Let’s say you’re in the market for a new job….

You’ve just come from a meeting and are waiting for the elevator with someone who looks like a business person. They could be a potential hiring manager. Or maybe they’re someone who might be good to network with.

You just never know – so you decide to strike up a friendly conversation with the “prospect” to see where it goes. After all, you’re in the “market”. You both enter the elevator.

Suddenly, the prospect asks you the question you want to hear:

So, what do you do for a living?

Despite how benign this question appears, it’s not. Especially when you’re actually looking for a job.

You want to give a response that’s engaging and makes the person want to know more about you. Maybe they know someone who might want to hire you.

Your adrenaline is in overdrive. Your heart is racing.  Your palms are sweaty. You know you have to come up with a kick-ass answer.

So, you blurt out:

“I’m an accountant!”

You know instantly you’ve BLOWN IT! The other person doesn’t look engaged at all. They smile politely, mumble something, and exit the elevator.

Well, that was a potential opportunity down the drain for sure!

So how do you avoid making the same mistake again?

You need to create a short and compelling sentence that you can deliver in a few seconds that hooks the listener immediately and entices them to want to know more about what you do and how you help organizations.

For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to refer to it as a personal branding statement, although sometimes it’s called an elevator pitch, calling card, value summary, or even something else.

What is a personal branding statement?

It’s a short synopsis that defines and communicates your “personal brand”.

In terms of your career it relates to the kind of image you want to portray professionally and showcases the kind of value you bring to the table.

Why do you need a “PBS”?

Nowadays, it’s common for hiring managers, HR, and recruiters to google prospective candidates online before they reach out to them. That’s why it’s critical to have a strong personal brand that positions you positively and that’s relevant to the field you’re targeting. A personal branding statement is part of the “branding”.

Where do you use a PBS?

You can use a personal branding statement anywhere you want to communicate your value such as your résumé, cover letter, Linkedin, personal website, networking emails, and any other “marketing” collateral.

You can also use your personal branding statement when you strike up a conversation with a stranger when you’re standing in line at the bank or sitting next to someone in the airplane.

It’s a very short answer that packs a lot of punch when you’re asked the question “So, what do you do for a living?”

How long should your PBS be?

It can be one to several sentences but the kind of personal branding statement I’m talking about is a short one-liner.

When you don’t have a lot of time and you don’t want to sound all “salesy”, you need something you can deliver in a mere few seconds. Like when you’re in the elevator and you’ve got only a few floors to make a positive impression.

Think of it as an ice-breaker or conversation-starter. It’s not supposed to be a sales pitch – that’s best reserved for situations when you are expected to sell yourself, like during an interview.

Simple formula for creating a one-line PBS

There are essentially 3 parts to creating a compelling statement that is no more than one sentence:

#1:  Who you serve (employers/clients/stakeholders)

#2:  What they want (the desired outcome or end benefit)

#3:  How you help them  (avoid getting too much into your process)

#2 and #3 might be kind of blended together as you’ll see in the examples. It’s a lot of information to deliver easily, with confidence, and on one breath. You don’t want to race through the sentence and then be gasping for air or stumbling as you go along. This is why it has to be short.

To include or not include your job title

When you create a value statement in business, you wouldn’t typically include your job title or job function.

For instance, I wouldn’t say “I’m a résumé writer who helps jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired”    No one really cares what my title is per se. All they are about is how I can help them solve their problem.

You could add what your job title is, but I personally feel that eliminates the curiosity factor. Plus, it will make the sentence too long which is what you don’t want.

Not giving all the information upfront might actually prompt the other person to want to learn more about you. They might ask “So, you’re an accountant?”  or they might say “That sounds interesting. What’s your role, exactly?”

Personal branding statement examples

Remember, the objective is to keep this to ONE sentence that you can deliver at a natural pace without turning blue. You won’t be able to fit everything into it so just focus on the key things that will peak curiosity.

Once you have established your statement, you should practice it multiple times so it flows.  If it doesn’t feel right for whatever reason, then keep tweaking it until it rolls off your tongue like butter off warm pancakes.

It’s important that when you deliver your statement, it feels authentic. Use language that feels natural to you and that is conversational in tone. Avoid using any jargon or overly flowery or technical wording. Don’t make it sound like an advertisement or “slogan”.

Here are a few examples I threw together to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. They’re not perfect because it can take many re-writes get it to where it sounds great and flows, but it’s a start.

Urban Designer/Land-use Planner:  

I work with municipalities by helping them plan and design beautiful communities that attract businesses and people who make them great places to live and work.”

Academic Advisor: 

I help universities improve their declining enrolment rates by designing exciting programs that students love so much they’ll pay big bucks for them and stay enrolled year after year.”

Financial Advisor: 

I work with older investors and help them get to retirement faster by giving them a personalized, step by step plan that’s easy to follow and makes sense for their situation.”

Business Turnaround Expert: 

I help food manufacturers figure out what consumers want and then work with them to create new, delicious products that sell like hot cakes – literally!”

Human Resource Consultant

I help start-ups find and keep the best talent so they can focus on making money for their clients instead of wasting time re-hiring staff.”

Now it’s YOUR turn!

What’s your one-line personal branding statement?  

If you don’t have one, you need to get one because you just never know who you might be standing in line at the coffee shop, grocery store or sitting next to on a plane! The last thing you want to do is respond with something totally boring – like “I’m an accountant”. 

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Hi! I’m Diana.

I draw from over 15 years recruitment, career/job search coaching, and sales/marketing experience to help all kinds of jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired for their dream job.

Need help? That’s what I’m here for!

Are you in the midst of a job search and not getting the results you want? Or, are you employed and not actively looking but want to “get ready” in case your situation changes and you need to launch a job search?

Don’t get caught in the endless cycle of applying to jobs, hearing little to nothing, and becoming more frustrated.

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