inspire those who hire—and everyone else along the way.
Every job seeker needs a compelling message.
WHAT IS A MESSAGE?
Your message, quite simply, is the main point you want to get across about yourself. It’s the basis of the story you’ll be telling throughout your search.
In school, we were taught to write with a “thesis.” Without a thesis, we were told, our essays lacked coherence. We couldn’t persuade without a thesis. In business we also need a thesis every time we communicate: every presentation, every speech, every answer to a question needs a central idea. I have built a business and a career teaching leaders how to speak with a strong, clear message.
After all, without a message, what we say is literally pointless.
When searching for a job, you need this compelling idea that carries you through every conversation, every interview. If you don’t have one, you’ll be stuck switching up your message every time you see a new job—and doing this won’t allow you to sound centered or authentic. Those you meet won’t know why they should believe in you, or what you believe about yourself.
CREATING YOUR SINGLE MESSAGE
To decide on your message, ask yourself “what is the one big thing about me that will captivate the decision-makers I meet in my job search.”
This message should be inspiring—and grounded in your particular strengths. Nobody will care about you if you say, “I am purpose-driven,” or “I am a self-starter” or “I like to work on my own.”
To create your message, sit down with a recording device and pretend you’re answering the question, “Tell me about yourself.” A marketing professional might have this as a first cut: “I have a passion for marketing, and have grown market share in three successive firms. I did this by having a keen strategic sense of every market we entered. Now I am ready for a CMO role!”
This is too long to be one idea. Shrink it to one sentence. For example: “I am a seasoned marketing leader with strong market intelligence and a proven track record—ready for a CMO role.” Now you have a crisp, powerful idea to share.
Stay focused on that single message about yourself.
HOW TO CUSTOMIZE YOUR MESSAGE
This one idea can be customized for all your encounters. It won’t be expressed exactly the same way each time, but as you use it again and again it will create thematic continuity.
Suppose your message is this: “I am a seasoned HR professional with a strong track record building employee engagement.” For a quick elevator pitch, your message might be: “I do employee engagement really well.”
For a networking conversation it might be: “I’d appreciate your helping me find a senior HR position that builds on my strong background in employee engagement.”
And in a job interview, your message might sound like this: “I’ve got a strong HR background in employee engagement and would love to bring this expertise to the role we are discussing.”
THE POWER OF HAVING A MESSAGE
All these versions of your message will serve you well as you script yourself throughout your job search.
Having a defining message will focus your search. We hear again and again about candidates who apply for 50, 100, 200, even 400 jobs. This becomes a game of darts. Your message will focus you on who you are, what you bring, and what select group of positions are right for you.
Having a single message will also give thematic unity to your overall job search. Equipped with a single message, you won’t think of delivering your elevator pitch and networking script and interview script as disconnected events. They will be chapters in your story, and your story will build to a much better outcome if you have a narrative that makes a point clearly.
Having a single message will have another advantage: It will give you ownership of every conversation. You won’t wonder “what should I say?” You won’t be in a reactive mode. You will proactively know what to convey— because that one idea will engender a narrative that has clarity and coherence.
Finally, having that big idea planted in your mind will mean you won’t stumble when asked about your experience or your goals. You will have a ready statement that allows you to project supreme confidence.
How do you know if you have achieved this consistency? If someone heard you deliver your elevator pitch, overheard your networking conversation, and was a fly on the wall during your interview, they would be able to say “Ah, this is the same person. And what a strong candidate she is!”