How to Transform Your Career in Three to Five Words

And a Hands-On Resource to Guide You

You can advance your career further faster with a 30 second conversation than you can with a 60 minute power lunch.

Wait. WHAT?

How is that possible?

By inviting your audience to feast on a nutrient dense message about what differentiates you instead of an empty calorie lunch conversation.

Sound ridiculous? Even impossible?

It isn’t.

Every single day I’m on the receiving end of phone calls, emails, and social media messages like this: “Someone we both know said I should get in touch with you, because I’m looking for a new job. Could we (talk on the phone / meet at your office / have lunch) so I can introduce myself and tell you more?”

This entrée is often accompanied by the optional side dish of a social media invitation to connect, follow or be followed. Some connectors serve up the full three course meal deal by proceeding to comment on one of my blogs or Tweets. #NotHelping

Guess what?

I’m not the only one on the receiving end of these requests. So is your boss. Your mentor. Your recruiter. Your hiring manager. Your human resources manager. And even your customers.

How do you feast on results rather than starve on hope?

Here’s the secret: by anticipating the course of the conversation. And preparing your menu of responses in advance. Which is easier than you might think.

For example, what is the one question every single interviewer asks?

That’s right.

“What are your strengths?”

Do you ever struggle to answer that question? I did. My guess is you do, too. You are struggling to strike a balance between saying too little and saying too much. Between being descriptive and exaggerating. Between being honest and aspirational. Between trying to sound positive about yourself even when you’re feeling down on yourself.

So, even though you and I know the interviewer is going to ask the “strengths question,” it still catches us by surprise. When I get caught by surprise with a question, my answer ranges from generic sounding. To a run on sentence. To, well, kind of blah. And dispassionate.

Then, I start thinking, “I totally blew it!” Which completely derails me when it’s time to answer the next question.

(Hint: The next question is, “Give me an example of a time when you used one of your strengths to deliver results.”)

Does that happen to you, too?

Here’s what helped me. I noticed that when I would answer the strengths question, the interviewer would write down a couple of notes. Usually in the margins on my resume.

One day I got curious. And started to purposely glimpse at the notes. Each interviewer was writing down three to five words that described me. Why?

When you interview multiple candidates for the same job, especially on the same day, it’s easy to forget someone. At the end of the day, all the names blur together. And it’s hard to differentiate one person from the next.

The interviewer was writing down a few words to describe me. To help me be memorable later. Think of this as your personal brand.

Jeff Bezos, CEO & Chairman of Amazon, says, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Consider this. If an interviewer is going to write down three to five words that uniquely describe you — that will be said about you when you’re not in the room — what words do you want the interviewer to use?

When you answer the strengths question in lengthy sentences, the interviewer chooses the three to five words.

I’m putting that power back in your hands.

Starting right now. You now have the power to choose those three to five words. To create the script for how you will be described later. And to provide compelling examples that illustrate how you will leverage your strengths to deliver results in a new context.

How do you identify three to five high impact words that uniquely describe you and your strengths? How do you deliver a memorable message?

The recently refreshed Success With Less Career Companion is a resource to guide you on your journey. And to help you say more with less on the way to realizing results.

This post first appeared on Medium.

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