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It Is Not Enough to Say What You Do, You Have to Say Why You Do It
Everyone has heard of the infamous “elevator pitch” in which you are supposed to justify your importance to the organization in the time it takes you and the Big Boss/ Important Client to ride the elevator. There are many guides for how to put together this short but powerful message and how you need to prepare, memorize, and practice it. Essentially, these all offer some variation on how to state, who you are, what you do, and why it is of value in 30 seconds or less. In addition to your short pitch, you will probably want to prepare a longer version, between 3 to 5 minutes, in case you are asked that question at a social gathering and have a little longer to introduce yourself.
Let’s go back to that 30 second pitch and the last part of it; specifically, let’s discuss the part that is least likely to be remembered by you, but the most important to that career influencer in the elevator: why. Why do you do what you do? It is a statement of value. Why do you get paid? What does the organization really get from you that counts? If you can answer that question, then you have justification for being part of the team. If the answer is purely procedural and administrative, then try again. Here are some examples:
Good: I help customers by (insert action). I increase profits by (insert action). I control costs by (insert action). I help with customer retention by (insert action).
Bad: I answer calls from customers. I manage product margins. I search out waste. I try to talk customers into not leaving.
Take note of the first set, they are all starting with a short but very business value-oriented statement. The second set is really just the action you take, although several could be a little more carefully worded. The action alone is not enough; you need to explain the value too, but do not assume it is obvious. On an elevator, with other things on their mind, the career influencer with whom you converse may also be thinking, “Do you know why you matter?”