Really Connect When Networking By Getting Torn Apart

I used to attend quite a few networking events as a friend of mine before he relocated.  He was a great networker, always bringing new people to events.  He liked to play a game with them, the poor unsuspecting people.

Many that he brought were new to networking or did not feel comfortable, so he was their wing man.  He also told them that there was someone there that could help. He just did not tell them about the way I would help.

Before he had us do our introductions, he would comfort each person saying, “Just go with it, I promise it will help.” Then I would ask them what they do and the fun began.

It might go something like this:

Me: “What do you do?”
PUP (Poor Unsuspecting Person): “I work for XYZ Company…”
Me: “That is who you work for, but what do you do?”
Pup: “I’m a manager at XYZ Company…”
Me: “’Manager’ is pretty vague, it still doesn’t tell me what you do.”
Pup: “Well, I oversee the ABC Department” looking at my friend for help
Me: “So you just hang out and watch people in the ABC Department work?”
Pup: “No. I mean, I do watch over them, but I do more than that.”
Me: “Like what?”
Pup: “Well, I have to set the goals and standards for them.” shifting in place uncomfortably
Me: “So you just set goals and standards for people that you ‘manage’?”
Pup: “yeah” small sigh of relief that it is over – not quite….
Me: “No.  That can’t be all that you do.  What is the purpose of you setting the goals and standards?”
Pup: “So our customers get their orders taken care of quickly and the right way and we can take more calls.” a little flustered at this point
Me: “So the managing, goals and standards all goes into customer service, it’s about your customers?”
Pup: “Yeah” a little worn out from the drill sergeant approach
Me: “So what you do is make sure if I order something from your company that I get the best service on the phone followed by receiving my order quickly and right the first time?”
Pup: “Yes! That is what I do.” light bulb!
Me: “Then that is how you introduce yourself.”

This whole conversation can take place in about a minute or so.  It is a rapid-fire approach that limits the poor person’s ability to think and formulate an answer.  I don’t want them to think about it, I want them to answer.  Gut feeling, instinct.  They know what they do, they are just afraid to say it the wrong way.

We get caught up in thinking too much. I am an over-analyzer, so I know all about this.

Networking is an interesting game and experience.  Most people are not paying attention because they expect to hear the same things from every person, just like getting the same networking chicken at every event.

“I work at…”
“I am a fill in title here”

Neither of these things tells value.

Of course, my golden rule comes into play here.  If you are a Pediatric Oncologist – that pretty much sums it up.  You get a free pass on this one in using titles.

For the rest of us, our title and even company do not convey value.  They convey – wait for it – our title and the place we work.

Our value is the positive benefit received by what we do and how we do it.

To craft a succinct elevator pitch you have to peel back the onion, or think of it as a series of ripping off band-aids.   Enlist a friend and do a rapid-fire exercise.

Take turns practicing your elevator pitch – but – for each blanket statement or open ended word immediately interrupt that person and ask a question. Ask questions like:

Who do you work with?
How do you do that?
Why do you do that?
What does that mean?

Ask immediately and make the other person answer without pause.  Keep asking questions, it is the theory of five whys.  The more you ask the more layers you peel back and the real, impactful value is soon discovered.  Using the rapid fire approach also helps cut out a lot of the unnecessary words and fillers.

It can get frustrating but as this is a friend, keep reassuring each other that you are doing great.  This is an exercise and it is meant to help.  There are also no wrong answers, just more avenues to discover.

Take your friend along to the next network event and be each other’s wing-person.  When they are introducing themselves with their new pitch, watch the reaction of their conversation partner.  Critique the interaction including their delivery, body language, if they capitalized on opportunities to engage further and any other items you notice.

In a very short period of time you will have achieved:

  1. An elevator pitch that tells people your value (what they care about the most)
  2. A succinct delivery
  3. The ability to engage your conversation partner
  4. Quality interactions

One last tidbit – mix it up.  Do not rely on the exact same opening for each networking opportunity.  Do not memorize your speech, know the highlights and let it flow.  It will keep it fresh and you can easily modify it for your audience leading to energetic interactions with each new person.

Although networking can be critical to building a career, reputation and business – it should also be fun!  So grab a bottle of wine or a six pack, a good friend and have some fun playing ‘rapid-fire rip apart the elevator pitch’!


As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – – to find out more about how we can help you.

Networking: Break the Rules to Make Connections

HandshakeThis morning I had the pleasure of doing one of my favorite things: talk to a group about one of my favorite topics – the elevator pitch.

If you are in business the elevator speech should not be anything new to you. It is simply 30 seconds of verbal mayhem that supports or blows up your first impression.

Your introduction is critical because all business begins with an introduction; either you introduce yourself or you are introduced via a third party.

This morning a couple of the attendees mentioned that what I presented is different than what they have heard from other professionals. What they had been told was more about structured rules, protocols and expectations.

There are many networking groups and they have certain protocols that their members or attendees are expected to follow. You should respect these protocols. As far as all the “rules” of elevator pitches, if they do not work for you – break them.

You can talk to 10 people that do what I do (career, networking, business building coaching or resume writing) and can get 12 different answers to the same question. You can also do an internet search on the topic and really get overwhelmed with advice, dos and don’ts.

Given this overload and sometimes conflicting information overload my suggestion is this: read or listen to it all then stop using your head and listen to your gut. Use what resonates with you. This morning what I said, as explained below, resonated with the audience. For them it felt like breaking the rules and it felt good!

The Context of an Elevator Pitch

If you break down networking to the core it is all about building relationships. Relationships are based on an exchange of value. Before you can build a relationship, you must first make a connection, which is the point of your elevator pitch.

Make a memorable impression

I have a hard enough time remembering names, there is no way I can remember titles. My brain filters those out because they are unimportant.

Titles are meaningless for two reasons:

1. Titles allow your audience to determine your value. If you had a friend that had an unscrupulous broker who caused them to lose all their money in the market, what do you think their personal impression of brokers would be? If they were at a networking event and someone walked up and introduced themselves as a broker, do you think your friend would have the warm and fuzzies for this person?

Your friend is assigning a negative impression and value to someone they just met solely on the basis of their title.

2. Titles do not convey value. There are certain titles that do not need to be elaborated on, for example Pediatric Surgeon. That pretty much sums it up. However, for the vast majority of us titles are ambiguous.

The Crafting of an Elevator Pitch

You are not a title, stop introducing yourself as such. Introduce yourself as your value.

Make it clear

What do you do and for whom? Break it down to the very basics. What do you do? I have a friend in insurance and he does lots of things for his clients. Planning, sells insurance, blah, blah, blah. But what does he do at the core? For him and his clients it is all about retirement. His core is preparing and guiding his clients to be able to retire when they want with the income they want.

His what is retirement his who is his clients. He changed his introduction after we spoke from “I work in insurance to help my clients plan for and …….” I am not including the rest because I am pretty sure you started nodding off after hearing “insurance”.

He now introduces himself as “I’m a retirement coach.”

Make it less (to get a response)

I was at a networking event a month or so ago and a woman and I were talking when we were approached by a young man. We followed proper etiquette and invited him into the conversation asking what he did.

That was a mistake. After two minutes we started shifting in our places, after three minutes we started shooting each other sideways glances. By five minutes we were saved by an announcement over the loudspeaker. And we still didn’t know what he did.

You want to elicit a response from your audience, preferably a positive one. Ideally you would want a question. This gives you leeway into a conversation.

My friend who is the retirement coach is almost always asked a question. He purposefully uses a very short introduction to lead to a deeper connection.

Make it personal

I love the IT industry. I have a great deal of respect for people who work in this industry. I also know they get a bad rap. I also know that a lot of them do not help themselves clear that rap. I work in branding, I work with social media and with technology. I know what I know and it enough for me at this time. I also know when I am out of my league.

When I have to call on IT professionals the first thing I tell them is “I am an IT idiot, explain things to me as you would a three year old.” I just do not get what they are talking about when they use IT verbiage. I am also not alone.

When you describe your value, describe it in a way that other people – us non-industry people – will understand. Make it relatable to me. If I can understand it and relate to it I will remember it. I cannot talk about you or refer you if I can’t remember you.

One client started introducing himself in this way, “You know when your company does a system update and you come in the next morning with a crashed computer?” pausing for a positive response “I’m the guy that makes sure that doesn’t happen.”

Make it real

This is about you so it should sound like you. Not resume you, real you. The person I am talking to right now and at any time in the future. Be authentic, be yourself. My dad told me many years ago that a lie is much harder to remember than the truth. It is much easier to be yourself in every situation than present a façade and keep it up.
Some people are going to like you, some are not – there are no two ways about it, you cannot please all people all the time. The real you will resonate with the right people, clients, prospects and organizations.

I am a straight forward, blunt and high energy. I also practice the art of effervescent witticism (sarcasm) and sometimes my language does not meet with my mother’s approval. I am this way in my blogs, seminars, talks and coaching. I am consistent. You know what you are getting. I am passionate about what I do, I give my clients my all and I celebrate their victories as much as they do.

I also am the kind of coach who tells her C-level executive client that he has a bad case of verbal diarrhea. It clicked with him and he appreciated it. He also said no one had ever told him that before (even though he knew deep down he was doing it) and I told him because everyone else was afraid he would fire them.

This does not resonate with everyone, this is why everyone is not a client and I do not want everyone as a client.

When he refers me he can tell his peers what to expect and they get it. Part of my brand is my consistency in who I am and the value I provide to my clients.

This leads me to my last point:

Make it repeatable

The more I understand what you do and how it relates to things I can understand the greater the chance I will remember you and more importantly, mention you.

Many times in structured networking events you are expected to mention the types of contacts or companies that you are seeking for an introduction. If I know that contact, but not your value, then how can I introduce you?

If I tell one of my contacts that they need to talk to you one of their first questions will be either, “Why?” or “What do they do?” If I cannot answer that question I will feel stupid. It is as though I am telling my contact that I am using them and it is a one way introduction – for you to get value from them but not for them to get value from you.

Telling them a title will not answer their questions. If they ask me what you do and I say you are an IT Manager they will ask more follow up questions to determine if they want to have that conversation. Your value will determine if they will share one of their most valuable resources: their time.

Sell me on you so I can sell you to others.


For Crying Outloud Don’t Tell Me You are in Sales

Do you know the quickest way to alienate or mislead prospects and potential contacts?

You might be doing it every time you network.

How do you answer the questions, “What do you do?”

If you answer with a title, you are alienating or misleading.

A title in this situation is either a name for your position or a generalized scope of field.

“I’m a manager”
“I’m in sales”
“I’m in communications”

Say any of these and your inroads to beginning a relationship are pretty much over, conversation dead before it started.

You did not answer the question – what do you do?

You have randomly and generically assigned no meaning to your value whatsoever.  People are looking for a way to escape your vicinity.

Titles are meaningless

More often than not, titles do not convey an accurate portrayal of your position and value.  There are exceptions, of course.  If you are a Pediatric Oncologist that pretty much sums it up.  There are also those who are very elevated within their industry or career that they use a simple title to underplay themselves because their reputation precedes them.

But for the vast majority of us – titles stink.  Not only do the not reflect who you are; they also allow the other party to assign your value based on their own personal experience.

Poor insurance agents, they have such a bad rap.  People normally assimilate them with never ending phone calls, follow up emails and endless conversations about term life insurance – snore.  I worked in the financial industry in brokerage, banking and insurance and have yet to meet an insurance agent who truly wants to talk my ear off about term life insurance.  But the negative reputation precedes them.

There are a few out there that do fall into the stereotype, as well as unfortunate souls who have been party to their badgering and mind-numbing conversations.

If you are an insurance agent who happens to come across one of those unfortunate souls and you introduce yourself by your title, you have just allowed them in less than 2 seconds to immediately categorize you as the same as that other agent.

Do not think you are going to talk your way out of it to change their mind about you.  They have already assigned a value to you and will not be listening to how you are not that person, they do not care.

In telling the other party that you are “in sales” they will most likely translate that into “I’m going to try to sell you something right now!”  Why?  Because there must be some unwritten law that, as consumers, we much be subjected to the pushy sales person at least once in our lifetime.  It is never a pleasant experience and one we are not likely to forget.  That is the impression that stays with us, despite hundreds of interactions with solution-based, customer centric sales professionals.

Manager – what does that mean?  I have had managers who were awesome, mentoring leaders who cared about their team.  I have also had managers that didn’t give diddly-squat about anyone but themselves.  Which one are you?  Giving me just the title allows me to assign that perception to you.

It is not what you are called, it is what you do

Instead of using a title, try introducing yourself as the value you provide to your clients or company.

A friend of mine attended a talk I gave about networking and elevator pitches, which is in line with what I am saying in this blog.  He is an insurance rep.  I know, stop cringing.

After the talk he took time to think about the value he provides to his client.  He asked himself why do his clients work with him, what are their goals and what does he help them achieve.  He then assigned a new way to introduce himself and tested it at his next networking event.

When asked what he did, he responded, “I am a retirement coach.”  It is an anti-title because it is an unusual title that prompts a question.

The question is key.  You want that type of response, it means they were listening and have opened the door for you to paint your picture the way you want and engage them.  Just a word of caution: don’t get too cutesy, it will have the reverse effect.  If you assign a title that is so outrageous or cutesy people will assign it no value and not care to ask what that means.

It is not a matter of time

I am not a big fan of the two minute rule.  Coming up with two minutes to describe yourself equates to me two mind numbing minutes that I will never recover.  Do you realize most people stop listening after about 15 seconds, if you are lucky?

I love going to networking events where everyone has a very lovely, down pat 2 minute speech and when it is my turn I use all of five seconds.  The looks on the faces is awesome.

Short and sweet.  If you blurt out everything in two minutes what have you possibly left for them to ask you?  You have told them everything.  They will probably smile and nod politely and might even add a non-committal remark like “that’s nice”.  Conversation is one way and over.

Turn it around

Engage them, evoke a feeling, connect with a problem, use humor – be human!  You want to build relationships and that means connecting on some level.

An excellent way to engage another person is to make it about them.  Once you give your value – and they ask you a question – turn it on them.  Use them as an example, ask them a question to frame your response in a way that is meaningful to them.

When asked to expand, someone in sales (ick – I know) may ask, “do you have enough clients?” Other options could be starting a question with: do you find, have you ever, what is X like (some component of their business), what is your biggest frustration with, don’t you hate when and so on.

I have two segments of clients that I work with: those looking to move in, on or up in their careers and those in some form of sales.  I cannot assess which category a person is in by looking at them, or even hearing their title.  Someone may be in sales and be secretly looking to change jobs, industries or careers.

After receiving a question to my introduction, I might say, “let me use you for an example; if you love your job but are still struggling with building a solid book of business this is how I would help.” Then end with “…and if you hate your job, I am there to help you find and get the one you love.”

I say might because I do not have a down-pat response.  I have a good idea of what I want to say but never memorize it.  I want it to be fresh, relevant and real to the person I am talking to, therefore I vary it every time.

Now in following these tips, you might just find that you are the center of attention in the conversation.  That’s nice, but do not let it continue.  Bring it back to them.  Ask them questions about what they said, what they like about what they do, about their clients, markets, industry or company.  Give them genuine attention.

One of my favorite quotes is by John Wooden, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Your title is your reputation, your value is your character.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

So You are a People Person, Great. I am a Dog Person.



I mean, c’mon, what does that really mean?


You love working with all people? Doubt it. 

You communicate well with all people? Doubt it.


When I say I am a dog person, it conveys that I love all dogs.  Not exactly true.  I’m not a fan of little yippy dogs.  I like big dogs, Great Pyrenees is my favorite breed.  Anything under 60 pounds is, in my eyes, a small dog. Two of my three dogs outweigh me. 


The third is a Puggle, who reigns supreme over the other two; and she does not yip.


Saying you are a people person is an empty statement, a space filler and meaningless.  It truly does not describe you but rather conveys that you are a generalist.


Stop making generalizations about yourself.  There is nothing that will tune an audience of 1 or 100 out quicker than making generalizations.


Why?  Because they apply to no one.  Therefore, if it is not important, why listen?


When you are job searching, advancing in your career, engaging new clients or networking the one thing you do not want to happen is people tuning you out.  Game over.


You are not a generality, you are not insignificant; you provide or add value. 


The key is you have to discover how.


There may be many ways in which you do this so start with asking yourself the following questions and writing down your answers:


What do I do?

How do I do it?

Whom do I work with?

What is the benefit they receive from working with me? 


Now, if you were to use all the information you just gathered from the above questions you would have quite the lengthy elevator pitch and end up sounding like a yippy dog after the first minute or two. 


You don’t want to be a yippy dog; so let’s not stop there.


Now is the time to cut it down for impact.  Let me give you a bit of insight about the people you are talking to: we have a short attention span.  Please do not force us to try to politely concentrate for three minutes when we got lost after the first 15 seconds. 


It is painful.


We need to the point, attention-getting statements that peak our interest.  Give me something to hold on to a hook, a morsel.  If you blurt out everything about yourself what motivation do I have to continue the conversation?




I already know everything about you.


And odds are I have misinterpreted something.


Boil it down to the most important value that you bring and how it relates to me.


That is how you get my attention and that is how you get me to ask you a question and engage in conversation.


Yippy dogs keep yipping; big dogs bark less frequency and with more power.  Big dogs get attention, yippy dogs get ignored.


Be your own big dog.  They are awesome.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach & Brand Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Holiday Networking: Make it Simple, Make it Brief and Don’t Make it All About You

new years pictureDecember is typically a great month full of even more opportunities to get together with friends, family and business associates.  With the holidays driving the month most get-togethers are centered on appreciation for those we know, the blessings in our life and an excuse to get out a bit more and have fun.


Christmas parties, holiday parties, Hanukah parties it does not matter – the underlying reason for the get together is the spirit of the season.


That does not mean there is not an opportunity to network, oh no, there are even more opportunities to network.  However, when most activities are holiday driven the approach should be adjusted just a bit.


The spirit and season is about giving and sharing.


Therefore, your networking speech should be tightened up just a bit to make it less about you and more about others.


Instead of your normal 30 second “here is all my value” speech, try to condense it to about 10 seconds and then translate to the spirit of the event.


Personally in response to what I do I could respond, “I help people get noticed to get hired, which could be a great Christmas present.”


Just for the record, there always seems to be that lingering political correctness over Christmas/Holiday thing going on so try not to focus on that so much and focus more on the meaning.


In my personal opinion and experience people do not get offended if you say Christmas rather than holiday if the context is about the joy of the season or wishing them health, happiness and blessings.


Instead of the typical follow up questions during networking – the “what is your target market, is there anyone I can introduce you to blah, blah, blah – try asking something in the spirit of the season.


For example, you could inquire if there are any special family traditions that they will be doing this year, or what was their favorite tradition they did as a kid that they will be doing with their kids/grandkids or even state that you are always looking for new seasonal recipes – do they have any favorite that they could share.


Yes, you are networking; but you are also there to celebrate the season so relax and enjoy yourself, be yourself and don’t make it all about you.


Make those connections and be sure to tell people that you would love to follow up with them to find out more about what they do and how you can help them, but right now how about offering them another cup of eggnog?



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

Stop Branding Yourself as Blah

resume (2)You probably don’t even know that you are doing it, but you have officially branded yourself as “Blah”.


That’s not going to get your noticed, let alone get your phone ringing.


Stop it.


Oh sure, easy for me to tell you to stop it when I haven’t even told you how you are doing it.




Let me ask you this: how do you introduce yourself in person, on paper and online?


Do you start with things like:


“My name is ___ and my title is ____”

“I want to bring my skills and abilities to help an organization….”

“I have X years in Y industry….”


Blah, blah, blah, yawn….


These might be facts but they are not value.


Value is what is important.


I don’t care so much what your title is – what do you do?


No one believes that you really want to bring your skills and abilities blah, blah, blah and quite frankly they don’t care what you want.  What can you do for them?


Just because you have been doing something for a long time does not mean you do it well.


Who are you?  Really, who are you?  What value do you bring to people and organizations?  Not what widget do you sell, not what task you perform – how do you add value?


Because value makes money.


Period.  If you can bring value you are going to make someone money.  That is what is important in business.  It all comes down to revenues – without them there is no business.  So how do you contribute to that?


Taking up space isn’t value.  Contributing is value.


What makes you unique in what you do?


Let’s look at a couple of examples.


Sales.  I’ve met a lot of people in sales – a lot!  The first thing most want to tell me is they are in sales.  Ick.  I don’t want to be sold anything.  If I want something I can do my own comparison on pricing but what people are really buying is the experience.  A company can teach you all about a widget – from medical devices to financial instruments – that is the easy part.  What they can’t teach you is how to bond and connect with people, how to identify their needs, connect with them and make it an experience that they keep coming back for and get their friends to experience it too.


That’s sales.


Management.  Whoopee.  Managers are everywhere – right there sales.  There are good managers and bad managers – which one are you?  How do you manage, what is your style?  How do the people you manage benefit from your style and in turn how does the company benefit from them?


See where I am going here?  Titles are a dime a dozen.  Often times I have thought to put some version of the title “Queen” on my business cards just to see if anyone notices.


Titles don’t tell me what you do.

Length of time doesn’t equate to excellence.


I have known fantastic individuals who were rock stars in their field in a very short time period.  They didn’t have a long service record but they had value.


This weekend take some time to step out of yourself and look at your resume, LinkedIn and think about your networking introductions.


Are people reading or hearing you as, “Hi, my name is ____ and I’m blah”?


Fix it.


Start by offering your value, not your title, your desires or length of time.  Your audience is selfish – we want to know what is in it for us – period.  If we like what we hear then we will take the time to hear about you as a person.


I have a friend of mine in Insurance Sales.  You just yawned or cringed didn’t you?  It is a natural reaction to those two words “insurance” and “sales”.  He used to introduce himself that way.  Then he heard my message at a seminar.


Now he introduces himself as a Retirement Coach.  He said he was a little skeptical because it seemed a bit out there.  It is only out there because it is different than what we are normally taught.  The first week he changed from blah he attended a networking event and when he got back to the office he had three messages from people from that event.


No more blahs!



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW


Stop Thinking and You Will Say The Right Things

head vs heart
I do a lot of coaching on interviewing and networking – introductions for formal, informal, one-on-one, group; you name it, if it is talking or selling yourself I coach on it. The one statement I repeatedly tell my clients the most is:

Stop Thinking!

One of the best exercises is a rapid fire question approach not allowing them to think about their answers, as soon as they answer I ask another, then another and so on. It completely frustrates them and throws them off their game and it is exactly what I want. Not to frustrate them, of course.

But to disengage their brain and engage their heart.

It has to come from the heart.

Before we get to that, let me just say that there is preparation that should be done: identify your skills, abilities and value, determine how you apply your value for other’s benefits and solid examples of these things.

You have to know what you are selling before you attempt to sell.

Why does someone want to talk to you, hire you, start and remain in a relationship with you in any fashion? What do you have to offer and can you prove it? This is the homework, this is the thinking part.

Once you have a good idea of these items then it is time to turn off the brain.

Now that you really do know your value it is time to stop thinking so much and trying to come up with the “perfect” words. Passion beats perfect words any day of the week.

It has to come from the heart.

When you speak from within you are sharing a part of you, allowing the person or persons you are speaking to or with to see the real you. The person who not only knows their value but is passionate about it.

Scripts do not convey passion, rather they speak of boredom. You have memorized a lecture and no one likes to be lectured to.

It is a scary thought, many of my clients are afraid of not having a script. They are afraid they will say the wrong thing. Remember, you are selling you – not a widget. You are not a widget, you are an individual who has skills, abilities and value all of which you are confident in and passionate about.

I do not use scripts, not in talking to prospective clients, groups or facilitating workshops. I have an idea of what I want to say but I let it flow based on the interaction.

I absolutely love what I do, I have a passion for it, it brings me a tremendous amount of job, I am able to help someone every single day and it drives me to do more. I get so passionate about what I do I have had to train myself to stop and ask questions. I don’t want to loose my audience, I want to engage them. So I ask questions and incorporate the answers into what I say next.

I speak from the heart because my heart is fully immersed in what I do.

I may not be the foremost expert or best speaker in the world but I do know what I do, how I do it, the value I bring and the purpose behind it so it allows my heart to take over.

After speaking engagements, workshops or one-on-one with clients some of the comments I hear the most are:

“You really love what you do and it shows.”
“You can tell you are really passionate about what you do.”
“I hate this process but you make it fun because you are so engaged.”

Make no mistake about it, if you ever hear me speak about resume, networking, business communication, LinkedIn, interviewing – anything about job searching and business building – you will know that I am completely committed to what I do and I give it my all. It also helps that I know quite a bit about what I am talking about.

It allows me to throw my clients off that scary cliff and be their safety net. It builds confidence and trust. When I see them grow and thrive I am filled with pride for them. It fuels my passion even more.

Oh yes, there are times I get tongue tied or blurt out something that isn’t “the right words”. Saying “damn” in church during a presentation is one instance that immediately comes to mind. But it is ok. I am human and the best way to handle that is a smile and a bit of humor. I think at that moment I just smiled, and said my mother would be so proud and I moved on.

Let the slip ups go, acknowledge them, brush them off with a smile and lighthearted comment and get back on track.

Hearts are a funny thing, they may not always know the right words and sometimes add a slip or two, but in the end, the heartfelt message is more meaningful than a memorized script any day of the week.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

What Drives You?

What is your main motivator?  What makes you excited and gives you the good butterflies?  What is it you do that at the end of the day you can look back and say, “I did good”?  What is it that you want to achieve that makes all the other things you do in the process seem bearable?  What drives you?


When I talk to a client I often ask two very simple questions, in succession, to help them determine this very thing – without stating that is the goal.  These questions are: “Why?” and “What does that mean?”


I want to know what they do, how they do it and most importantly why they do it.  It becomes the foundation for where they want to go.


If you are in the job market you will find that you have to sell yourself over and over again and maybe you have come up with the “perfect” pitch.  You know just what you are going to say when asked the question: What do you do.  It is perfect?


Is it so rehearsed that it no longer sounds real?


Does it clearly communicate what you want to say or is it the words you think they want to hear?


Does it mean anything to you?


When you discover the thing that drives you it is very likely that you will find such excitement that it is almost indescribable.  When that happens my clients normally ask why.  “I finally figured out what drives me yet I find it harder to explain – why?”


The reason is simple – you have discovered the best part of you motivation – passion.  Try describing passion.  It is a feeling so it is more difficult to put into words versus actions.  It is one of those strong words like love – try describing that one.


When you find that you are excited about what you do but feel like you can not find the right words you have reached a great place.  A place so many fail to reach.


Before you can create the perfect elevator speech and “this is me in a nutshell” motto it is important that you find that motivation and those feelings.


Embrace being overwhelmed by it because it is the turning point from telling someone what you do and demonstrating who you are!


Then you can begin crafting the perfect elevator speech.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


Want To Know Your Truest Message – Stop Thinking When You Talk

I am a big proponent of thinking before you speak.  I don’t do it nearly enough in my personal life – which may explain a lot, like saying things like, “Oh sure, I’ll watch your dog until you find it a home.” – but that is another story.


Back to point: thinking about what you are going to say and how you are going to say it is critical and something I coach my clients in job searching, networking and interviewing.


It is essential to know your message before you can work on the delivery.  This is where not thinking is your most powerful tool.


I met with a client yesterday and he asked about how to prepare for a networking event later this week.  I asked him what he planned on saying and after he told me I looked at him and said, “No.”


I think he was a little surprised by my response so I asked him if his greatest value was all the letters after his name, as this is how he began his pitch.  Light bulb.


So I asked him what he greatest value is that he can bring to an organization.   He began giving me the standard phrases common in his industry.  This is where the rapid fire began:


Client: “…improve processes and procedures…”

Me: “what does that mean?”

Client: “I can make things more efficient…”

Me: “what does that do for me?”

Client: “I make sure the financial reporting is in order…”

Me: “just in order, that’s it?”

Client: “no, I mean it should be but it is stuff that has to be done that no one likes to do…”

Me: “why do I care?”

Client: “because I do it in a way that no one notices…”

Me: “who does that help”

Client: “the CEOs and leaders, I’m their financial sounding board…”

Me: “how?”

Client: “I help them make the decisions that make them money and protects them from losing money”


Now we were getting to some value!  At first he was a little caught off guard by the rapid fire, but that was the point.


Stop thinking about the phrases that you think are going to sell you and start talking directly to the person in front of you in the down to earth, barebones, most important way that they will understand.


At the end of our conversation he thanked me and said he had never thought about it that way.


It is easy to get lost in the minutia of industry speak, we forget that once we step outside our comfort zone or into networking we are no longer isolated.  Not everyone knows our old language.  We also loose sight of who we are as an individual and the value that we bring.


Comfort zones isolate us.  We also start making assumptions that other people understand what it is we are trying to say.  The rest of us have no clue what you are trying to say – you have to spell it out for those of us on the outside of your zone.


Sometimes thinking about your message too much can actually dilute the meaning, effectiveness and delivery.   Ever like someone and in trying to tell them you get all flustered in trying to find just the right words so you hem and haw and finally the other person looks at you like you have three heads, throws up their hands in frustration and says, “guess this is going no where.”


Just spit it out.


Some of the best networking pitches I have heard have a bit of humor or are a bit off – they are memorable.  Some of the most romantic moments are the spontaneous, blurt it out moments.


Before your next networking or interview take a few moments with someone you trust to do the rapid fire exercise.  Keep going until you get to the point where you have your “a-ha” moment and start discovering your true value and find the basis from which to build.


It is not about telling the other person what they want to hear – it is about educating them on your true value and to let them know that you are an incredible person, not a combination of anticipated phrases with no meaning.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

No One is Just a Just

I attended a fabulous networking event this morning – love, love, loved it! It started with everyone standing and giving their elevator speech, as many networking events do. I was very impressed because, even though a couple people told me they weren’t prepared to give their spiel everyone did pretty well.

I have two thoughts from this experience.

1. You should always be prepared – no matter what, when or size of audience – to give your spiel.
2. Do not use the word “just” within your statement.

As a coach point one is something that I am adamant with when working with my clients. There is no excuse, rhyme or reason for you to not be prepared to network especially when it is a designated networking event.

Honestly if your intent is to build your business, make connections or find the right job then you should have your elevator speech prepared for any situation no matter what. This is such an important point that I will be covering it specifically when I speak to the Indy NAIFA chapter next week on the 19th of January at the Ritz Charles. It deserves it’s own space so I’ll focus the remainder of this article on the second point.

One young lady was giving her speech and she stated, “I just do …” not in a manner of specialization of a certain industry or item aspect, but in the apologetic this-is-all-I-do aspect. No, no no – never demean yourself this way. No one will point fingers and shamed you if you do this; however you will have planted a seed. Unconscious or not that “just” is going to stick.

Let me further illustrate by asking how would you react if someone said to you, “Oh, so you just do x for a living?” Sounds demeaning don’t it?

No one JUST does one thing, I don’t care who you are or what you do. Don’t challenge me on this people, this is what I do for my life’s work! No one is a just. A just can come across as:

 I don’t take pride in what I do
 I don’t know what I do
 I am not interested in connecting with people
 I have nothing to offer potential prospects or employers
 I do not place value in myself or what I do

I’m not saying that it always does communicate one or all of the above messages, but do you really want to take that chance?

Take a moment to review your elevator pitch and make sure there are no “just”s in there; if you find yourself saying then it is a clear indication that you have some re-evaluation to do. What value do you contribute to others? Make sure that is the message that you are delivering to your audience, not just killing time until the appetizers arrive.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Coach-Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.