Archive for July 2010

6 Elevator Pitch Do’s and Dont’s for Students and The Unemployed (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

July 30, 2010

If you are unemployed, don't do this when asked what you do!

If you are a student or unemployed adult who read yesterday’s post on elevator pitches, you may be thinking, “That’s great information, but what do I say at a networking event if I don’t have a job?!”  Well, here are 6 do’s and dont’s.

  1. Don’t improvise what you are going to say when people ask what you do.  Do have a concise response prepared.
  2. Don’t tell people you are “unemployed.” (While you might be out of a job for reasons beyond your control, there is a stigma associated with the word.)  Do have some sort of academic, volunteer, or part-time project that you are working on that you can reference as your current work.  Or, say something like “I am taking some time off to consider a career change.  I’m at this event to learn more about _____.”
  3. Don’t lie.  Do tell the truth.  The risk is not worth the reward.
  4. Don’t ask people for a job.  Do ask people if they have any advice on how you can learn more about opportunities in a given field.
  5. Don’t feel sorry for yourself.  A negative or defeated attitude will only turn off people who could potentially help you.  Do stay positive, as hard as that may be.
  6. Don’t focus strictly on how the other person can help you.  Do probe to see how you could help them. 

In summary, if you are a student or an unemployed adult, networking can be a great way to advance your career.  Just make sure you approach these events with the same positive attitude and preparation that you would if you already had a job!

-Pete Leibman

– Career Expert and President of Idealize Enterprises



7 Reasons Why Your Elevator Pitch is Awful (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

July 29, 2010

Do people look like this when you tell them what you do?

Whether you are at a networking event, social gathering, or conference, (or any other place with fellow human beings), the “what do you do” question is likely to come up.  However, despite this inevitable fact, very few people know how to respond in a manner that engages the person asking the question.  Here are 7 reasons why most elevator pitches are absolutely terrible:
  1. You haven’t spent time practicing your pitch.  Despite the fact that we are asked “what do you do?” every day, few people have spent the necessary time crafting a great response. 
  2. Your pitch is way too long.  You must be able to tell someone what you do in 5 seconds or less.   Otherwise, you will ramble, and your listener will lose interest.  The goal of the initial pitch is simply to get them to say “wow, that’s interesting.”  Even better, you want them to say “wow, how do you do that?”  Once you have hooked them, you can elaborate.
  3. No one can understand what you do. This is especially dangerous for salespeople and entrepreneurs.   If people don’t understand what you do, they can’t help you, buy from you, or refer you.
  4. You are not focusing on the benefits of your work.  Instead of saying “I am a realtor” say “I help homeowners sell their homes faster and for more money.”  Instead of saying “I am a personal trainer,” say “I help middle-aged men and women get into the best shape of their lives.”  Instead of saying “I am a veterinarian,” say “I help families keep their pets healthy.”  Instead of saying “I am a small business lawyer,” say “I help small business owners protect themselves against lawsuits and bankruptcy.”   Get the point?
  5. It’s boring.  One way to stand out from the masses of boring, confusing, unoriginal elevator pitches is to add some humor to your pitch.  One of my colleagues is a humorous motivational speaker in the healthcare industry.  However, that’s not what he tells people when they ask what he does.  Instead, he says “I make colonoscopies more fun.”  Now, that’s memorable!  Note: it’s not appropriate for people in certain careers to use humor when describing their work (i.e. a psychiatrist), so use good judgment.
  6. It’s not original.  Many people have the same occupation (i.e. accountants, lawyers, executive coaches).  Find a way to stand out from the crowd of people who have the same job as you.  What makes your approach to your job different (and better)?
  7. You don’t seem excited about it.  You know more about what you do than anyone else.  So, if you’re not passionate and confident about your work, why should anyone else be?

In summary, elevator pitches must be concise, clear, and compelling.  Is yours?

P.S. What do you say if you are a student or someone looking for a job?  We’ll discuss that in an upcoming post.

-Pete Leibman

– Career Expert and President of Idealize Enterprises

13 Common Mistakes at Networking Events (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

July 28, 2010

With practice and preparation, anyone can become adept at "working a room"


While some are naturally more adept than others, anyone can learn how to use networking as a way to advance his career.  However, networking has to be done correctly for it to be fun and effective.  Here are 13 of the top mistakes people make when networking: 

  1. Lack of preparation: Have a few ice-breaker questions and ideas ready for every event, and be aware of the latest news/trends about the industry related to the organization hosting the event.  Lastly, if you know certain people will be at the event, have a few specific questions/ideas prepared just for them.
  2. Attending the wrong types of networking events.  While it’s never a waste of time to meet new people, you should be attending events that are primarily comprised of people you want to meet.  Many people think networking is pointless because they are going to events that don’t make sense for their goals!
  3. Having unrealistic expectations.  Don’t set your expectations too high or you’ll feel unnecessary pressure.  Just focus on meeting new people and sharing ideas, not on getting a sale or job!
  4. Only talking to people you already know.  While it is always beneficial to build on current relationships, many people cling to people they know because they are afraid to talk to “strangers.”  Aim to talk to at least 2 new people for every hour you are at an event.
  5.  Not having business cards OR having crappy business cards.  It looks unprofessional if you run out of them or if you forgot to bring them (note: I am guilty of both of these blunders!).  However, it’s even worse when someone gives me a business card that looks cheap.  Do you realize how inexpensive business cards are?!  On a side-note,  you don’t need business cards if you are a student, but if you get them, they better look really sharp. 
  6. Making a bad elevator pitch.  When asked what you do, it is essential that you have a prepared response that is concise, captivating, and clear.  (My current line is “I help students and recent grads get their dream jobs”).  In general, you need to have a statement you can say in about 5 seconds that does not leave people confused and that has people saying “wow, that’s interesting” or asking “wow, how do you that?”  More to come on this topic tomorrow. 
  7. Trying to sell something right away.  Nothing turns people off more at a networking event than someone trying to peddle a product or service.  Build a relationship first.
  8. Being too controversial.  Certain topics are always off-limits at networking events, i.e. sex, religion, and politics. Don’t talk about anything that could make people uncomfortable; just being at the event is already difficult enough for many!
  9. Barging in on intimate conversations.  In general, you should introduce yourself to people who are by themselves or people in groups of 3 or more; it can be challenging and rude to interrupt 2 people in a private discussion.   The exception would be if 2 people are standing side to side looking around the room, a sign that they are receptive to others coming over and saying hello.
  10. Talking too much about yourself.  The best way to build a relationship is to get others to talk about themselves and to share ideas or leads that can help them.  Refer to Monday’s post.
  11. Making a poor introduction.  It is essential that you smile when you meet someone, that you give a quality handshake (not too weak or too suffocating), and that you look them right in the eye when you shake hands. Fail to do these 3 things, and people will not trust you or respect you.
  12. Focusing on quantity instead of quality.  It’s not about seeing how many business cards you can collect; it’s about having meaningful conversations with people.
  13. Not following up correctly after the event.  The relationship begins at the event, but it gets built afterwards.  See yesterday’s post.

In general, people either under-prepare for networking events or they go into these gatherings with the wrong goals and expectations.  I’ve unfortunately made or seen all of these errors.  What about you? 

-Pete Leibman 

– Career Expert and President of Idealize Enterprises

6 Essential Steps AFTER a Networking Event (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

July 27, 2010

I have a stack of business cards from last night's networking event. Now what?!


Yesterday, we discussed the mindset and strategy required to maximize your conversations at a networking event.  However, many people go to networking events, participate in conversations with others, exchange business cards, and then they do absolutely nothing!  This is among the greatest networking mistakes that people make.  Relationships can begin at networking events, but they are built with the effort you put in AFTER the event is over.

Here are 6 steps required for building a relationship with someone you met at a networking event:

  1. Take notes: Immediately after any conversation at an event, write the date and some notes for yourself on the back of the person’s business card.  This helps you remember what was discussed, and it’s especially important if you have multiple conversations in one evening.
  2. Plan your next steps: The morning after an event, go through all of your business cards and decide what action steps are required for each person.
  3. Connect on LinkedIn: At the minimum, you should send a personalized invitation to connect on with each person you met.  In addition to mentioning that it was nice to meet the other person, it’s always a nice touch to reference something personal about your conversation.
  4. Send an email: Send a separate follow-up email if you discussed any specific next steps in your conversation (i.e. if you discussed meeting for lunch the next week).
  5. Write a thank-you note: Send a separate hand-written thank you note, if necessary.  For example, this should be done if the other person gave you some career advice or a lead on a business prospect.
  6. Update your contact management system: Enter your new contact into your contact management system (i.e. Outlook or Salesforce or whatever system you use to track your contacts).  If you do not have a system for tracking your contacts, start one today!

It amazes me how few people actually have a follow-up system in place for relationship-building after a networking event.  Is your networking not working?  Perhaps it’s because you aren’t following up correctly after events!

-Pete Leibman

– President of Idealize Enterprises

8 Questions For In-Person Networking Success (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

July 26, 2010

Does this environment make you nervous?


Despite all the rage over social networking tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and You-Tube, an in-person networking event is still one of the best ways to build professional relationships.  However, many of the people who could benefit the most from in-person networking (i.e. entrepreneurs, salespeople and job-seekers) are intimidated about going to these events alone. 

I believe there are 2 primary reasons for these fears.  First of all, most people put way too much pressure on themselves in regard to expectations for an event.  Rather than going with the goal of getting a job or making a sale, you should look at a networking event simply as a way to meet new people and to exchange ideas about an industry.  Going to a networking event looking for a job or a sale is like going to a bar looking for a spouse!  It puts unnecessary pressure on you, and this apprehension will have a negative impact on all of your interactions.

Secondly, many people fear networking events because they are unsure of what to say when speaking to strangers.  However, this problem is easily rectified as well.  Last week, I attended a 4-day conference in Orlando, Florida where I knew virtually no one.  As a result, I relied on strategic questioning to make over 25 new friends/contacts and to gather a lot of great information about the industry.

Here are 8 questions you can use at your next networking event.  I have left parts of each question blank so that you can make them relevant to you:

  1. How long have you been involved with the ___________? (Fill in the name of the organization hosting the event.)
  2. How did you end up getting involved in the ____________?  (Fill in the name of the organization hosting the event.)
  3. How long have you worked in the _________ industry?  (Fill in the name of your industry.)
  4. How did you get your start in the __________ industry?  (Fill in the name of your industry.)
  5. What do you enjoy most about your work?
  6. How do you see the __________ industry changing over the next few years?  (Fill in the name of your industry.)
  7. How do you think the __________ industry has changed over the last 5 years?  (You can ask this if someone has been in the industry for a while, and if you are new to the industry.)
  8. What advice would you have for someone new to the industry?  (If you are not in the industry yet, you can also ask what advice the person would have for someone looking to get into the industry.)

The key to all of these open-ended questions or for any other question is to get the other person talking about himself/herself and to get the other person to offer their ideas and advice.  People love talking about themselves, and people love giving advice.  While some people will take this bait and talk only about themselves, most will reciprocate and then ask you about yourself.  Then, you have a conversation that can potentially lead somewhere.  At the minimum, you have met a new contact and learned something new about your industry.

So, what do you say next time you are at a networking event?  Ask the other person any of the questions above and then simply have a discussion.  Networking is fun when you have proper expectations and when you are prepared.  Focus on exchanging ideas and on making friends, and the job offers and sales leads will follow!

-Pete Leibman

College Speaker and President of Idealize Enterprises

4 Lessons to Learn From the Owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

July 13, 2010

Lebron James' fatheads are now available for $17.41...hmmm...

In case you don’t follow the sports world at all, you have missed a soap opera in the NBA over the last week.  2-time NBA MVP, Lebron James, decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat, a move that shocked the NBA and angered Cavaliers’ fans worldwide.  In response, Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner, Dan Gilbert, retaliated with a scathing letter posted on the Cavaliers’ web site

Gilbert referred to his former franchise player as “narcissistic” and a “coward,” while later stating that James “gave up” on the team during several playoff games over the last few years.  Additionally, Gilbert even made the childish move the following day of changing the price of a Lebron James’ product on one his web sites from $99 to $17.41 (note: famous traitor, Benedict Arnold, was born in 1741).

Given that the owner was aggressively trying to re-sign James until he decided to leave for Miami last week, Gilbert’s actions are analogous to a guy who professes his love for a girl, gets rejected by the girl, and then tells the world that he did not want to be with her anyway because she is a miserable person. 

When it comes to your career, there are 4 key lessons to be learned here:

  1. You cannot always control the actions of the people you work with, but you can always control how you respond.  While James was free to sign with the team of his choice (note: that is the definition of a free agent), he clearly could have handled the situation more professionally.  However, just because he handled it poorly does not mean that Gilbert had to respond in the way that he did.  Gilbert could have taken the high-road, but he chose to be critical and childish instead.
  2. When you throw someone under the bus, YOU are the person who looks bad, even if the other person deserves to be criticized.  As a result of Gilbert’s actions, the majority of the media attention has now shifted to Gilbert, and few people are talking about the way Lebron handled his “decision.”
  3. You open yourself up to criticism when you criticize others.  After seeing Gilbert’s comments, Jesse Jackson posted some highly controversial comments by stating that Gilbert had a “slave master mentality.”
  4. Be very careful what you put in writing or declare publicly.  It would have been understandable for Gilbert to harbor some resentment for James for a period of time or even to share his feelings with his family members or closest friends.  However, he chose to declare his outrageous beliefs and emotions to the world, a decision that has turned into a PR disaster.

While I suppose you can respect Gilbert’s passion for his franchise and for the city of Cleveland, I believe his actions will do him and the franchise MUCH more harm than good.  Had he expressed disappointment with James’ actions in a more professional way, he could have stood up for his fan base, while still taking the high road.  Now, he must deal with comments about being a racist, a dangerous stigma for a white owner in a league (the NBA) that is primarily comprised of African-American players.

How should you respond when disappointed or angered by the actions of someone you work with?  Take the high-road.  You can express your displeasure privately or you can even do it publicly, IF you do it in a manner that is still professional.  You cannot control the actions of others, but you can always control how you respond!

-Pete Leibman

College Speaker and President of Idealize Enterprises

Nutrition Sins That Sabotage Your Energy and Career: Part III

July 9, 2010

Read nutrition labels before consuming any food or drink!

This week, we are featuring a series on the 9 major nutritional sins most Americans commit, along with tips on how they can easily be avoided.  Greater energy at work is one of the many benefits provided by healthy eating.  Here are sins #7-9 with tips on how not to commit them:

7. Not reading labels or looking at nutritional information on what you eat/drink.  If you aren’t a food label sleuth, you’ll likely be surprised to find out just how bad some of the foods are that you eat frequently, including some foods that you may not even enjoy that much!  It’s getting much easier to read labels, as even fast-food chains and restaurants are getting better at providing complete nutritional details on their foods. 

8. Not planning ahead for meals and snacks.  Even the most disciplined eater will give in to temptations and cravings if healthier alternatives are not available.  Anyone who knows me probably thinks I am the healthiest eater they know, but even I get tempted to eat anything near me if I haven’t eaten in 5-6 hours or more: it’s not a question of will-power at that point!  So, always carry healthy portable snacks with you.  Fresh fruit, a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread, nuts, a small salad, a cup of light yogurt, and lean, low-sugar protein bars are all portable and very valuable since they can help prevent you from reaching for worse options that are just as accessible.  By spending a few minutes the night before to consider how/when/what you will eat the next day, you significantly reduce your chances for making bad choices the following day. 

9. Not being conscious of what you are eating.  This does not mean you need to track everything you eat/drink for the rest of your life (although keeping a diet log for a few days can be very eye-opening).  All you need to do is pay attention to what you are putting in your body.  Stop snacking unconsciously and start eating only at designated meal/snack times!

Do you want to have more energy at work?  Then, stop making excuses and start fueling your body the right way every day!

Thanks for reading!

-Pete Leibman

-College Speaker and President of Idealize Enterprises