Congrats, Lisa!

9 10 2009
Lisa on the Great Wall of China (with me in the background)

Lisa on the Great Wall of China (with me in the background)

This is my friend, Lisa.   Up until today, she was awesome and unemployed.  She graduated from UC Riverside this past June and spent the summer traveling only to come back to the states without a job.  Today, she’s got a great job lined up for her at an unnamed awesome company in Northern California (*cough* starts with a G, ends with an e).

In addition to having great experience and being bright, here are some of the great qualities about Lisa and the reasons she is truly awesome and deserves this role.

She has a positive and grateful outlook on life.
Do you know anyone that feels like the world should be handed to him/her on a silver platter?  Those people who demand service without delivering any?  I know a lot of people who think that they should have something because they are smart, attractive or come from a “pedigree” of successful people.  This is not Lisa.  When I told her that the position might be temporary, she said, “Stef, I don’t mind temporary.  I am so new and I really just want to learn and soak up the work experience.  I really don’t mind–I’m just happy to have the opportunity to try.”  She works hard, she’s humble, and knows that there are great things awaiting her in life.

She knows what she brings to the table.
Lisa is honest about what she actually brings to the table and has a genuine interest in helping to solve people’s problems with her skills & expertise.  A lot of candidates walk into a room and try so hard to impress the interviewers with their brains, brawn, money, whatever.  Lisa came as herself.  For better or for worse, she told them all about her experiences and let them decide.

She is introspective.
No one is tougher on Lisa than herself (except maybe her sister, Linda!  Just kidding, Linda 😉 ).  She has high expectations of her own performance and intends on delivering the right and best solution every time.  She is confident about her strengths and recognizes her weaknesses–and is honest about what she knows and doesn’t know.

She is courageous.
Lisa is a strong woman.  She is not afraid to say what she thinks and be strong for others.  When we were traveling together, we were being harassed by some men on the subway.  Lisa put on her “don’t mess with me” face and was ready to let them have it if they tried anything.  She also was able to maneuver others out of the way and take care of herself and her friends/family.  I love this part about Lisa–the loyalty and the willingness to fight for what’s right.

Perhaps I’m just running on about the many reasons I respect Lisa, but these are traits that also translate in an interview.  Don’t be afraid of understanding yourself and bringing your whole self to the table.  If you don’t know you, you won’t be able to tell anyone else about you.  So start being honest and letting them know exactly what excites you, how you operate, and what motivates you to do amazing work.


Your Elevator Pitch

17 08 2009

Alisa B. from Boise, Idaho posted me a message on LinkedIn and I thought that it was totally relevant for everyone else, too!  So here goes…

Stephanie-I loved your posting but here is my dilemna: I have been doing a lot of research online about personal branding and I have seen so many blog postings and web articles on the subject but I have yet to have an author give me examples of what are good branding statements or 30-second elevator pitch statements. Isn’t that how much time you have to engage your audience? What would you consider to be a good couple examples of strong branding statements? Thanks so much for your insight!

To be honest, I don’t believe the idea that you have 30-seconds to sell yourself in an interview.   I really don’t think it’s true.  Let’s break it down… what could people possibly learn about you in 30-seconds?

  1. Your level confidence and your presence (or lack thereof).
  2. Your communication skills and the ability to articulate your ideas.
  3. Your level of engagement (eye contact, active listening, ability to understand what they say).
  4. Perhaps some astounding accomplishments… but really, the majority of us are quite average–I know I am!
  5. Perhaps an interest/passion or 2.
  6. Perhaps you said something that piqued their curiosity.  But that probably will vary by person.

If you can’t yet deliver on 1-4, please practice.  For those of you who are confident, good communicators, engaged, and have some great accomplishments to boast about, let’s move on.

Nowadays, people have the opportunity to provide an abundance of information about their strengths beyond 30-seconds of face time at a career fair.  I would encourage people to get creative, and get scalable.   Build a website about yourself, your interests, your specialties, your accomplishments.   Tweet.  Leverage social media to show them your influence and scope of interests.  People are searching.  Let them find you.  You’re awesome, just unemployed!

So how long do you really have to sell them on you?  Well, you have 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes, however long they’ve scheduled you for your interview!  But you should always try your best to start and end strong.  Albeit, most interviewers know in the first 10 minutes (first few questions) if you’re a fit for the role or the company.   That being said–you won’t be able to gauge how well or poorly you’re doing in the interview, so don’t focus on that–focus on delivering YOU and solving their problems.

Therefore, positive impressions are important, so how can you make sure this impression is a good one?

You understand their business and gave personal attention to understanding how they differ from their competitors.
You have done as much research as possible to understand the role and to understand the company and what it does.  You’ve looked for similar people on  You’ve read the latest news articles on the role/business/industry.  You are interested.  You really are.   You also either have direct experience, or you have translatable experience and you can articulate how this might be helpful.

Understand their company mission statement and philosophies.
Not every company has this, but many of them will.  In your sales pitch, or interview–whatever,
provide solid examples that tie you in with their core philosophies & mission.  Let’s use McKinsey & Company, a top consulting firm, as an example.  Their “What We Believe” page (as of 8/17/09) says that they aim to…
1)  Put the client’s interest ahead of our own. (How do you do this in your daily life?  at work?  at school? Articulate it.)
2)  Behave as professionals. (Good grief, see my guest post on Recession Mama as an example of an extreme no-no.)
3)  Keep our client information confidential. (You can bet they’re going to ask you about a time when you were asked to keep or breach a secret.)
4)  Tell the truth as we see it. (Have you ever stood up and said, “That’s not right, because…” or “I know a better way…” and you saved the company from harm?)
5)  Deliver the best of our firm to every client as cost effectively as we can. (How have you solved a problem and come up with the trim, streamlined solution?)

Sense of self.
Really–what are your core motivations for choosing their company?  Are you a walking model of their core philosophies and business practices?  I once went into an interview with a potential employer and (being honest) I told them that I would love to work for them for a few years and that I would love to move on to a larger company.  They later told me that as much as they loved me for the role, they knew my heart wasn’t in it long term, so they gave it to the next person.  But it was important that I didn’t get it.  I wouldn’t have been happy.  You should be really honest about what motivates you and what gets you excited to wake up in the morning.  They are looking for people who want to wake up in the morning and do what they do every day.  If that’s not you, then don’t worry–there is a company that is just right for you.

Square Peg, Round Hole (From, December 8, 2007, by danstorey14)

Square Peg, Round Hole (From, December 8, 2007, by danstorey14)

For the average person, there is no one size fits all pitch, unless you’ve started your own company, competed in the Olympics, or played at Carnegie Hall at the age of 12 (or something else that very few people in the world can say that they’ve done).  So, voila.  If you’re averagely unique, like me, your sales pitch will change by company and it will show them how YOU are aligned with THEM in every way.

But don’t take my word for it–what are your stories?  Does this really work or not?

Revised 4 hours later: haha — I’m re-reading Alisa’s questions and the short answer is that there’s no secret sauce for the elevator pitch which is why no one gives an example of a good one.  Hopefully, you can align your strengths and experiences with each company’s core principles and show them how you’re a shoe-in for the role.  Thirty seconds or 30 minutes, at all points in the conversation, this perfect alignment of you and the company should be apparent to your interviewer (or recruiter, or whoever).  Funny how it takes writing a novel to finally come to a 3 sentence conclusion! 🙂  Thank you for reading!! 🙂

Who knew you were a salesman? (or woman!)

13 08 2009

One of the fundamental tricks to being an effective salesperson is listening to people’s pain points and providing them with solutions that will alleviate their troubles.  The solution being your product.

What people forget is that you are your own product every day.  I am my best asset.  My brain, my experience, my ability to find common ground and connect with someone.  These assets are the foundation for my product.  ME!  (did you see the first sentence in the paragraph?)

Storybook from Gao Guangyans Loneoceans Freehand Art Gallery

Storybook from Gao Guangyan's Loneoceans Freehand Art Gallery

Tell your story

When you finally get your interviewers in the room, they are going to ask you a series of questions that help them understand your story.  Who are you?  What are your strengths?  What are your potential weaknesses and are these weaknesses deal breakers for the role?

Be prepared to tell them your story.  Who are you?  Where did you come from?  How did you get here?

I’m Stefanie.  I am from San Francisco and I’m a middle child.  I also happen to have innate leadership skills that showed in early days of high school student government and manifested itself in numerous adventurous endeavors including entertainment PR, studying abroad, career centers and computer labs.  How did I get there?  Consistent hard work, the ability to stay calm during a crisis and my ability to connect with people.  What is your story?

(Your story is not a chance for you to brag about yourself, even if you are that amazing.  It is the beginning of your honest salesman pitch.   By being honest about who you are, what struggles you may have faced, and why you’re an asset, you are showing off your product.  You!)

Listening Image courtesy of Network Solutions

Listening from Network Solutions

Next.  Ask questions the right questions and listen.  Actively.

Employers hire because they have a need to be filled.  It’s not just a job to them.  They have a business critical service that you are going to need to deliver on.  They might be short handed, they might need you to file papers for the first 2 months.  Whatever it is, you, the astute interviewee, should figure out what it is that they need, and then figure out how you can help to fulfill that need.
And make their lives easier.

They need someone who is great with excel, because they have these crazy spreadsheets of data that need to be combed and analyzed.  Is that you?  They need someone who has a great visual eye to design a new website for their company.  Is that you?  If you are not good at solving their problem, should you try to fit yourself in as their solution?  Probably not.

For the employer, it’s a bigger pain in the butt for them to train you on common tasks than to hire someone else who knows how to do it already.  Think round hole, square peg.

That being said, brush up and stay current with your skills, regardless of whether you are employed.  Being nimble and well versed in various languages (not just linguistics, but programming, and business/law/industry jargon), tools, and subject matters are going to be your biggest asset.

Woah.  I just told you what your biggest assets are.  Your skills and expertise.  But then, I’ve been telling you this from the start!  Refine them, expand your knowledge base, and then sell them YOU in your next interview.  You can do it!

Why?  You’re awesome.  You’re just unemployed. 🙂

Walk in with more than your resume…

3 08 2009

When I was 20, I had the pleasure of doing an internship program called The University of Dreams. Now a wildly successful worldwide internship program, I’m so thankful for meeting people, like Eric Lochtefeld, who helped make me a better person and who introduced me to my first real job tips.

Eric called upon his friend Charles Caudill, a former VP of Production at CNN and now an independent consultant for Caudill Media Management, to come and talk to our Los Angeles Dreamer group about how to REALLY land a job.

His fantastic advice landed me my job at Google.

His fantastic advice landed me my job at Google.

Charles (paraphrasing here): Be bold. Find out the name of the VP or the CEO of a company and send them a really compelling, personalized email about why you’re amazing, why you respect the company, and offer to take them to lunch so you can learn more about them. You can almost always figure out their email address by doing a combination of, or firstinitial.lastname@, or firstnamelastinitial@. Get creative and BCC the email addresses. One of them is bound to go through.

Once you get them out to lunch with you, ask them as many questions as you can.  The secret they don’t tell you is that executives want to talk about themselves, not about you.  You build the connection by showing an interest in their career paths.

So you know what?  I took Charlie’s advice.  I researched his website and when I got back to the Bay Area 4 months later, I sent him an email asking to take him to lunch.  We met at the BJ’s in Cupertino (right on Apple’s campus) and I picked his brain, paid for his lunch, and walked away with the most solid piece of advice I’ve ever received.

Me:  “I don’t get it… I worked so hard…” (shows him my resume of work)

Charles:  “Well, Stefanie, have you ever walked in with more than just your resume?  Everyone in the interview walks in with just their resume and the candidates start to blur together if you’ve been interviewing all day.  So how will you stand out?”

Me:  “hmmm….”

I went home that night and prepared for my interview with Google in a week or so.  I printed 400 pages (mild exaggeration, but it definitely was almost a ream of paper) of research on Google and built a portfolio that had examples of my skills and school work.  I even made a truncated version for my recruiter to keep to remember me.

It worked.  They interviewed many candidates and picked me.

To this day–I am so thankful to Charles Caudill and his willingness to help a lost, dreadfully unemployed college grad.  So I’m paying it forward.

Walk in with more than your resume.  Whether it’s a pair of dice, a rubix cube, or a portfolio, like me, go in there, separate yourself from the others and make then remember why you’re worth it.