Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Pitch Charming: How to create an elevator pitch

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”

This was the question that Steve Jobs of Apple posed to John Sculley, an executive who was working at Pepsi, who Jobs wanted to take on the role of CEO at Apple. Despite being offered a generous salary and impressive stock options, it was this one line that stuck with Sculley and made him take the job at Apple.

On his CBC Radio show Under the Influence, marketing and advertising authority Terry O’Reilly described this example as the “best elevator pitch in history” in an episode of the same name.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine JaremeyWhat’s an elevator pitch?
An elevator pitch is a short, concise encapsulation of an idea. But, it’s so compelling, that it ignites action. It’s an icebreaker that will hopefully lead to having a more in-depth dialogue in the future.

The most important thing about an elevator pitch is its length. Think about it as how you’d describe something to someone in the brief time it takes to go from the first floor to the second floor in an elevator. However, some people say it can be as long as 60 seconds. My rule of thumb? The shorter, the better. There’s only so much the audience can digest and remember in a brief amount of time.

O’Reilly describes the elevator pitch as the test of an idea. If you can’t short-form your idea, it lacks focus and clarity. This is why an elevator pitch is a core communications tool that’s often used to describe companies, brands and marketing campaigns.

Pitching your personal brand
When it comes to your career and marketing yourself in the job market, an elevator pitch can be a compelling way to express your personal brand. Your personal brand is the image or impression that you can establish about yourself and your career in the minds of others, including contacts in your network, your employer or potential employers. Learn more about cultivating your personal brand here.

Distilling this information into an elevator pitch can convey that your career has a clear direction, that you understand your strengths, and that you know how you can provide value.

What will your elevator pitch look like? Here’s a simple recipe:

Step 1: Start with what you do
Step 2: Then, add context to convey the value you bring
Step 3: Finish with where you’re going next

When you add these together, the finished product can look something like:

“As an accounting expert with my CPA and five years of experience working at a global accounting firm, I’m now focusing on increasing my management experience while providing counsel directly to clients.”

“I am a public relations specialist with three years of experience in the technology industry. I’ve worked on award-winning campaigns and have secured top-tier media coverage. Now, I’m building my project management and strategic planning expertise.”

If you’re struggling at first with creating your elevator pitch, don’t worry. Distilling an idea – or something as complex as your career – to its very essence is an art. For inspiration, listen to the full Under the Influence episode for examples of the elevator pitches created by leading companies and brands. Try running drafts of your elevator pitch past friends, family members or peers at work and ask for their constructive input.

Want to learn more about crafting an elevator pitch for your personal brand? Find more tips here.

When you’re done, and if you’re feeling brave, share your elevator pitch in the comments!

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Pexels.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Job recruiters share how to get hired

If you have a job interview coming up, you probably want to make the most of your face time with the company. Whether you’re working with a third-party recruiter or an in-house hiring manager, these nine tips from recruiters, compiled in a video by Buzzfeed, can help you prepare for your interview. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to watch the full video!Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine JaremeyTip 1: Don’t lie
In an interview, people might say that they’ve worked at a company when they haven’t, or that they have a degree when they don’t, thinking it will give them a competitive edge in the hiring process. If the recruiter, hiring manager or the company’s pre-employment screening department are thorough, it’s likely that the truth will be revealed. Depending on when that happens, you may not get a second interview, or a job offer can be rescinded. The worst part of that scenario? You’d never know if you would have been successful with the company had you just told the truth.

Tip 2: Nail your resume
What are recruiters’ top tips for a great resume? They include:

  • A resume shouldn’t be longer than two pages (or one page double-sided)
  • Highlight the things you’re most proud of first, then list your work experience
  • Avoid using unprofessional fonts like Comic Sans or symbols like Wingdings
  • Only include information that’s relevant to the position, without oversimplifying too much

Tip 3: Do your research
Find out about the company and the role that you’re applying for. Learn as much as you can by visiting the company’s website and social media channels, look them up on Glassdoor, or have an informational interview with a current or former employee. Know what about the company makes you want to work there. Bring print-outs of your findings (like a recent press release) to an interview to demonstrate that you did research and understand the company.

Tip 4: Don’t come in sick
If you have a communicable disease, like pink eye, a cold or the flu, be honest about it with the recruiter, hiring manager, or other person who arranged the interview. Be as flexible as you can about rescheduling it.

Tip 5: Dress appropriately
Do research on the company’s dress code as you prepare your outfit for your interview. Then, dress one “notch” above it. For example, one recruiter described his office as “business comfortable” and would want a candidate to demonstrate that they fit into the dress code. Depending on the industry you’re in, wearing a three-piece suit to an interview may not be appropriate. Find more tips about dressing for a job interview here.

Tip 6: Know your greatest weakness
This question can indicate how honest and self-aware you are. Recruiters or hiring managers can generally tell if you’re being genuine. When sharing an actual weakness that you want to work on, be sure to follow it up with how and why.

Tip 7: Know when to negotiate
Be transparent about your salary expectations from the beginning so that both you and the recruiter or hiring manager can find a salary level that all parties are happy with. However, be aware of the salary band for the role you’re applying for. It’s unlikely that a company can exceed the band’s upper and lower limits.

Tip 8: Ask questions
Have at least three questions to ask the recruiter or hiring manager at the end of the interview. Where do you start? The following questions are helpful because the responses can serve as a “cheat sheet” for what to do in the first three months on the job if you get it.

  • What can I do in the first three months to be successful?
  • What do the first 30 to 90 days look like in this job?
  • How can I immediately add value in this role?

Tip 9: Keep calm and carry on
Sometimes a person who isn’t hired may overstep when engaging with the recruiter or hiring manger after getting the bad news. Requesting a Linkedin connection is fine, but following and messaging them on other social media channels or showing up at their office won’t be well-received. If an opportunity doesn’t work out, stay calm and professional. The recruiter may end up having another job that’s a better fit down the road.

Do you agree with these job recruiters’ tips? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Buzzfeed.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, science communication, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Science communication 101

My professional role is Communications Specialist at CCRM, which is a Toronto-based leader in the commercialization of regenerative medicine technologies, and cell and gene therapies. Part of my role involves learning about the science and innovations that happen in the lab and translating them to the public. This practice is known as science communication.

The craft of science communication is becoming more common as researchers, engineers and others working in science increasingly want to make the public aware of their research and results through social media, media interviews (which lead to articles in print or online media, or segments on TV or radio news broadcasts), in videos, at exhibitions and in presentations. Although science communication falls within the larger domain of communication, there are specific nuances and approaches that science communicators must be aware of to be successful. Canadian universities even offer courses on science communication so that people can start to master the practice early on in their careers.

By examining the transferrable skills I’ve gained as a public relations (PR) strategist working in an agency setting in past roles, I understand how these skills can be applied to supporting folks in the science community as they delve into science communication. Although experts know the facts and figures behind their projects and results, a communications specialist like myself can successfully translate this information to public audiences who are interested in science, but may not share the same technical prowess.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, science communication, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

If you’re a communications professional who is providing counsel to a science communicator, I have a few tips for you to pass along. The advice noted below comes from posts that I’ve composed as a guest blogger on Signals Blog, which provides an insider’s perspective on the world of stem cells and regenerative medicine, and is managed and edited by CCRM.

Tip 1: Hone your message for media – Sharing messages with media has the potential to increase their reach and credibility. However, scientists must adapt their messages to ensure that media can easily understand and effectively incorporate them into an article or broadcast. How? Cut the jargon, get to the news early in the pitch, and tailor messages to resonate with the audience. Learn more about these techniques here.

Tip 2: Incorporate storytelling principles – Good communication is essentially storytelling. When crafting messages to report on scientific research or a new discovery, using the six elements of a great story can lead to more compelling messages. The six elements to add are a hook to pique the audience’s interest, characters to captivate the audience, the right setting, small details that convey implicit messages, inside information in layman’s terms (see cutting the jargon, above!), and surprise to drive engagement.

Tip 3: Pick the right channel – The communications channel you use can depend on what’s being communicated or who the target audience is. It might take a bit of creativity to think of how a non-expert would best absorb the material. For example, exhibitions, like the ones at the Ontario Science Centre, are good ways to engage children and youth. A Facebook Live broadcast, like this one that I helped produce at CCRM that shares an engineer’s work and career path, can engage social media-savvy adults.

What if you encounter someone who’s skeptical that science communication even matters? Let them know that in some cases, effectively sharing research results and their implications can be a life-or-death scenario. If you think I’m just being dramatic, watch the below video that explains some science communication fails from history, and their ramifications for the public’s health and well-being.

What other science communication tips do you have? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Make productivity great again

Do you ever find yourself facing a mountain of things to do at home without knowing where to start? What about having hundreds of unopened emails in your inbox? If you’re nodding your head, don’t worry – I’ve been there too.

If you need a hand tackling your to-dos, I’d like to share a few learnings from a fantastic resource – a book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen. Getting Things Done provides a paradigm-shifting way to think about your work, your tasks and your deadlines. The takeaways from the book are helpful for not only being organized at work, but at home too.

GTD e book photoI was first introduced to the book and its methods in a training session at work. I was pleased to learn that some of the practices were already part of my daily time and task management routine. Since, I’ve read the book and I’m more aware of how the principles positively influence my productivity, and I’ve improved how I use them.

Both life and work can throw a seemingly-endless stream of stimuli at you every day. Take your email inbox as an example. Emails can be nerve-wracking because each one varies in the level of engagement required from you. They can demand an answer to a question, include a message that you’re CC’d on only for reference, provide a document or presentation that requires your detailed review, share details for a new project, or even alert you to a crisis. This can be overwhelming without a system that enables you to filter them based on importance, urgency and priority, and then apply your attention appropriately.

The system that can help – with both email, and everything else you need to do – is the Getting Things Done methodology.

This methodology is the key to productivity. It makes you appropriately engaged with the tasks at hand so that they can be managed effectively by understanding the one next step that you need to do. This doesn’t mean that every item on your plate is completed immediately, but instead, you take the right step that ensures you’ll get those things done when they need to be. At the same time, you get them off the laundry list of to-dos that are running through your head.

Why is it important to free up space in your mind by relying on a system, rather than your brain power, to manage your daily to-dos? You can gain a feeling of control and focus your attention where you need it. This will provide the mental capacity to be creative, solve complex challenges, think of new ideas, and focus on being stress-free.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

The philosophy behind Getting Things Done is summed up nicely in the following quote:

“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.” – David Allen

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how the Getting Things Done system works. The below Workflow Map demonstrates how random inputs are filtered as actionable or not actionable, and the possible steps you can take based on context, time available and resources.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

What are some of my Getting Things Done habits? I boost my productivity by:

  • Writing actionable to-do lists – It might be intuitive to think about the things that you need to do in terms of entire projects. Rather than just listing my projects on my to-do list, which can be both overwhelming and not actionable, I break down those projects into the immediate next steps that I can take. For example, if I need to write a media coverage analysis report, there are many steps that need to be complete before writing the actual report. For example, a first step would be to compile the coverage and the associated metrics into a chart, and a second step could be to ask my colleagues for similar reports that were completed in the past so that I can start with a template. Writing these micro actions down provides me with a snapshot of all the steps that go into a project and how long they’ll take, so that I can move the project forward while managing my time effectively.
  • Acting immediately – This doesn’t mean that I immediately finish each task. Instead, when something new is put on my plate, I take the first step toward getting it done right away. If I can complete the task within two minutes – like sending a short email response or providing availability for a meeting – then I’ll do it right away. If not, I’ll either delegate the task and set a reminder to follow-up with the person regarding their progress, or defer it by adding it to my to-do list (broken down into actionable steps, of course), setting due dates in my calendar and filing emails/files to reference later.
  • Keeping a clear email inbox – My goal at the end of each work day is to have an empty inbox. To achieve this, I consistently review my emails and move them to designated folders that are based on my projects. If emails include an attachment, before filing the email I’ll save the attachment to my computer or the company shared drive to refer to later. If there’s an action item that I need to complete eventually, I set a meeting or a reminder in my calendar. Find more tips for managing your emails here. This helps reduce the potential for chaos in my mind because I’ve already addressed each email appropriately.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Want to learn more about Getting Things Done without reading the book? Check out two videos: an animated book summary and a TEDx Talk by David Allen on the high-level principles.

Have you tried applying the Getting Things Done system to improve your productivity? How did it work for you? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Laine Jaremey; David Allen & Co.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Quitting vs. crafting: How to get the job you want

Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now? How about 20?

Have you ever realized that where you see your career in the distant future can depend on your job today? The job-related decisions that you make now can play a role in the path your career takes, and can impact whether your vision of the future becomes a reality.

Two trends – job quitting and job crafting – present relatively new ways to approach your career. They are ways of obtaining job satisfaction, while also strategically building the career you strive for.

Job Quitting
The job-quitting economy is based on the premise that job seekers eye jobs that will be helpful for the next step in their careers once they quit them. Rather than accepting a job offer for its benefits, salary, corporate culture and promotion potential, so-called “job quitters” look at if they can gain the transferrable skills and experience they need to progress in their careers, whether the company’s reputation in the industry makes other companies desire its employees, and how the role can serve as a stepping stone to another more prized job.

As companies have transitioned from hiring less full-time and more contract workers, the job-quitting economy has naturally evolved as the mindset of job seekers changed to see certain jobs as ways of getting to a job with full-time perks down the road. But in today’s highly-competitive job market, full-time employees may approach their careers with a job-quitting mindset too.

The concept of a personal brand, which many consider to be helpful in landing a job, underlies the job-quitting economy. The transferrable skills gained in a role contribute a job seeker’s overall Me, Inc. package, which is what makes each person stand out from the competition.

Some drawbacks of approaching your career as a job-quitter could include less fulfillment at work, as you might not fully engage and reach job satisfaction if you only see your role as a stepping stone to the next one. Further, jumping from one role to the next after too little time may cause future potential employers to see you as a “flight risk” who could leave their company after too-short a time.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Job Crafting
To get the job you want, there’s another option other than making a huge change and joining another company. This option is called job crafting, which involves making incremental changes to your responsibilities or day-to-day experiences at work, resulting in increased job satisfaction.

How does job crafting work? To start, try listing the skills and abilities you’d like to have to progress in your career. Maybe gaining or advancing technical skills, business acumen or leadership abilities are important professional development areas for you. Then, get creative and make an inventory of the different ways that you could add these activities to your work. Once the list is complete, a conversation with your manager or other colleagues might be required to ensure that they’re aligned with your professional development ambitions, and so they understand why you are taking on new tasks.

If successful, the growth and changes that you achieve by crafting your job will move you toward your career goals.

Potential cons of job crafting? Your workplace, manager and co-workers must be open to your role evolving or a change in your job’s responsibilities. Without external support, your attempt at job crafting might end up being a flop. It also takes patience and time for your job to change into one with the attributes that you’re striving for.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Now that you’ve learned about these two trends, do you think you’ve ever adopted a job quitting or job crafting mindset in the past? If not, which trend do you think you’d be more likely to take on to shape your career? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Tips for turning a hobby into a side hustle

Results of a 2017 study revealed that 44 million Americans take on extra work to make extra cash, in addition to working full-time. This is generally known as having a “side hustle.” The study identified millennials as the largest group of side-hustlers.

What are some of the most common side hustles? U.S.-based research tells us that doing the following activities allow people to earn cash on the side.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

That said, what differentiates a side hustle from a part-time job?

While discussing his book Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days, author Chris Guillebeau clarifies what makes a side hustle unique: striving for financial independence.

“A side hustle is not a part-time job. A side hustle is not the gig economy. It is an asset that works for you. Picking up a few extra hours at the factory or at the coffeehouse is not a side hustle. Jumping on TaskRabbit or Uber when you feel like it isn’t a side hustle, either. The problem? Someone else can pull the plug. Gig economy businesses have literally folded overnight. If the intention of a side hustle is to create financial independence, then working within the gig economy is a walk in the exact opposite direction.” – Chris Guillebeau

Now that we’re on the same page about what a side hustle is, let’s tackle how to do it well. The secret is to figure out how to turn something that you love doing, like a hobby, into paid work that you can do on your own terms.

Why a hobby? According to Mark Zuckerberg, having a hobby outside of work is one of the best ways to cultivate your passion, leadership skills and technical abilities. Having a hobby is considered so important by Zuckerberg that Facebook’s hiring managers ask job candidates about their hobbies during interviews. What was Zuckerberg’s personal hobby? Last year, he figured out how to build an artificial intelligence (AI) system to control his home.

It’s easy to see how mastery of this task could result gaining a skill set that a person could monetize into a side hustle by offering a service that makes other people’s homes AI-friendly. (On a side note, you could also apply the knowledge gained from the experience to your full-time role for a potential career boost if it’s relevant to your job.)

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, side hustle, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

But, before you get started with your own side hustle, check out my five tips below for transforming a hobby into extra cash:

Tip 1: Follow your passion – By turning a hobby that you were formerly doing for free into something that’s paid, there’s a better chance that you’ll love spending your non-9-to-5 time doing the work.

 Tip 2: Use skills you already have – Understand your existing strengths and think about what people would pay for. Can you repair smartphone screens? Do you have a passion for personal training? Are you able to consult as a communications advisor? Any of these services could provide value to customers.

Tip 3: Manage your time – One of the downsides of having a side hustle is the potential for burnout. If the income from your side hustle work supplements the income from a full-time job, don’t jeopardize that full-time role. Find a balance between the two positions. Understand how long each side job will take so that you can over-deliver to your side hustle customers, while ensuring that the time spent on your side hustle doesn’t compromise your performance at your full-time job.

Tip 4: Build your network – How you connect with others to promote your side hustle depends on what product or service you’re offering. If you fix and sell used bicycles, you can connect with local customers on Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace. If you provide a consulting service, you can reach customers through social media channels and word-of-mouth. Get creative about how you reach your customers to get maximum exposure.

Tip 5: Set a goal – Think about why you’re spending your free time on your side hustle. Decide what you want to achieve early in the process. Whether it’s a saving a certain amount of money or completing a specific number of jobs, knowing you’re getting closer to your goal can provide perspective when you’re putting in extra hours every week. Learn about setting SMART goals here.

What other tips do you have for a successful side hustle? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Credit Loan; Pixabay.com; Laine Jaremey.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

How can I earn PMP PDUs for free?

Professional development is critical part of everyone’s career, no matter what industry they’re in. Opportunities for professional development have been shown to benefit companies, and have been ranked as more important than pay for millennials.

For people with certain professional designations, the completion of professional development activities is not only helpful, but it’s also necessary to maintain the designation.

Since obtaining the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification in February (and proudly crossed off one of my professional goals for 2018, which I shared in a post from earlier this year), I’ve started to complete the mandatory project management professional development units (PDUs). Completing PDUs allows PMPs to stay relevant as the professional evolves and as needs of employers grow and change. PDUs are educational tools that can come from a variety of in-person, digital and on-demand sources.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine JaremeyThe Project Management Institute (PMI) stipulates that PMPs must complete 60 PDUs every three years to maintain the certification. One hour of training or education equals one PDU. Learn more about the PDU requirements for PMPs at PMI’s website.

One of the things that I noticed when I first started to investigate PDUs is that they can be expensive, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s important for PMPs to have high-quality and relevant training, and paying to attend an excellent in-person workshop or online course could provide a lot of value. On the other, completing some PDUs at no cost can reduce the overall financial burden of this requirement. It’s up to the PMP to decide which professional development opportunities are worth paying for, and which free opportunities still provide value.

If you’re a PMP, or considering becoming one, and find the costs associated with earning PDUs daunting, check out my suggestions for earning free PDUs below:

  • Listen to podcasts – Podcasts can be listened to at any time and in any place. I’d recommend the Project Management Podcast. It covers a wide variety of project management-related topics, the episodes range in length but are generally not too long, and the host provides a clear roadmap at the beginning of each episode that outlines its learning outcomes. Projectified is another relevant podcast that’s produced by PMI. A tip: Making notes while listening to a podcast provides proof of participation in case a PDU claim is audited.
  • Read – PMPs can earn PDUs for reading articles, blog posts and books. Picking reading subjects based on the areas for improvement indicated in the PMP exam results, or focusing on a specific area of the PMI Talent Triangle, can allow PMPs to advance where they need to most. This activity is great because one PDU is earned for each hour spent reading, so a lot of PDUs can be banked by the time a book is finished. Where can free reading materials be found? Local libraries are good sources for books. For example, check out some options based on the search results for “strategic project management” at the Toronto Public Library. Or, many blog posts, articles and white papers can be accessed for free. Again, making notes while reading can provide proof to PMI in a PDU audit that the claim is valid.

Woman reading in chair

  • Watch webinars – PMPs can log-in to Projectmanagement.com using their PMI credentials for access to live and on-demand webinars. The webinars can be searched based on the PMI Talent Triangle area, webinar length and other keywords. I’m a big fan of the on-demand webinars because I can access them outside of business hours when it’s most convenient for me, since many live webinars run during the work day.
  • Participate in online symposia – Projectmanagement.com offers full-day virtual symposia throughout the year, which allow PMPs to hear from experts in the field while earning PDUs. For example, I participated in the annual PMXPO in March 2018 (check out the agenda here). This full day of live webinars allowed me to earn 6.5 PDUs, and I had on-demand access to the presentations after the event in case any sessions were missed so that I could earn all of the PDUs being offered. The upcoming PMI Talent and Technology Symposium that takes place on June 13 gives PMPs the opportunity to earn 6 PDUs.
  • Work in the field – Many PMPs are already working as project managers for some portion of their day jobs, so they can get credit for something they’re already doing! PMPs can document and submit descriptions of up to eight hours of project management-related work for up to eight PDUs.
  • Give back – This category of PDUs captures the time spent teaching or mentoring others on project management. It also includes creating or delivering project management-related content, like webinars, presentations, or even blog posts (like this one!), to help further the education of others in the field.

What other free PDUs do you recommend for PMPs? Share your suggestions in the comments.

Photo credits: PMI.org; Pixabay.com.