The Art of the Pitch

What New Business Can Teach You About Job Hunting

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Jody Sutter
Jody Sutter
It's tough looking for a job in advertising during the worst economic climate of our generation. But for those of you fortunate enough to have been involved in agency new-business efforts during your career, you've already got an edge. That's because the new-business tool set can be easily -- and effectively -- adapted to help. Here are some new-business best practices you can use to turbocharge your job hunt.

1. Do your homework.
Most agencies would never dream of going into a credentials meeting without knowing as much as they can about the company they're pitching. It should be no different for a job interview, so create your own briefing book from the vast resources available to you online. And, thanks to Facebook, LinkedIn and even Twitter, you may end up knowing more about your interviewer than they know about you.

2. Be prepared and have your credentials ready.
If you've still got a job, good for you. Do what you can to keep it. But in the meantime, put aside one Sunday afternoon or weekday evening to polish up that resume. At the very least, have the basics -- where you've worked and the notable achievements attributable to you. If you are looking for a job, use all this unexpected free time to perfect your resume and make it tell a story. This is especially important for more senior executives who have a long career to describe. Having a hard time figuring out what kind of story you have to tell? See tip No. 5.

Once you've got your resume ready for prime time, broadcast it. Post it on LinkedIn as well as other networking sites because, believe me, if you're doing your homework on them, they are probably doing their homework on you. Make it easy on prospective employers by keeping your LinkedIn profile up to date. And take advantage of all its features, especially the references. Spend a morning selecting key people from each of your past jobs who will say positive things about you. Write an unsolicited recommendation for them first, then send them a request. Extra points if you can get a client or a former client to put in a good word for you.

Jody Sutter was most recently U.S. director of business development for MPG, the global media-services network of Havas. While there she oversaw numerous wins such as Sears Holdings Corp., MPG's biggest win ever, and CBS Films, MPG's first filmed-entertainment account. She's seeing great results from taking her own advice and is looking forward to announcing her next move in the near future. She can be reached via her profile on LinkedIn.
3. It's all about chemistry.
Creating an emotional connection is often the tipping point between winning and losing the pitch. And the same goes for job interviews. Yes, experience matters, but in all but the rarest of cases, you are joining a team, and you'll want to make sure that your personality and working style align well with your future employer's. Don't be afraid to ask the same level of intelligent questions that they will be asking of you.

4. Have an ongoing communication strategy.
Like pitches, which can occur over months, a significant amount of time may pass between your first interview and the job offer. Use that time to create a relationship (see tip No. 3). First, never neglect to write a thank-you note. Next, go back to LinkedIn armed with the business cards that you get after your interviews and add to your network. Look at your notes from the meeting and follow up with an expanded POV or links to articles on topics that were discussed. Don't let out of sight mean out of mind.

5. Sell yourself.
"Ugh," you say. "I'm really not good at this." Well, sure, it's hard. But there are some techniques to make it easier. First, rehearse! It's a popular refrain among new-business directors to pitch teams, and it doesn't make us terribly popular, but it works. You don't need to prepare a script and recite it in front of your bathroom mirror. Instead, think about those meaty questions you'll inevitably be asked ("What's your dream job?" "Where do you want to be in five years?") and jot down some thoughts. If it makes it easier, do it over a glass of wine.

Another way is to practice on friends and colleagues. Open up that Rolodex (which you should be doing anyway), set up some coffee or drink dates with former colleagues and associates, and practice telling them what you want to do next in a low-pressure environment. You'll find a couple of things will happen: 1) Your story will change and, hopefully, get better as it gets refined so that it will shine in an interview situation, and 2) opportunities that you never even dreamed were available will emerge from these casual meetings. Depending on the nature of the relationships, have those people look at your resume, too, and offer their ideas. Their third-party perspective will help you get out of your own head and see themes and strengths that you've been too close to the material to see.

And as you refine your story, make sure to revise your resume. Don't forget to update LinkedIn and all the other networking and job sites you are using as well. And send the revised resume out to all the recruiters you've been in contact with -- it's a great reminder that you are still out there and hungry for your next gig.

It sounds cliched, but this really can be a time of reinvention and great possibilities. Embrace it and, by following a few best practices, land the job of your dreams.

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