By Mark Schneider
Executives are busy people. When I began networking for a summer internship this fall, I found that business people have little time for themselves, much less for pesky college students prowling for a summer job. After spending hours agonizing over every word of an email to potential employers, I rarely received a reply longer than a few neutral sounding words. A “thaks, I’ll look at it” was pretty standard–misspellings included just to show how they are too busy for spell check. But this response presents a dilemma. Execs barely have enough time for their families, much less for you, but successful networking requires a longer conversation than the famous “elevator pitch.” You have to become memorable. You have to stand out. But with hundreds of job seekers, how in the world are they going to remember me?
Becoming memorable—without becoming irritating—isn’t easy. According to a web site called “Brain Connection,” human minds constantly are filing information away out of sight to make room for new thoughts. In computer lingo, the data stays on our “hard drives,” but that icon is no longer on the screen. First impressions are made with lightening speed. In a YouTube video titled “7 Seconds to Sell Yourself,” a businesswoman explains that a first impression is made within seven seconds of an encounter. Making a lasting impression requires time; however, that time only comes if you separate yourself from the crowd.
Here are five keys to becoming memorable:
1. Follow Up With More Contact!
The best way to sell yourself in seven seconds is to get more than seven seconds. No matter how well that elevator pitch goes, you need to extend your conversation. Grab a business card and follow up immediately with more detail. Don’t just rely on a garden-variety email. Relate the content to what you discussed and offer your recipient something tangible: “I really enjoyed hearing about your current real estate deal and thought you might like the attached article on a similar transaction.” Perhaps get someone who knows the person you met to weigh in on your behalf. A good word from a third party can validate your credentials. Be indirect if they seem uncomfortable with your frontal assault—ask if you can stop by and pick their brain on career choices instead of asking for a job.
2. Find A Connection
You may have heard a saying that we are all connected within six degrees of separation. Figure out that connection fast. Perhaps the person is from your home state, went to the same school as you, or knows the CEO of a company where you once worked. With today’s technology, the connection has never been easier to trace than through sites such as LinkedIn. Finding common ground helps you stand out.
3. Be Ready With A Handout
Paper is “in” again. It is harder to delete. You should not only have your resume handy, but you should have some work product of yours to share—a business school project you have written up, a sample blog you prepared for your corporate communications class, something that shows more sides to you.
4. Explore Opportunities To Cross Paths Again
You don’t want to be a stalker, but if your chance encounter with that Managing Director occurred at 8 AM at a certain Starbucks, chances are he is a regular there for a morning cup of Joe. Go yourself at that time and “run into him” a second time.
5. Look for Signs
The worst thing you can do is bore your audience. Make sure to keep an eye on your audience’s movements while you talk—if the person seems fidgety it might be time for a new topic or to cut to the chase. Business people are more interested in the conclusion than the story. In the end, no matter how busy people are, they will make time for someone who they think has what it takes to be a contributor in their organization. Making yourself memorable will make that executive’s watch stop.