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Crafting a short, snappy, yet engaging elevator pitch so intimidates even the most confident business leaders that many prefer to take the stairs.

Although an excellent fitness choice, the lack of a succinct elevator pitch puts today’s entrepreneur at risk of missing important business opportunities as well as exacerbating ankle tendon problems. Yet developing a memorable, attention-getting elevator pitch is simplicity itself if you follow a few basic speaking rules, demonstrate a command of your topic, and ice your leg muscles after strenuous exertion.

To properly formulate your elevator pitch, it’s advisable to understand the history of the elevator and possess a detailed comprehension of the machinery involved.

Folklore would have us believe that the elevator was invented by American industrialist Elisha Graves Otis. But that would just be folklore jacking us around again like it did with that whole moon landing thing.

Early, slow-moving elevators meant long, formal elevator speeches

Early, slow-moving elevators meant long, formal elevator speeches

In fact, elevators were in operation long before Otis, in 1854, introduced a safety device that prevented them from falling when the cable snapped. His attempts to market the device lead to the earliest recorded elevator pitch:

OTIS: “Shit! Sure hope that cable doesn’t snap.”

CLIENT: “Oh, Sweet Jesus! We’re all gonna die!”

OTIS: “Maybe not. Sign here.”

Thus, an elevator “pitch” or “speech” refers to a concise synopsis of your business that can be effectively communicated to someone in an elevator moving from, say, the second to third floor. Going down, use the same pitch, only backwards.

Brevity is the key to a successful pitch. We’d explain in detail, but that would miss the point. Instead, let’s examine the elements that contribute to a winning presentation.

Vitally important to your elevator speech is that it quickly engage listeners. This can prove difficult as the heady rush of acceleration in fast-rising elevators drains blood from passengers’ brain leaving them temporarily disoriented, confused and possibly retching blood. In such cases, apply a tourniquet to their throat, then press the buttons for every floor to buy you time.

After ensuring that your listener is out of immediate medical danger – pallor clear, pupils no longer dilated – begin your pitch with a question. This serves as an intriguing icebreaker, provided that it flows naturally, comfortably into a description of your business.

LISTENER: “M..Mom?”

PITCHER: “No, you’re still on the elevator. Deep breaths, now. Say, ever wonder how that Hannibal Lecter fella’ skins his victims?”

LISTENER: “Wha..What?”

PITCHER: “The movies get it all wrong. I should know. My flourishing company manufactures state-of-the-art potato peelers at economical prices!”

LISTENER: “Oh, Sweet Jesus! We’re all gonna die!”

A powerful first impression, no? Yet just as effective, should these two meet again at business events or court-ordered psychiatric evaluations. Honing an elevator speech to this level of sophistication requires that you practice it on anyone who will listen – like family, friends and business colleagues – and many who won’t – again, like family, friends and business colleagues.

Rehearse in front of a mirror. Refine your gestures, attend your posture, and most important, articulate your words. The goal here is that your lip movements should exactly match those of your reflection. If they don’t, press the “reset” button on the cable box.

Frankly, there’s no shortcut to developing a masterful elevator speech. But with a lot of dedicated work and a little luck you could be ready by the time your business folds and your company goes into receivership.

Permission to re-use this material for non-commercial purposes is granted provided that Dave Jaffe, www.davejaffecomm.com is appropriately credited as the author and source. Please feel free to link to this page.

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More than half of employed Americans would change their jobs, according to a recent career survey. And with a nod to the National Security Agency, the survey reveals their names, where they live and whether they’re working for you.

The poll was conducted by the University of Phoenix, renowned for their vast experience in online education. (Recruitment tagline: “Why get dressed?”) The results reveal a host of data about job satisfaction that business owners might find troubling.

Of the 1,600 respondents, 55 percent are considering changing their careers; 24 percent are extremely interested in a change; 4 percent are “no shit, really, really, extremely interested!” and 1 percent have already skipped town after dumping Gatorade in the office network server.

Interestingly, only 14 percent of workers said they were in their “dream career”. And they responded in a really annoying, sing-songy, nasal voice, like “I’m in my dreeeeam job!” while eating a coworker’s yogurt stolen from the fridge.

Most dissatisfied with their career path are workers in their early- to mid-twenties, known in the workforce as “millennials” and by their supervisors as “Which one are you?” Companies should place a high priority on attracting and retaining these technically savvy, computer literate employees who often count among their skills how to clean Gatorade out of the office network server.

Perks of Write Good! employment: human-powered transportation.  Summer intern carries senior vowel engineer through Write Good Hall of Be Quiet.

Perks of Write Good! employment: human-powered transportation. Summer intern carries senior vowel engineer through Write Good Hall of Be Quiet.

Clearly, America’s work force is no longer satisfied pursuing a single career. Gone are the days when an employee worked tirelessly at the same firm for years, right up to the day the company’s president would announce, “He’s dead!”

Frankly, those days will be missed by Write Good!: The Multinational, and not just because of the endless stream of petrodollars streaming into our offshore accounts. Write Good’s nearly criminal success – well, in fact criminal – has been built on the loyalty and efforts of our dedicated employees. Let Write Good! tell you a little story about one of them. His name doesn’t really matter. We’ll just call him Writely Good – no exclamation mark.

Born of immigrant parents so poor they didn’t even know where they came from, Writely grew up during one of those “depressions” that economists don’t bother to capitalize. A shy, thoughtful yet industrious youth Writely excelled academically. His positive nature often drew the attention of the nuns; odd, since he was Jewish and didn’t attend a Catholic school. They’d just seem to spot him on the street and take him under their wing.

Writley’s parents, too poor to ask who were these people with wings, welcomed the nuns’ educational support. In just a few years Writley had attained all the intellect, culture and grooming needed to succeed in the business world. A few years later he reached puberty, then, still later, was old enough to seek employment. Tearfully, he kissed his parents goodbye, although they were too poor to walk him to the door, and set off to make his mark on the world.

His career rise was meteoric. Forbes listed him among its “Top 50 Shy, Thoughtful Yet Industrious Youths.” Yet Writely felt unfulfilled. Something was missing – his dream of working for a blog like Write Good! Soon he stood before the great carved bronze doors of our corporate temple seeking a job interview with Write Good!: The Human Resources.

Intern carries senior vowel engineer from Write Good!: The Temple to Write Good!: The Starbucks.

Intern carries senior vowel engineer from Write Good!: The Temple to Write Good!: The Starbucks.

And just as quickly he was forcibly ejected onto the streets by a Write Good!: The Security escort. Without his limousine, Writely was forced to call his parents who, too poor to afford bus fare, met him on foot and walked him home.

The point? Write Good! doesn’t want shy, thoughtful yet industrious employees. We want you! And we’re hiring.

Write Good! guarantees a career path described by many as secure and stable and by others as indentured servitude. That’s probably a joke, but you’ll have to check with HR.

Senior vowel engineer enjoys stroll around Write Good!: The Campus before returning intern to charging station.

Senior vowel engineer enjoys stroll around Write Good!: The Campus before returning intern to charging station.

Who is our ideal applicant? Apparently, no one who responded to the University of Phoenix survey. If you’re looking to change careers, don’t look to Write Good! You scare us. But if you’re happy in your current “dream” job and have no interest in leaving, come talk to Write Good!

Yes, yes! We know this doesn’t make sense. HR has explained it over and over while Write Good! rolls its eyes, sighs deeply and continue texting. But in these economically unstable times imagine the satisfaction of working for a firm that only asks you to show up forever. That’s why we brag, “At Write Good! You’re Not Going Anywhere!”

Yes, yes! HR has talked to us about that, too.

Permission to re-use this material for non-commercial purposes is granted provided that Dave Jaffe, www.davejaffecomm.com is appropriately credited as the author and source. Please feel free to link to this page.

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Whether you’re a new graduate responding to that first job application or a laid-off professional living in a cardboard box under a railroad trestle, writing a proper cover letter could be your gateway to a rewarding career or at least a sturdier packing crate.

However, even the most seasoned job hunters find themselves intimidated at the prospect of creating a cover letter. “Am I boasting too much?” they worry. “Should I mention my references?” “How do you spell ‘embezzlement’?”

Such concerns are minor, except for the felony. Writing a compelling and powerful cover letter is a relatively simple task, especially if it’s about someone other than you. However, you’re all we have to work with, so let’s take a look. Stand up straighter! Don’t slouch!

Hmmmm…just how good are your references?

A well-written cover letter can mean the difference between placement in a job that fits your skills or one that surrounds you with choking fumes, hazardous molten steel and muscular, hate-filled men who bitterly resent you.

A well-written cover letter can mean the difference between placement in a job that fits your skills or one that surrounds you with choking fumes, hazardous molten steel and muscular, hate-filled men who bitterly resent you.

Too often cover letters tend to be formulaic, which is fine if you’re applying for a job writing formulae – a skill so specialized that you probably already have a job. But for those following a more traditional career track, using a standard, “one-size-fits-all” letter can produce such uninspired results as this:

TO: General Manager, One-Size-Fits-All Apparel Company

As a (go-getter; name-taker; butt-kicker: Select one) I believe I would be a (benefit; asset; formulae: Select one) to the One-Size-Fits-All Apparel Company. I offer a wide range of skills and an ability to (think outside the box; color inside the lines; fit into one size: Select one) that would help make your successful company even more (good; nice; real nice: Select one). I hope that you will consider my enclosed (résumé; bribe; blackmail photos: Select one) as you look over job candidates.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Respectfully,
(Your name; someone else’s name; more blackmail photos: Select one)

Technically speaking, there’s nothing really wrong with this letter, unless your intention is to be hired. If so, consider ways to create a letter that go beyond the mundane, past the merely interesting, into the realm of the creative, through the portal to the Dark World, out along the rim of the Oblivion Void….

Okay, that’s too far. Back this way, a little. A little more. Aaaaand…THERE! Put it in park, hand over the keys, and follow these rules:

  • A successful cover letter weaves an intriguing story about you, reflects an insightful grasp of the prospective employer, delineates your skill set, portrays your individuality, and expresses your business commitment, all in less than a half dozen words or, better yet, just a feral grunt.
  • Take the time to research a perspective company before you set pen to paper. Knowing how they operate will help guide the tone of your letter. Also don’t write with pen and paper. What are you, Charles Dickens?
  • If possible, target your letter to a person rather than an anonymous “Dear Sir/Madame”. This can prove a challenge as many companies, particularly large firms, rarely include the names of hiring managers unless they’re combat trained.
  • Mention mutual contacts. Do you and a company executive share a common acquaintance? Probably not, since they rarely associate with your kind. Still, it’s worth a little exploration through a practice the business community calls “networking” and the criminal courts call “stalking.”
  • Turn a personal trait or quirk into a unique benefit to a company. For example, which of these phrases stands you out from the crowd?

“I’m an enthusiastic team player!”

or

“I’m an enthusiastic team player who’s also highly radioactive. Consequently, I respect peoples’ boundaries.”

Finally, carefully manage your expectations of what a cover letter can accomplish. It is, after all, but the “appetizer” to your résumé, which is the “salad course” introducing the “entrée” that is your job interview. Hopefully, that won’t cause you a panic attack, or “spilled soup”, that requires a visit to the rest room, or “rest room”, to “rinse a stain” – puke – “use hand sanitizer” – pop a Xanax – then “return to the table” – call your therapist.

Bon Appetit!

Permission to re-use this material for non-commercial purposes is granted provided that Dave Jaffe, www.davejaffecomm.com is appropriately credited as the author and source. Please feel free to link to this page.

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Writing a successful resumé is a skill as essential as engineering or accounting, either of which would have already landed you a job, so you wouldn’t need a resumé.

Resumé writing is fraught with pitfalls, according to a recent Internet article forwarded to me by a Write Good! reader. By the way – or as the Web savvy abbreviate it, LOL – “recent” in Internet terms means that the article was written less than .000342 nano-parsecs ago. Hence by the time you read the word “recent” that term is “outdated.” To gauge the immediacy of an Internet post, use the following rule of thumb: 10 Internet nano-parsecs is equivalent to 57 dog years, which is about seven human years or 123 pints. Now let’s get back to those pitfalls.

The astute article written by Charles Purdy, Monster Senior Editor, is titled “10 Words and Terms That Ruin a Resumé.” Sadly, that title was as far as the Write Good! research staff read before coming up with their own list, as our genius resides in an ability to form opinions without the distraction of facts, expertise or knowledge.

While Mr. Purdy soundly advises resumé writers to avoid “empty cliches, annoying jargon and recycled buzzwords” we at Write Good! hysterically warn readers to avoid, for their own safety, phrases best described as “freakin’ stupid!” Thus we recommend steering clear of words and terms that discerning hiring administrators tend to group under the category “litigious.” Those terms include:

1. Festering
2. Convicted
3. Hitler (or Hitleresque)
4. Uncontrollable rage
5. Blood soaked
6. Manslaughter (acceptable in Massachusetts and Arizona)
7. Enron-like
8. Lynch mob
9. Naughty list
10. Satan-friendly

While a list of your outstanding professional qualifications and unsurpassed achievements might have a place on a resumé, more important is that the document looks real purdy. Many a corporate CEO will admit, after a few martinis sipped from gold-rimmed goblets, that it was their resumé, printed on hot pink paper and decorated with little hearts and kittens, that won them an interview where they could then expand on their thieving, cheating, back-stabbing, rival-pushed-out-window accomplishments.

However, email has grown into so accepted a communications vehicle that paper no longer exists, which has led to a dangerously uncontrollable spread of the world’s rainforests and with it a lot of those really big, creepy bugs. Thus to make your resumé stand out from the competition you must be creative with typography, which up until now I thought had something to do with maps.

Research I just made up reveals that employers make a judgment about your resumé within seven seconds, and most of that time is spent thinking about lunch. By employing mixed fonts, bolding and italics, lower and uppercase characters, you can make your resumé both memorable and laughable. Compare the following resumé entries, then ask yourself, “Who would I hire and should I have the shrimp tacos for lunch?”

Previous experience:
Chancellor of the exchequer for Great Britain, second lord of Her Majesty’s treasury

or

Previous experience:
Camp I’m-a-Big-Boy-or-Girl aSSIStant CounSELor!!! (Ret.)

The choice is clear. Now, what’s for lunch?

Permission to re-use this material for non-commercial purposes is granted provided that Dave Jaffe, www.davejaffecomm.com is appropriately credited as the author and source. Please feel free to link to this page.

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