A non-sleazy personal pitch template

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t's one thing to know you're good at what you do. It's quite another to persuade someone else without feeling like a total sleaze ball. In fact, it's one of the most common fears I hear from job seekers, small business owners, and pretty much anyone who needs to self-promote.

If this sounds like you, don't beat yourself up. It's tough to promote yourself, and very few of us come by this skill naturally. Hopefully this article can help.

In my work with clients, I've identified 4 necessary ingredients to tell a powerful and credible story about yourself and your experience that still feels accurate, authentic and human. They are:

  1. The problem your work solves. This isn't a description of what you do so much as an overview of how you help. If you're a Client Success Manager, for example, your work is all about delighting and retaining high-value clients. If you're a Sales Development Representative, you feed your company's sales engine with high-quality leads that ultimately drive revenue growth.
  2. Your biggest strength. What are you better at than most people you know (don't worry, you don't have to say that in your pitch!)? Is it telling stories? Creatively visualizing ideas? Organizing projects and keeping tasks on track? If you aren't sure what to say, ask your manager or a trusted colleague to share some of the strengths they've observed you display.
  3. Your most important value, as it relates to your work. I've found that the best way to approach this one is to think about what drives you crazy about your work right now. The things that bother us can point us to what we most care about. For example, it drives me crazy that so many people hate their jobs. I'm on a mission to help solve that. Other examples I've seen: poor cross-departmental communication (value: collaboration), same-old same-old thinking (value: creativity), rigid hierarchies and bureaucracy (value: agility) and unconscious bias in hiring and promotion decisions (value: inclusivity).
  4. A big accomplishment you're proud of. This is a way to make your strengths and values real. What is something you've done, preferably in your most recent role, that you feel incredibly proud of? Once again, if you're having trouble coming up with something, ask a manager or colleague.

The 1-minute pitch template

What does this actually look like in action? Here's a template to help you bring these 4 things come together in a pitch, all in about a minute. This example is designed for job seekers, but with a few tweaks, could be easily adapted to fit other situations.

I'm <name>, and I'm <job title> at <company>, a <short company description>. In my role here, I <problem you solve>. But I'm most proud of <big accomplishment that aligns with your strength and/or value>. When I joined <company>, <describe a challenge you were hired to solve>. Now, <describe outcome>. I'm proud to have helped <specific way you helped>.

Before <current company>, I held <your field> roles at <previous company> and <previous company>. When I look at my experience as a whole, the common thread is <value>. I truly believe that <value detail>. I also love <strength>, and I'm quite good at it. In my next role, I'm looking for the opportunity to <strength> for a company that aligns with my values, which is why I wanted to connect with you.

And here's a specific example drawn from my own work experience:

I'm Robin, and I'm VP Marketing at Jhana, a learning company dedicated to giving every employee a great manager. In my role here, I oversee every marketing function at the company, and my team contributes to 44% of new closed revenue. But I'm most proud of the strong brand my team and I helped build as a trusted source for engaging and high-quality leadership content . When I joined Jhana 3.5 years ago, no one knew who we were. Now, we're a well-respected brand serving tens of thousands of managers. I'm proud to have helped tell that story.

Before Jhana, I held senior marketing roles at a number of B2B SaaS companies including Mindjet, Optimal and Webtrends. When I look at my experience as a whole, the common thread is my obsession with helping people be happier at work. I truly believe that work should be a place where employees can thrive and be their best selves. I also love telling stories, and I'm quite good at it. In my next role, I'm looking for the opportunity to tell great stories for a company that aligns with my values, which is why I wanted to connect with you.

And there you have it! This template integrates your skills, accomplishments, values and strengths into a clear and compelling personal pitch, and it clocks in at approximately 1 minute (I timed it).

Notice how I emphasize my love and skill for storytelling throughout, as well as my dedication to helping people thrive at work. Those are the values and strengths I want to highlight. Try to do the same in your pitch.

One final reminder

Treat this template as a starting point, not an ending point.

Tweak it, massage it, shorten it, lengthen it and otherwise play around with it until it feels right for your unique story and situation.

And as always, let me know if I can help!

Real talk about dream jobs and following your passion

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Let’s talk about dream jobs.

You’ll probably never have one. In fact, the whole concept of a “dream job” is mostly a load of bullshit. Not entirely, but mostly.

I’m sorry if that isn’t what you wanted to hear. I’m sorry if you wanted me to tell you that with enough hustle, grit, perseverance, Gary Vaynerchuck books and magic fairy dust, you, too, can find that coveted dream job that feeds your soul and ignites your passion and pays six figures and is never boring or mundane and doesn’t even feel like work at all.

Well, maybe you have a shot if your passion is selling unrealistic promises to other people who are desperate to earn six figures off their passion… But I digress. In any case, I have yet to see any of these self-help gurus acknowledge the two cruel yet fundamental truths that make it so hard to find work that truly nourishes us and pays our bills:

  1. We live in an industrialized, globalized, hypercapitalist system that treats human beings as commodities, and we must find a way to make a living, somehow, within that system.
  2. This system does not really know how to value those parts of ourselves that we find most worthwhile and enriching, and sometimes it actively works to devalue them. So we must find ways to honor them whether or not they earn us a living.

So here’s the real talk no one wants to admit:

You probably won’t earn a great living by following your passion. You’ll probably always need a day job. If you do go into business for yourself, you probably still won’t get to spend much time doing what you love because you’ll be too busy running a business.

I’m sorry. I really am. It sucks. The system is messed up, and it wasn’t designed with our hopes and dreams in mind.

But… there’s a kind of freedom in learning how to gaze upon the unvarnished truth, however cruel. There’s a kind of freedom in recognizing that most of us need to earn a living and that our ability to earn a good one is drastically circumscribed by a system that cares more about profit and efficiency than it cares about human flourishing.

How could it possibly be freeing to know this? Because it means we can let go of the notion that our job is the primary measure of our worth. It means we can acknowledge the need to earn a living, do what we must to earn it, and move through our days unencumbered by the belief that we have failed if we do not love our work. It means, most of all, that we can begin to construct our own definition of what it means to live well because we see the flaws of the definition that has been handed to us.

And when we begin to approach our work in this way, a very funny thing happens. It loses some of its heaviness. The unpleasant parts — and all work has unpleasant parts, even so-called dream jobs — begin to soften. We stop striving so hard to become more, more, more, and begin to see that we are already enough. We discover that, whatever our job, we have a thousand different opportunities to bring forth meaning and service and yes, even love every single day.

There is always an opportunity to do good work. There is always an opportunity to serve. There is always an opportunity to make one small difference for someone else.

And isn’t that what we seek in our constant pursuit of dream jobs? Meaning, love, purpose, validation that we matter, that what we do is worthwhile? Yet all these things and more are already in front of us… as soon as we stop looking so very hard for them!

This may sound like an excuse to give up on your dreams, but I assure you, it isn’t. If anything, letting go of the need for a dream job is one of the most powerful awakenings available to us in modern life.

Letting go allows us to see the cruelties of the world without descending into cynicism or buying into delusions of grandeur. Letting go clears away the fog of someone else’s definition of success. Letting go eliminates the need to compare ourselves to others.

Letting go sets us free to do our most important work.

And we discover this work not by searching, not by forming perfect lists in our head and seeking to check all the boxes but by plunging wholeheartedly into whatever is in front of us. This is how we become who we’re meant to be. This is how we get to know our own power. This is how we find the meaning we so hungrily seek — by creating it out of whatever mess we happen to be in.

When you discover your most important work (and it’s OK if it takes you some time to do this — it takes most of us years, and it has a way of changing at different points in our lives), you will find opportunities to do it. You will find opportunities in your job and with your friends and in your free time because this work, whether it’s creating or crafting or connecting or something else entirely, will call to you everywhere.

You will do it because you have no choice. Because you cannot imagine living any other way.

And you won’t care about cliches like “dream jobs” and “following your passion” because you’ll guided by the beat of your own inner drum.

And that will be all that matters.

Success is not a mountain to climb

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Where do you see yourself in five years?

How many times has this question been asked of you? How many more times have you asked it of yourself? I've never really loved it, mostly on the grounds that the future is impossible to predict. Our situations can change dramatically within weeks, sometimes even days. It seems unfair to expect that we'll know what we want in a single year, let alone five.

But there's an even more compelling reason to hold this question lightly and perhaps let it go altogether.

By focusing us on an imagined future, this question implicitly assumes that the present moment is somehow lacking.

It invites us to consider everything we want rather than everything we have. It draws our attention to the difference between where we are now and where we would like to be and treats it as a kind of deficiency, in need of fixing. A mountain to be scaled. A mountain that must be scaled if we ever want to be happy and successful.

For many of us, this kind of thinking leads quickly to self-doubt and fear. Instead of noticing how far we've come, we notice how tall and imposing that mountain seems. We compare ourselves to others who seem to be farther up the mountain than we are, and we feel inferior. Sometimes, we begin to believe we aren't good enough to climb the mountain at all.

This mountain represents everything we want to be.

Just beyond the summit, our future self waves to us, and she is happy and fulfilled and successful, freed from all the deficiencies and insecurities that plague the unworthy present.

Where do you see yourself in five years, indeed?

Have you climbed the mountain? Have you achieved whatever successes you believed you needed to be happy? Have you earned the just reward of all that hard work, which is to be, at last, fulfilled?

No, no, always no. Because the mountain moves. As soon as we believe we've reached the top, a new summit appears, beckoning to us with a new siren song toward which to yearn.

i'll tell you a secret: there is no mountain.

The mountain is a fantasy. It exists only in our minds, a symbol of whatever we believe stands in the way of our future happiness. We are the only thing standing in our way.

I wonder what would happen if we turned this question--where do you see yourself in five years?--on its head. How might our perspective change if we focused on how far we have already come and how much we already have?

A new question might read something like this:

What good things are more present in your life now than they were five years ago?

Perhaps you are wiser. Perhaps you are tougher. Perhaps you have made more room in your life for things that bring you joy, or perhaps you have learned a great deal about things that bring you grief and sorrow. Perhaps you have regrets, and they have softened you. Perhaps you have been hurt, and you survived. Perhaps you have failed at something, and this failure has helped you see that the world is mostly shades of gray.

Whatever your path, try gazing on where it has led you now instead of where you wish it would lead you tomorrow.

It just might change everything.

The process is the reward

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Most self-help advice is focused on meeting goals.

We want Y. The perfect beach body. A big promotion. A job we love. So we do X in hopes of obtaining it. We join the gym. We enroll in the class. We buy the 3-step program. A lot of people have made an awful lot of money approaching self-help in this way, and millions more have paid them to do it.

But what if we've got it backwards?

What if we spend so much time focused on the perceived rewards of our actions that we stop doing the things we love for their own sake? What if the secret to a rich, purposeful life is to remember that life isn't experienced as goals and milestones but as moments, specifically, this moment right now?

There's nothing inherently wrong with having goals for your life. If you like goals, use them. But I've found that underneath so many of our so-called self-improvement goals lurks a seductive promise, one that's not entirely fair.

The promise is: meet this goal, and you will be happy. Meet this goal, and you will be worthy. Meet this goal, and you will be enough.

But it never works that way, does it? If I lose 20 pounds, I still want to lose 5 more. If I get a big raise and a promotion, I gaze ever-upward at peers who still seem more successful than me. As soon as I get the thing I told myself would make me happy, I find that I want something new.

They call this the hedonic treadmill, and there's only one way off. It's to recognize that the process--not the goal--is the reward.

The process is the reward. In fact, the process is all there is.

When we strive toward our goals, we have no guarantee that we'll meet them. Life offers no guarantees at all, for anything. Yet far too often, we treat our actions as mere means toward an imagined end, a fantasy world where all our goals have been achieved and we are finally--finally!--good enough to be happy.

And yet the joy and worthiness and enoughness we seek are not out there in that fantasy world. They are right here. They are only right here.

We will not find joy in achieving a perfect beach body but in feeling the movement and vitality of the body we have. We will not find purpose in a future promotion but in the opportunities we have to serve and do good work where we are. And we do not need to earn more money or love our jobs or lose 20 pounds to be worthy of love and acceptance. We are worthy right now, all of us.

So here's a little challenge for the coming week: As you go about your life--career, friends, family, chores, all of it--stay present to the process. Find joy in the process. Let it be its own reward.

And if you do this, I promise you, joy will begin to find you, too.

P.S. If you aren't sure how to start, check out The Purpose Map for more guidance on how to love the life you have.

How to do more of what you love

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We have a strange cultural belief we in the United States. It's the belief that the pinnacle of personal and business success = earning money by doing what we love.

A few weeks ago, I attended an online webinar about going into business for yourself. The tips were helpful. The speaker was articulate and knowledgable. And I lost count of the number of times she said “make more money” and “do what you love” in the same sentence, as if this were the only reason people start businesses or, worst yet, our only measure of success.

I get it. She has to earn a living, too, and I bet she earns a good one because that line sells. Oh, how it sells. And if you’ve found a way to turn what you love into a living and still manage to love doing it (because money does change things, after all), that’s wonderful! By society’s definition, you’re a smashing success. And hopefully by your own definition, too.

But if this is our only definition of success, then how heartbreaking for the rest of us! How heartbreaking for those of us who haven’t managed to quit our day jobs and make money following our passion, or for those of us who have and then discover that money has ruined whatever we were formerly passionate about! If success is divided into two camps — those who make a living doing what they love and those who don’t — it would seem that we are abject failures, miserable cubicle dwellers who, lacking the guts and grit and drive to do something else, are doomed to a life of corporate mediocrity.

Bullshit. The real tragedy isn’t that most of us need day jobs to pay our bills (that's simply a consequence of living in a system that values and pays for some skills more than others). It’s this:

By focusing so much on the money side of the “success = doing what you love for money” equation, we lose something incredibly precious. We lose sight of the possibility that we can do what we love for its own sake.

Which brings me back to the title of this article: If you love something, do it. Do it in your spare time and on weekends and whenever you want to because when we do things for their own sakes, they energize and inspire and enrich every other aspect of our lives.

Don’t worry so much about making money from this specific thing. Maybe you will, and maybe you won’t. Far more importantly, you’ll be doing what you love, and your life, career, and relationships will all be better for it.