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I propose that career professionals change two words:  social media and elevator speech.

First, to social media.  I have found that a good many professionals, while they may embrace this new phenomenon for corporate marketing, turn up their noses at the idea of using “social media” to enhance their career brand. 

When you ask them if they have a Twitter account, a great distribution channel, they look incredulous as if to say why would a professional dare to even consider a twitter account?  The same goes with Facebook. 

LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a business oriented networking site.  Its architecture is designed to bring professionals together for conversation, idea sharing, and networking.  This is less intimidating for executives, but for those whose jobs seem secure, they, too, are reluctant to invest the time, or even admit, they use “social media.”

When I talk to mid-life professionals about managing their career brand, I no longer use this term.  I use  networking media.  Oh, I discuss Twitter and Facebook, for example, but I emphasize the business advantages. “Networking media” seems to be a term that people identify with, they are more comfortable.

Hopefully, this will save time in my pro bono career counseling sessions—avoiding pushback or even an argument about why a professional should burnish an on-line brand on a “social media” site.

The other term I would change is “elevator speech.” 

It is a common term used by outplacement specialists and career coaches as a catchy title to describe a brief statement of who a candidate is and what value they would bring to an organization.  This week, Seth Godin, marketing/blogging guru—one of the most popular authors in the blogosphere—wrote an interesting post in which he said that no one ever bought anything on an elevator. For me, that was a small ah ha moment of truth. It touched a nerve. 

Godin says it well:  “If your elevator speech is a hyper-compressed two-minute overview of your hopes, dreams, and the thing you have been building for the last three years, you are doing everyone a disservice.

“I will never be able to see the future through your eyes this quickly, and, worse, if you told me what I need to know to be able to easily say no, I’ll say no,” Godin wrote.

He argues that the best elevator speech doesn’t pitch the project, it pitches the meeting about the project.  “The best elevator speech is true, stunning, brief and leaves the listener eager (no, desperate) to hear the rest of it.   He uses a couple of examples: “ I quit my job as an Emmy-winning actress to do this because…”  Or, “Our company is profitable and has grown 10 percent per week for every week since July.”

The elevator speeches that I have listened to—some I have suffered through—were simply highlights of a career, a verbal resume, with little or no information that would compel me to take a follow-up meeting.  I understand.  That recital is the current conventional wisdom.  Well, conventional wisdom, as the saying goes, is seldom right.

I am not sure what replacement term and content style I would come up with, but “elevator speech,” now seems dated and out of touch with the times.

© 2012 John Gregory Self