Twice a year, I am invited to deliver an hour-long workshop to a jobseekers networking group. I arrive early to set up, sit as an observer during the first part of their weekly meeting, and then present my content. During the first part of the meeting, a few members of the group share who they are, what they do, and what kind of leads or support they would appreciate receiving.
When it comes to the ‘what they do’ part, people often share their most recent job title. “I’m an electro-mechanical engineer,” or “I’m a storage – SAN administrator.” I recognize that these phrases and titles have meaning for some of the people in the room who share a similar background or work experience. Yet, how many more leads would people get if they shared their professional skill set using language that every person in the room understood?
People often ask me what I do for a living. Although I am a certified coach, I recognize that answering with that job title may be of little or no use to the person asking the question. Some people hear ‘coach’ and ask which sport. Others associate ‘coach’ with a sketchy person they once met who decided to call himself a life coach without any training or certification. Yes, some people understand that professional certified coaches work in a variety of industries and for a variety of purposes, such as assisting executives, educators, and entrepreneurs in reaching their professional goals. Yet, depending on the audience, the term can be as easily misunderstood as “storage – SAN administrator.”
When sharing with people what you do, it is critical to have some understanding of who is asking the question. What language will that person best understand? In what simple terms can you explain to another person the value and benefit of your skill set? If you have no idea who your audience will be, find a child who is willing to work with you for a few minutes. Tell them what you do and ask them to share you what they understood. If you can clearly explain what you do to an average eight year old, you have found language that is clear and succinct enough to make an initial connection with anyone you meet.
This is harder than it sounds. People, especially with specialized and technical skills sets, often say, “What I do is so much more than a simplistic sound bite!” All true. Yet, in order to have a longer conversation with greater depth and detail, there must first be an initial connection and identified interest. Trust that your simple soundbite will lead to the right people wanting to know more and asking you additional questions. Once engaged, you can share details about what you do based on the areas that are of most interest to the person asking you for additional information.