Elevator Pitches are Dead: Use Scenarios to Network into Jobs

Use Scenarios to Network into Jobs and ContractsUse Scenarios to Network into Jobs and Contracts reveals a new way to break through when you’re looking for new consulting work or employment for yourself, or you’re fundraising for your startup or nonprofit. As these pages detail, I’ve learned that “breaking through the noise” is easy when you play music. You’ll learn how to do it here.

Insight from Ethnographic Research

Use Scenarios to Network into Jobs: Insight on Human BehaviorI’ve conducted ethnographic research of social media since 2006, so I have a window into humanity that few other people do. I’ve also been pioneering in disruptive tech since the 1990s, so I’ve had a front row seat to the explosion of information and splintering attention most of my clients talk about. Since the 1980s, I’ve been very active with networking at events and organizations. So I have a diverse viewpoint. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Behavioral economics and cognitive science consistently reveal that people make decisions emotionally, with their gut, although they’re usually unaware of this. The intellect wraps the decision in a nice rationale. People are emotional creatures. Trust is built at the gut level, through body language—and actions, which are the body language of a person’s will.
  • Pitching turns people off; since most people are pitched literally thousands of times per day (impressions), their attention is deadened in self-defense. Elevator pitches and resumes are pitch documents, so they automatically lose impact. They often come across as noise.
  • At the same time, everyone is trying to accomplish things; if you show that you are interested in supporting them in doing what’s most important to them, your words become music to their ears. By the way, this is what experiential social media does.

Scenarios Package Your Passion

Use Scenarios to Network into Jobs: Scenarios Package Your PassionThe person who is standing in front of you, or is on the other side of the screen, is a harried executive/manager/investor. Too many contacts, too much information. But s/he’s very connected and in a river of information, relationships and opportunity. How do you stand out? Scenarios engage his/her imagination of several levels:

  • Business context: Opportunity is framed by organizational responses to external drivers. For example, are you more valuable in emerging situations or mature markets? After mergers? Clawing market share from established competitors? New product launches? Picking up after failure? Disrupting incumbents? You get the idea.
  • Mission: What you want to do within the business context. Why is it personally and professionally meaningful for you to have this mission? What does it mean to you? If this is “more than a job” to you, and you can communicate its importance, the other person will pay more attention. This is the emotional channel.
  • Impact on people (users/customers/employees). How is your mission meaningful to people? And how are these people important to firms you’d like to work with/for?
  • Roles: the scope of the work you want to do, including results you want to produce, and why you will be important to the organization or market.

Context, mission, impact and role are the components of the “scenario.” Scenarios are 3-5 sentences long, and notice that they fuse together intellect (context), emotion (mission), and impact coupled with the role. For maximum impact, you should have a story or example for each part.

Scenarios can help you break through in several ways:

  1. They confront you with what you really want on several levels.
  2. They help people remember you much more easily because they hear you in quad where most people are mono (intellect only).
  3. They help people refer you; for example, you’re a financial and technical guru, but when you add business context (helping startups mature their product enough to make it to Series A), it’s much more vivid.
  4. You’ll get higher value consulting contracts and better jobs because you’re focused on your passion, and people will feel this. You will feel it, too, so you’ll have more energy and focus. In a pervasive network, it’s easier to connect when you’re specific; people with general approaches are invisible.
  5. You’ll be seen as more dynamic because you’ll have thought through your mission on multiple levels, and any level can engage the person in front of you.
  6. For many people, the biggest prize is that scenarios remove the whole employment vs. consulting conundrum. That has its own section below.

How to Use Scenarios

Use Scenarios to Network into Jobs: How to Use ScenariosA scenario will have about a sentence on each component. At networking events, as you approach people, let your gut decide what to lead with, the mission, the context, etc. Name tags can help with this, too. Have fun and experiment. I have a lot of fun with this because a person’s expression will often suggest how s/he can be best engaged. But you have all of parts of your scenario(s) ready, and you don’t necessary use the whole scenario in each conversation. One aspect will usually engage a person, so stick with that.

You probably have a smartphone. Videotape yourself yourself talking about your scenarios. If you haven’t done this before, be prepared to go through a learning curve. If you’re like me, it’s brutal to see yourself talking to a camera at first. But keep practicing and you’ll improve. When doing this, I focus on the mission because video enables me to project my emotion much better than writing does.

Lift unusual keyword combinations from your scenarios and craft Google Advanced searches. You’ll find people and organizations talking about situations relevant to your scenarios. Respond to those posts, and bookmark them. Similarly, use the same keyword combinations for advanced LinkedIn searches, and comment on people’s LinkedIn articles. Engage people and invite them to connect.

Write blog posts on your scenarios. If you don’t have a blog, write a LinkedIn post (LinkedIn Publishing). Craft Advanced Twitter searches with two or three of the keyword combinations, and respond to people talking about them. Follow those people.

Why Employment vs. Consulting Is a Non-Issue

Use Scenarios to Network into Jobs: Remove the Consulting v. Job ConundrumThe real gold in scenarios, though, is that your mission and desired impact become the most important thing; the legal arrangement is secondary. I think about consulting, contracting, or employment as “work packaging.”

Notice that scenarios, since they have hooks into business context, engage clients and hiring managers on their top of mind issues—and they help you engage upstream from job/consulting contract creation. Most knowledge worker jobs or contracts are created spontaneously when “the right person” connects with a manager that’s feeling some pain. It takes a firm months to create a job description or to write an RFP, competition is high for these “opportunities,” and the process is slow and unpredictable. All that time, the people in the firm are feeling the pain. When you engage around their point of pain, you save them a lot of work and time. And this situation exists in every organization, constantly. You’ve undoubtedly lived it yourself. When it’s just you and the firm, you both have maximum flexibility to co-create an arrangement. Together, you can work out what’s most appropriate for you and the firm.

I covered this topic in more detail in Create More Opportunity with a Career Mission.

Summing Up

I hope you can see how scenarios can break through where pitches, resumes, handbills and other salesy artifacts can’t. Scenarios engage on emotion and the drivers of opportunity as well as that results you want to achieve. Related links:

Please post questions in comments, and share your experiences!

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